Thursday, November 19, 2009

UK8: Cambridge feels like home

The English breakfast reduces to scrambled eggs, toast, and mushrooms. I skip the sausages and bacon. Ned’s already in the dining room: “This bacon isn’t like ours at home! It’s more like…” ham. Thinly sliced ham. I write, catch up on emails (finally got the password), and settle into my room. The B&B is clean and friendly, but like most English homes with near neighbors, constantly full of sounds. I slept well with earplugs, though. I edit a paper for Ned, and head out the door just before noon.

It is bliss to have a cycle again – instead of spending on a bus pass, I walk a few miles across town to hire a cycle for a few days. The lights don’t work (I can’t adjust the magneto on the back tire so have to go back tomorrow), and it’s got wobbly steering. But they pop a basket on the front handlebars for computer and shopping, and adjust the seat up a few times so my knees can straighten more than resembling a crooked elbow.

The weather in parts of north Britain is rainy, villages are flooded, and 10 cm of water are predicted tonight in Cambria. There, Mountain Rescue crews are out in force. In contrast, it’s sunny and blustery, warm and lovely for Cambridge in fall. The wind blows me sideways on the bike a few times, but I’ve tied the computer bag to the basket. Mothers pull the plastic covers over the prams to protect their toddlers. Most people put their heads down against the wind and walk on.

Tyndale House is one of three top theological libraries in the world. (Jerusalem and the Vatican are the other two). It’s a few minutes away from the bike shop. We lived here 6 months in 2004. (Can it be almost 6 years ago?!) I run into James, back from Chile and get an online password from David Instone-Brewer (who wrote the definitive biblical book on divorce and remarriage), but miss Fiona (admin) and Elizabeth (beloved librarian, recovering from a hip replacement). I’ve just missed morning tea, but the gong rings after 4pm for a civilized afternoon break. The young Americans keep at their desks, but the Europeans and Asians pause in the tea room for a cup. The carpet replacement has brightened the dingy space with neutral swirls of cream and beige, a great improvement. My desk #54 is in the hex addition. I’m booked in for two days, but in one I have seen what I need on the theology of missions. I hand over the fee and a bit extra, my swipe key, and a note to those I’ve missed, and cycle off in the dark.

I skipped lunch, but am hopeful that Tatties (potatoes) across from the colleges will have a decent veg meal. I lock the rental bike to a post. Inside the restaurant, I consume most of the veg lasagna and mixed salad with Salad Cream. Vegetarian. Definitely not vegan.

The Queen was in town. I watched the barriers go up but forgot to ask the policemen when she was doing her walkabout. Elizabeth II came to Cambridge with Prince Phillip, Chancellor of Cambridge University, to celebrate 800 years of Kings College. Charles was here as a student.

Of course, the administration is actually run by a woman, the Vice-Chancellor. The Queen may overnight at the V-C’s home. I attended a reception there while we lived in Cambridge, arranged by the Visiting Scholar group. I still regret that W didn’t come with me. I remember that the original modern art paintings and sculptures throughout the home were screwed into the walls and locked down. The art was chosen by the V-C from Cambridge’s museum, which was undergoing renovations at the time.

As I cycle back to our Lantern House guest quarters, I can hardly believe how much living was packed into our stay while W was working on his PhD, living at Tyndale with Jonathan and me. So many memories crowd me in the shadows of the colleges. I had a half-year of instructive play: courses in drawing and writing, art and journalism, painting and willow-work, rounded out with visiting and city tours, friendships and a rest from a lifetime of teaching music and home-schooling children. How I appreciated God’s pause at that point of weariness. I may need another Sabbath rest like that when my studies are done.

As I cycle home, I’m hoping to be in by 7pm. But I get lost in the dark with unmarked round-and-round roads. Someone points me in the wrong direction. Another man shows me the right direction – I’m actually close to the B&B, having turned myself around to face home after all. I’m happy to lock up my bike in the side yard – I’ve been riding in the dark (dangerous, but in the company of many other cyclists).

Tom went to the international debate preparation, likely a repeat of Oxford’s highlighting of international inter-varsity rules. Ned is almost ready to leave the B&B for the first time today when I get back at 7.30. Hopefully they are well-prepared to debate tomorrow – it should be an exciting tournament. I will find out if I am judging or get to cheer them on when we register.

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