News Reel

Find out what’s happening in and around Cambridge.

Beck at The Corn Exchange

Just back from a sold out show at The Cambridge Corn Exchange by Beck.
Great songs (some old, some covers and even a “new” song from The Songbook which was never recorded), Great Playing, Great Singing, Great fun and a truly great Hat!
Billy Jean, Sunday Morning…Where it’s At..the man is probably a genius.

Graduation Days

Saturday was the final day of this years BA’s Graduation at The Senate House. The sun shone, the expectant recipients, suitably gowned, entered The Senate House, one college at a time and, via a different entrance, proud parents and family members were ushered to their seats.

Newnham College students ready to graduate

Newnham College students ready to graduate

...into The Senate House

…into The Senate House






Just a short while later the granuards emerge back into the sunlight, with broad seems like a million photos of the happy occasion are taken over the 3 days and then it’s time to relax and enjoy the moment with a cool drink on The Senate House Lawn.

Senate House Lawn

Senate House Lawn






Ceremony and tradition add to these special days. The Bulldogs in their top hats are on hand to help and, as one would expect from the University’s “private” police force, ensure proper behaviour, just as they have done down the centuries.

Stewart the Bulldog

Stewart the Bulldog

The King’s Men

The King's Men

The King’s Men

The King’s Men are a close harmony group made up of choral scholars from the King’s College Chapel Choir and, last night, they performed a concert from a punt stationed on the River Cam at King’s College.
A varied repertoire from classical through to their own arrangements of folk, spiritual and modern pop songs.
Yesterday afternoon they turned up at the Market Square to publicize the event and burst into a truly wonderful rendition of “I get Around” in the Beach Boys was magical!..transporting the crowd from a dull and overcast afternoon in Cambridge to the surf and sunshine of a Californian beach!

and by the way…you can hire them to perform at your event (the sang at the 70th birthday party of Professor Stephen Hawking.

The King's Men "Get around".Market Square

The King’s Men “Get around”.Market Square

Dallas comes to Cambridge!

I have just spent a hugely enjoyable day in the company of the Martin Family. Rick and Jane and their twin sons Andrew and Garrett are from Texas. They had already visited Italy and Ireland and were rounding off their trip with a visit to Cambridge. We met under the tower at Great St Mary’s Church and immediately hit it off. A two hour walking tour of Cambridge followed including visits to Emmanuel College (where John Harvard graduated), The Cavendish Laboratory, the Corpus Chronophage and finally King’s College Chapel. By then we were all ready for lunch and grabbed a table in the courtyard at The Eagle. A quick shop for souvenirs at Cambridge Market and then…..

The afternoon involved a very special trip out to Wimpole Hall (about 9 miles from Cambridge). We parked up and walked through the grounds, past the 17th Century Wimpole Hall, through wild pastures sustaining herds of cattle, sheep and goats until we came to the focus of our mission. It is now just another field of lush pasture with no trace left of what used to be on this very spot. This is where a temporary USAF Hospital, complete with maternity wing was established in 1944. In 1958 the 7510 USAF Hospital was where Rick was born. The next year the hospital was closed and all trace of it cleared. So a very special and poignant moment that I was privileged to share with the Martins. We returned to the stable yard for some cold drinks and then made for the American Cemetery at Madingley. We made it by 4.45pm which allowed us time to appreciate this  cemetery and respect the young American men and women who lost their lives in WWII. (3,812 graves and a Portland stone wall recording a further 5,127 names of those missing in action.)

The Martin’s dropped me off in Cambridge as they headed for London in preparation for their flight home tomorrow.

It was an absolute pleasure to guide them in and around Cambridge.

The Martin Family at The American Cemetery

The Martin Family at The American Cemetery

Suicide Sunday

It’s certainly not every Sunday that at 8.30am the Market Square hosts hoards of scantily dressed young women wearing Viking helmets!!! Today was Suicide Sunday. Not sure when this tradition first started but it marks the relief at the end of exams and the trepidation at the forthcoming results.

This week also sees the college May Balls in full swing. Emmanuel May Ball is tonight (excellent coffee courtesy of Ben whose Cafe Mobile also serves on The Market Square throughout the year). Tomorrow is Trinity May Ball. I was on the river hosting a ghost tour last night and witnessed the preparations going ahead. Trinity have in place several huge marquees on The Backs and it looked like fairground rides were being delivered. Queen’s have erected a temporary tubular metal bridge across the Cam…no where near as architecturally beautiful as their Wooden Bridge (aka The Mathematical Bridge), the original of which dates from 1749.
So a week parties and fireworks awaits!

