Monday, 8 August 2011

I fell in love with a swan

It’s my birthday, and I’ve been in Cambridge all day.

The flight home last night was bumpy, but not horrific. I am by no means a natural flier, but I’ve found a way to put myself in a sort of trance during take-off, which has always been the bit that makes me the most terrified. I used to sit and write in a diary; streams of cataclysmic nonsense, which fuelled the fear and turned me into a useless lunatic. My new form of self-hypnotism involves counting very slowly to 180. By the time I get to the magic number, the fasten seat belt signs have been switched off, and everything is okay.
I slept the night at my parents, who live about a 15 minute drive from Stansted, which is perfect for Ryan Air flights. When I arrived at the airport, brother Edward, Sascha and Meriel were there to meet me. We drove home, ate a bit of food, chatted for a while and then went to bed.

We drove to Cambridge after breakfast. Nathan and Sam met us at a car park on the edge of the City. I could see them both sitting under a tree, quite some distance away, and when Nathan saw me, he started jumping up and down like a small child, before sprinting the best part of 200 metres to give me a massive hug. It was so lovely to see him again... and Sam for that matter.

Brother Edward managed to hire a King’s College punt, which was very exciting. One of the benefits of being a graduate from one of the Cambridge colleges which back onto the river is the ability to hire a private punt. Sadly, the punt we ended up with came with a very short pole, which made steering a little difficult, but it did the job, and when you’re in one of the purple King’s College punts, which all have their own names, you feel proud as punch as you drift up stream. You're definitely not a tourist if you're drifting along in one of them...

The other feature of hiring a college punt is that you get to wheel the boat up the rollers which link the River Cam with the river Granta. The Granta is the part of the river which meanders its way out of the city centre and into the Cambridgeshire countryside. Dragging a punt up a small hill is hard work, but great fun.

Nathan was attacked by a swan...

I did really well for presents. The highlight of the clutch has to be the bouquet of flowers that Edward and Sascha gave me. Allow me to explain... I recently decided I wanted the Fisher Price airport. I’m sure many people reading this will remember Fisher Price toys. I had loads as a child. There was a little camper van, a school, a garage, a fire station... there was even a hospital. I had many of them, but always wanted the airport. The airport came with its own plane, a terminus and two mini-helecopters. It radiated the glamour of 1970s air travel. I think it was probably a bit too expensive for my parents' budget, and as a result, it was always the one that I wanted the most. Anyway, Brother Edward bought one for me for Christmas and it now sits very proudly on the shelves in our sitting room, ready to be played with by any passing god-child. Because it was a second-hand toy, it only came with a few rather non-descript mini-people to drive the airport cars and sit in the little plastic plane. As children we had a large collection of figures, all of which we named. One was called Helen, one was called Carrie, one was called Butch, and most bizarrely, the little woman with the blue body and attractive blonde hair was called Sally-Anna. Since Christmas, I'd been longing to find some of these little people...

When I looked at the birthday bouquet, I noticed that one or two of these longed-for figures were poking up through the red and orange flowers. A closer inspection revealed that they were attached to little wooden sticks, and there were at least twenty of them; all shapes, colours and sizes. They looked so lovely within the flowers. I don’t know why such a simple thing should seem so exciting, or how a childhood toy could fill me with so much joy, but it did.

Mez and the birthday bundle

We had cream teas in the Orchard at Grantchester, all the while being disturbed by a near apocalyptic number of wasps, which were the first I’d seen this year. The women in the cafe said they'd never known them to be such a problem before. The act of opening a miniature pot of jam brought scores of the little blighters flying over.

Grantchester meadows

For the entire day, the subject of conversation has repeatedly returned to the riots which have spread from Tottenham to Hackney to Lewisham to Birmingham and now to Leeds. It's very upsetting. It feels like society is breaking down. People have had enough and are snapping left, right and centre. Sam lives close to Lewisham, and was quite worried about getting home. Sad, bad times...

August 8th, 1661 and Pepys had been engaged by the Lord Privy Seal to do some work, but when he turned up, first in the morning, and then again after lunch, the Lord was nowhere to be seen, which angered Pepys, understandably.

He went instead with his bezzie mate, Mr Moore, and a French servant of Lord Sandwich to a tavern close to the Savoy, where they met the musician Humphrey Madge. The Frenchman manage to utterly enrage Madge by claiming French music was far superior to English music... So much, in fact, that Madge stormed out of the pub... I'm not surprised. La musique de France c'est merd, innit.

Picnic by the river

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