26 September 2010

"Munch, munch," said the locust.

After Lynn left, Craig and I decided to take a couple days visiting Cambridge and London, returning to Ann and Geoff's each night. We could pretty much see most of Cambridge in one day, but with London we'd have to be choosy.

As we're not great planners or decision-makers when it comes to travel, we decided to put off being choosy for a day-- so Cambridge came first.

We saw King's College, and spent most of our time in the Chapel. It's a beautiful thing, of course, with a fabulous fan-vaulted ceiling.

Outside Trinity College, we saw a tree that is supposedly descended from Newton's famous apple tree-- it was planted below the room Newton studied in.

And we dropped by St. John's College, where one of my heroes, Mr. Paul Dirac studied. You can find my interview with Dirac's biographer, Graham Farmelo, here.

This is the Bridge of Sighs, at St. John's College. Wikipedia says it was built by Henry Hutchinson, but word on the Cambridge streets was that Sir Christopher Wren is the real architect. Who knows? Anyway, it's beautiful and named after a Venetian bridge that is also covered.

Since students actually live in these colleges (they are essentially student halls, as well as being architectural historical wonders), there were signs all over the place asking non-residents not to go past this point or that point. There were cordons and various other devices set up. But, they hadn't managed to block off every path to the Bridge of Sighs, so Craig and I actually managed to sneak on and walk through. When we got to the other side, though, an stuffy-looking old guy in a really nice suit looked at us sternly as we left the building. You could tell he was British, though, because even though he didn't like us, he made way for us before he stepped into the building that he probably actually has a right to be in...

This is apparently a super-famous new clock. Have you heard about it? It's called the Corpus Clock. There are no numbers on it; blue LEDs indicate the time. Oh, and a giant ghastly mechanical locust crawls atop it, munching up time. It reminded me of the They Might Be Giants song.

"You're older than you've ever been, and now you're even older, and now you're even older, and now you're older still," John Linnell sings.

"Munch, munch," says the locust.

And my heart grows cold.
An apparently super-popular thing to do in Cambridge is to go "punting." I'd never heard of it before, and I'm afraid I rather let the sails out of the tourist information official when I told him that. He was like, "Well, it is a very famous thing to do in Cambridge, but apparently it's not that famous in... where are you from?"

Canada. Definitely Canada.

Anyway, "punting" is actually just taking a boat down the river that runs through Cambridge-- but there's a catch. You can't row the boat. You have to stand on the end of it and use a stick to guide yourself along. Until you're capable of that, you have to fall in the river and capsize your boat, taking all your friends with you. Former friends, possibly.

Given Craig's history of (eerily, almost willfully) falling into just about any nearby body of water, I wasn't about to get in a boat with just him and a stick. But I took a picture of the very famous activity for you, at least.

Craig was intrigued that some of the people doing the actual punting were total hipsters. They were clearly hired to punt for less-courageous tourists (like me), and they served as guides, as well, sort of telling folks what buildings they were passing by, etc. But they were wearing hip sunglasses and skinny jeans and flip-flops, sporting extra cute haircuts. For some reason, it interested him.

But Craig and I didn't have the time (or the money) to hire one of these obliging hipsters, and honestly, we've had enough boat-time in this year, considering Thailand and Cambodia, so we let it slide.

The last thing on our list was to see the Cavendish Laboratory, where Rutherford and Maxwell and other geniuses did their pioneering fancy-pants genius work. It is, oddly, on an unnamed alley with rubbish bins out the front.

Pretty exciting stuff-- or so we thought until we learned about Manchester's scientific history (see this post for more on that).

Well, I can hear my own locust munching my last night of freedom from lectures away, so I better leave London, and my Manchester adventures of this weekend, for later. Until then, dear readers...

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