For the Cambridge leg of the trip Dugald takes up the thread.
Wendy’s last post provoked the response “tell him to slow down”. So I did and had a good snooze while she went off in pursuit of Konik ponies in Wicken Fen. We discovered that we are not patient enough to be good naturalists – we want results too quickly.
Back at the pub, the Five Miles from Anywhere, No Hurry Inn there was people watching to be done. A smart broadbeam boat disgorged a couple, she with unshocking pink hair, he with dreadlocks down to his knees. White, middle aged and inherently quite good looking, we wondered what his motive for this style was. Later in Cambridge a large guided party passed us – led by a walking guide who had been a Cambridge street cleaner for many years and was now a very knowledgeable presenter – a more encouraging picture.
Leaving the Great Ouse and joining the Cam, there was an immediate change to a warmer and more intimate atmosphere. The river seems to announce the magic of the city.
We arrived to take the only available visitor mooring in the centre of the city. Walking round that evening reminded me of what a glorious place it is – and how privileged I was to spend a happy three years there.
Wendy and I met in September 1970 and she visited me in Cambridge once – in November 1970. I fell out of favour shortly afterwards for reasons too complex to explain. I did not take her punting that November weekend and had never done so since. This needed remedying. The girl managing the desk at Scudamores looked sceptical and pitying at my claim that I had last punted in 1994 (when showing Anna round the city and the university). I chose a wooden pole – always used one before – why change now? Because it’s incredibly heavy that’s why. I made it to the Mill and back in an hour and just kept balance sufficiently to avoid indignity – a triumph. After that a good lunch with Perran and Jane was essential.
Today is 8 August, 27 years after I joined the Department of Education and Science. It was a radical change from farming and surprised some in the Department too. A director, told of my new post and my previous occupation, remarked “Rather an arcane job for a farmer, I’d have thought” and turned away. The only appropriate response was a Harvey Smith behind his back.
Jane joined us for the trip out of the city as we went back onto the Great Ouse. Coming from the South you can understand why Ely cathedral is known as the Ship of the Fens. Tomorrow we will get the tandem off the roof and bike into Ely to admire it.