Cambridge is AWESOME
PATRICK BROOKS fucking loves Cambridge, and here’s why you should too.
One of the things that surprised me most about Cambridge was how horrifically miserable everyone is.
It’s hard to resist joining in with the complaints about the archaic traditions, the grim nightlife, the constant stress, the abysmal weather and the swarming tourists. There’s an insidious culture of cynicism, bandwagon-jumping and intellectual masochism.
Here are some indisputable reasons why Cambridge is the pretty much just the bee’s knees:
1. You can do literally anything, and you can do it badly and nobody gives a flying shit
If I wanted to I could start a giraffe stroking appreciation society tomorrow and I’d get money from college and could order letterman jackets with “GIRAFFE STROKING MAESTRO” printed in gold acrylic on the back.
If I wanted to I could perform a stand up set, I could play the French horn in a kickass orchestra, I could interview a celebrity and get a picture of us hugging or something and just get so many likes on facebook, I could be in a ballet, I could get my bum in the Daily Mail, I could eat chocolate with other people who eat chocolate, I could ambush a stranger with a banana at Sidgwick and yell “Ha! Consider yourself well and truly assassinated, amigo,” I could gush over Tolkien, I could act in one of close to two hundred plays a year, I could load and unload counterweights in the rafters of a theatre seventy dizzying feet above the stage, I could wrestle in jelly, I could cover myself in shaving foam and go to a curry restaurant telling people I was a sheep, I could read any book published in Britain, I could cycle for ten minutes behind Mary frickin’ Beard, her blue coat billowing and her gold boots a-shining, I could have sex in the King’s tree.
You get to find out what you love, you get to try things you hate, you get to flail around like a little child in a pretend world of adult things and careers and just nibble from the buffet of everything.
2. The Edifices of Knowledge, or, um, libraries
Old books have that smell of mustiness, of passion and effort and culture and history and humanity and magic and there’re thousands of them here and I can just rock up to my faculty pick out a tome and cuddle up with it all night and breathe it in and be happy. As much as we hate hate hate work we also kinda sometimes love it really, the thrill of a particularly devastating concluding flourish to a prac crit is almost sexual in its satisfaction and some lecturers are genuinely fascinating, and you know what, I’m just gonna come out and say it, the Metamorphoses is a stunning tour de force of sheer coruscating and chaotic metapoetical beauty.
Granted, every essay is like squeezing out a turd made of granite and ground glass, but the speed of tripos means that you can almost feel your mind improving, like someone’s put your brain on a pottery wheel and is lovingly crafting it with their slick wet hands until it’s sharp and knows exactly how to actually do things, and do them well.
3. The (vast majority of) people
At home in the rural depths of blankshire I was an eccentric standout, a pretentious and bespectacled oddity, but here I’m so normal sometimes I have to slightly act more eccentrically than I actually would naturally so as to feel like I fit in.
Everyone at Cambridge is weird and different and has more hidden depths than a secretive sinkhole, and everyone is so fucking talented that you either have to just give up all creative endeavours or push yourself mercilessly to improve and do better.
The people here are witty, kind, touchingly socially awkward but also just generally so up for being friendly and approachable. I heart you all.
4. The Vertiginous Highs and Lows
A cantab term is a giant rollicking rollercoaster of talking and eating and working and sleeping and working and drinking and working and drinking and sleeping and awkwardly getting off with someone and then passing them in the Sainsbury’s self checkout queue like literally every single time you have to go shopping because you go through ravioli far too fast and working and sleeping and crying and drinking and just generally not sleeping enough, and yes, at times it’s absolute hell.
Despair happens not infrequently and when it hits it hits hard, and it grabs you by your little pale undergrad throat and it hurls you around and it makes you feel sick and lonely and isolated and hating yourself but then a few hours later you’ve pidged two motherfucking essays and you’re riding that post-completion buzz like it’s the mooted HS2 and you go to formal and you’re downing three quid Aldi wine and eating five-penced spotted dick with your face and laughing so hard your head might explode and ending up at four in the morning post-Fez/Cindies sauntering down the cobbles of Trinity street thrusting the most glorious cheddar-slavered chips ever to be deep-fried into your mouth and looking up at the stars and just thinking, “Fuck, I am alive, this is happening and it’s visceral and beautiful and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” and then you try to take a #momentoftranscendence selfie and you walk into a lamppost.
So no, Cambridge isn’t the mythical idealised wonderland of the prospectus or our punting-all-day-every-day expectations. But it is a uniquely bizarre and amazing place, and for the brief slice of our lives that we’re here I reckon we should just dive in and relish it. Because Cambridge is genuinely awesome.