May Bumps Results

After a very windy Saturday with added heavy showers in the afternoon this years Heads of the River were……drum roll…….

In the men’s Gonville & Caius regained top spot after Downing had taken the lead overnight and in the women’s it was the fast rising Clare crew who topped the division with Downing in second place. At one stage a Downing double was on and my friend John, a Downing allumni, was devastated with the 2 second places!!

Following tradition the Heads of the River burn a wooden boat (old that is) in their college grounds.

Next up on the river will be the Town Bumps in a few weeks time.

May Bumps

What a fun afternoon. I cycled down to the River. Along the tow path past the college boathouses..all flying their college flags.Exams are over and its time for the May Bumps! Let me (try) to explain.

May Bumps on the River Cam

May Bumps on the River Cam

This is four days of racing on the River Cam to determine which college will be crowned Head of the River for 2013. As the Cam is too narrow and bendy to accommodate all the college boats racing abreast..the “Bumps” were devised.

The crew of 8 representing each college make their way to the start at Batesbite Lock. They now take up positions along the bank, about 50 meters apart. When the starting gun sounds its row, row, row..hell for leather. The aim is to catch up with the boat in front of you. If you manage to catch the rival boat it is considered a “Bump”. Both crews retire to the bank, whilst the other crews continue the race. A successful bump means you move up one place in your division so at the next in a series of races you start one place higher up the river.

There are many crews as each college enters several teams. Once you top your division you can move up into the next division. At the end of the 4 days the team at the top of Division One is awarded “Head of the River”.

It’s a colourful and competitive scene. Relief for the students that the exams are over and putting to the test all those early morning training sessions. Spectators line the banks to enjoy the occasion or cheer on “their” college crew. The riverside pub at Fen Ditton, The Plough” was a favourite viewing (and drinking) spot.

Spectators on the Bank

Spectators on the Bank

End of Exams

Students waiting to gain entry to The Senate House to take examinations this morning.

Exams at The Senate House

Exams at The Senate House

The exams take place in various buildings throughout the city. Tomorrow is the last day of exams. Some students have already finished and are enjoying as litle wine/beer fueled “rest and relaxation” throughout the city and in particular, gathering on Jesus Green by the river.
Full term ends on June 14th. Then it’s the May Balls and on 28th June, for 3 days, the “General Admissions” ceremony…the graduations.

MA Graduation

Last Saturday saw many Cambridge Students returning to receive their MA’s in a graduation ceremony at The Senate House. Prior to the ceremony I saw this bunch of former Trinity alumni while on my way to buy my morning newspaper at Heffers bookshop. John Thompson, whose studio Jet Studio in Botolph’s Lane have specialised for many years in photographing all aspects of life at the Colleges and the University of Cambridge  was behind the lens for this groupshot.

Trinity Alumni

Trinity alumni in front of Trinity Great Gate

40th Beer Festival

The huge marquees being erected on Jesus Green this week are part of the preparation for the 40th Cambridge Beer Festival. This CAMRA event in the longest running and 2nd largest Beer Festival. It opens on Monday with an invitation to all to enjoy the numerous and wide ranging beers, stouts, ales and ciders. Cheers!

Preparing for the 2013 Cambridge Beer Festival.

Preparing for the 2013 Cambridge Beer Festival.

Reach Fair

Reach is a village about 10 miles north east of Cambridge. The ancient township has been inhabited for over 2,000 years. It was the centre of considerable trade in mediaeval times and was granted a charter to hold an annual fair at Rogation-tide by King John in 1201. The Fair now takes place every year on May Bank Holiday.
By tradition the Fair is opened at midday by the Mayor of Cambridge who then throws newly minted penny coins to the children of the village.
A somewhat more recent addition to the Fair is a bike ride from Cambridge to Reach. Cyclists of all ages, shapes and sizes congregated in front of The Guildhall in the Market Square, setting off at 10am they wind their way to Reach for the Fair opening. Our all action Mayor, Shelia Stuart was one of the many that enjoyed the ride.

All Action Mayor of Cambridge, Shelia Stuart

All Action Mayor of Cambridge, Shelia Stuart

Oliver the Artist  along for the ride!

Oliver the Artist
along for the ride!

and the're off....

and the’re off….


Sir Alex Ferguson

…and what possible connection could the decision of the knighted Scot to retire as manager of that well known Premier League business Manchester United have with Cambridge?
Well rather tenuous I admit but the guest speaker at The Cambridge Union this Monday evening, May 13th , is David Moyes, the current Everton manager and odds on candidate to take over as manger at United! The Union term card describes his as three times winner of the Manager of the Year award and he will talk on leadership. It also tells us that he is the Premierships “3rd longest serving manager”..All change?

