It was a week of lower intensity, having resubmitted my paper and no longer having to stress about it. Hence I was able to be more sociable and have a few later nights out. Tuesday was for the next reading in Callie’s facisim reading group, talking about the panopticon – a system of psychological control based on architecture and the idea of being watched. It was certainly an interesting idea, but one that had many holes that can be picked through.
Another college joined my list of formal halls attended when, on Wednesday, Krittika invited Annalise, Jacqueline, Eliška, Zach, Cerriane and myself to Jesus’s graduate dinner. After two terms now in Cambridge, I’ve checked off seven of the thirty-one colleges. Not that I’m counting or anything. Ostensibly, the formal was to celebrate Saint David’s Day, the national day of Wales. Pre-drinks were hosted in the Old Library, but we left early to attempt to secure seats together. There are two dining halls in Jesus college; the main hall where most formals are held, and a smaller room off the balcony in the main hall. Being a grad formal, we were hosted in the smaller room, but that doesn’t mean the hospitality was any less.
The food held up to its lofty reputation. Mains was a juicy steak, with roasted vegetables to share. Dessert was Welsh cakes, which seems to be like a scone that has been flattened by heavy roller. After dinner, Krittika took us on a tour of the new Jesus bar, and thence for a relaxing evening in the MCR. We didn’t stay for as long as planned; through various rabbit-holes in conversation we decided that we wanted to play a few rounds of a card game called The Resistance. To do so, we left the college for a short walk to Krittika’s place of residence, where she had the card game that we could play around the table in her kitchen. We played a number of rounds until rather late that night, and I demonstrated an uncanny but extremely lucky to guess the other players out.
I had another very late night on Thursday as well. After eating dinner with Annalise and Jacqueline in the Darwin dining hall, I stayed in the DarBar most of the night for the Newnham Smoker, an amateur stand-up comedy night run by Newnham College (and aggressively promoted by Callie, among others). Of note was Joanna’s first ever attempt at stand-up (again, aggressively encouraged by Callie). She presented a set entitled “Seven Signs of a Drunk Joanna,” and, in my opinion, handled the pressure well. I hung around afterwards to share and discuss with some of the other presenters.
The main event for the week was the Gates Term Trip to London. Unlike the Michelmas trip which was more centrally organised, the Lent trip was more decentralised. We were all to meet in the West End of London to see one of two musicals, and there was a informal suggestion to visit the British Museum beforehand. I met Jacqueline at the Cambridge Railway station to travel into King’s Cross, where we met Annalise, who had been in London earlier having breakfast with a friend. Our first action was to link my Oyster card to my travel card, which required going to three different offices at two different stations. We had over an hour before the recommended meeting time at the museum, so for reasons entirely unclear, we determined that we would go to Hyde Park and ride some bikes around. We took the tube to Hyde Park Corner and found a cycle hire station. On our front-heavy cycles, we rode gently around the edge of the Serpentine lake, breathing in the fresh city air and watching the many people recreating. At one point, I nearly crashed, due to my antics on the upright cycle, but managed to stay on. We had the bikes for half an hour, and, after trying several bicycle stations, found a place to leave them. We had some time still, so we walked down Oxford street, stopping at Tottenham Court Road to pick up some West End tickets for later in April.
Eventually, we found our way into the museum, happening upon Matthew who was having lunch with his parents. He told us that there wasn’t an organised group wandering around, so we decided to wander around further ourselves. Having a historian with us meant that we were able to garner context from the exhibits beyond that in the display panels which I’ve always found more exciting.
Later, we left for lunch, at a cafe on Kingsway, before congregating in front of the Lyceum Theatre while we waited for other scholars to arrive. We were here to see the Lion King. There were about a score of us, some of whom arrived later than others. Rebecca handed out our tickets and we made our way up to the Grand Circle, overlooking the stage. The musical is based on the 1994 Disney film, and so incorporates many of the popular themes in the production. However, it introduces several new pieces as well to round it out into the genre. The plot was also modified a little in the second half, which added much of the stereotypical musical drama. While some of the child singing missed the mark a bit, the amazing puppetry more than made up for it. The bird Zazu seemed mildly self-aware that he was a character in a musical, which added some light fourth-wall breaking whimsy, much to my delight.
After the musical, the group walked to Pizza Express for dinner. We had pre-booked tables, but being a very large group it took us some time to order and then to receive our food. The delay did give a good chance to catch up with some of the other scholars, in particular Miriam, who had recently returned from the field in Barbados.
Full with pizza, the proposal was to head to a nearby pub for the evening, but again for some unknown reason, Jacqueline, Annalise and I decided to break off and re-hire bikes to ride along the Thames. We walked down through Trafalgar square and found a bike station near Embankment station. The entire north bank of the Thames is navigable via one of the relatively new cycle superhighways around London, a luxurious bike path that separates cyclists far from traffic. We casually rode as far as we could in the half-hour time limit on our bike hire, which took us all the way across the City of London to Tower Hill, overlooking the brightly-lit Tower of London. Given the options of what to do next, we decided to keep heading east into the Docklands, with the aim to ride the Emirates cable car to Greenwich. The cycle superhighway continued into the Docklands, but started to follow narrow backstreets instead of dedicated bike trails.
We exchanged bikes at Westferry with the intention of leaving the bikes at Royal Victoria. We deviated from the cycle superhighway to cross the River Lea, but when we finally arrived at Royal Victoria, we couldn’t find any cycle stations. A quick look on Google maps suggested that there weren’t any cycle stations east of the River Lea, so we had to back track to Blackwall to deposit our bikes (which involved running our bikes down a staircase). Tired, we took the DLR to Canning Town and walked to the cable car. Eventually, we were in a gondola rising high over the Thames, looking out over the Trinity College-owned O2 arena and the high-rise buildings on the Isle of Dogs. Finally, it was time to go home. Armed with snacks from a nearby Tesco, we rode the Jubilee line back into town from North Greenwich, arriving at King’s Cross to get a train home.
To recover from all of the late nights, on Sunday morning I went out on a bike ride into the Cambridgeshire countryside. I rode southeast, towards the town of Balsham, but this required riding uphill into a block headwind in the rain for several miles. It was hard going, but soon enough I turned northeast and rode along some beautiful country lanes to the tiny town of Dullingham. The train station had no ticket machine, but still had a signal box and manually operated level crossing, and so felt rather old-worldly. I arrived with five minutes to spare before the once-every-two-hours train back to Cambridge. I showered, and headed out to Sunday roast in Darwin, to wrap up my rather calming week.