Flanneuring in Saffron Walden

My friend Anne introduced me to the concept of flanneuring. As I understand it all you need is that precious commodity Time. You then wander about a place with no schedule, no plan, no aim, indeed no idea! just go where it takes you and absorb the ambience.

Saffron Walden, Market Town

Saffron Walden, Market Town

Well this morning I biked over to the pretty town of Saffron Walden, named after the saffron plant which grew extensively in this area, and indulged in some flanneuring. I was drawn to the wonderful church, dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, with it’s impressive tower. Inside the huge nave was bathed with the sunlight streaming through the windows. Look up and an impressive roof, all reflecting the wealth of this town. In the south aisle I came across the black Belgium marble tomb of Thomas Audley, who funded some of the building of this church.
Lord Audley was the ruthless Lord Chancellor of Henry VIII and founded Magdalene College in Cambridge. Few tears were shed when he died in 1544. The historian Thomas Fuller wrote while standing next to this tomb..
 “the stone is not harder, nor the marble blacker than the heart of him who lies beneath.”
Back home in Cambridge after a 36 mile round bike trip..which involved some hills near Saffron Walden, not something we are used to here in Cambridge! A grand day out.

I strongly commend to you both flanneuring and Saffron Walden!

Tomb of Thomas Lord Audley

Tomb of Thomas Lord Audley

St Mary the Virgin

St Mary the Virgin

Spring at Last!

It has been a long, cold and grey winter. Usually by this time the Backs are a carpet of colour but who can blame the daffs and other flowers for their reluctance to burst into bloom this year. However, at last, the flowers are emerging and the colour, like an old “painting by numbers” picture is making a show!

Wren Library in Spring

Wren Library in Spring

Blue Flowers
Blue Flowers



St Luke’s Grand Day Out

Enjoyed a wonderful day helping out St Luke’s Primary School. My twin grandsons are in Maple Class and their inspiring teacher Ms Kearns had planned a day out in Cambridge to coincide with this terma classwork on The Tudors.. St Luke’s is only a 10 minute walk from the centre of the city and so shortly after 9.30am a two deep line of back packed 9 year olds snaked out of the school gates. First stop was a climb to the top of Castle Hill and the magnificent views it affords. Stopped to see Henry VIII on Trinity Great Gate and peaked in at the Trinity Great Court.

Next we were welcomed into King’s College Chapel. We devoured our packed lunches at the Round Church, the second oldest building in Cambridge and were told the history of the building and Cambridge by Martin. Now on to the Whipple Museum of the History of Science. The children had questionnaires provided by their teacher and the afternoon was spent finding the answers in this wonderful little museum. Plenty of fascinating exhibits but best of all was the “hands on” area where the children could get fully involved. The Whipple, like the other 7 University museums is open to the public and entry if FREE!!. Normally closed on Mondays but well worth a visit, with or without children!

After winding our way back up the hill we arrived back at St Luke’s at 3pm. An enjoyable and inspiring day…and we will all, adults and children..sleep well tonight!

Dalai Lama visits Cambridge

This morning I noticed that St John’s College was closed to visitors and was aware of a “security presence”. Today saw the arrival of the 14th Dalai Lama who is to spend two days in Cambridge and will speak at St John’s and The Cambridge Union.

Milliband in Town

Just ordered his baked potato

Milliband at The Market

Peas Hill Speech

Speech on Peas Hill









I am one lucky person. I get to meet people from all over the world..the people that come to study, come to visit and come to work in Cambridge. When not guiding I work on the family Market Stall, The Hemp Store. Is there a finer setting for a market? I doubt it!

One never knows who will step onto the hallowed cobbles of our Market Square. Yesterday, Tuesday, it was Ed Milliband, Leader of the Opposition. No doubt the appearance not unconnected with the forthcoming May 2nd local elections!

He stopped to take time to meet some of the traders and talked at length with my friend Paul Neeve, proprietor of a fine book stall. Later, standing on a wooden market pallet instead of the more traditional soap box, Ed spoke to a crowd that had gathered on Peas Hill. He ordered a baked potato (with beans should you be interested) from Leigh at The Tramstop stall. And then he sipped on a bottle of water, looking very much at ease and breaking into a laugh as he prepared to go on camera for the local BBC News.

He was impressive, actually listened to people and engaged with them  Spoke well and came across as calm and confident without any hint of cockiness.

Just another day on Cambridge Market!

Ready for a BBC TV Interview

Relaxing in front of Grace’s Stall

Annual GOAT Race!

The world is fully aware that tomorrow hosts the 159th boat race between Cambridge and Oxford on the Thames, but, did you know, another race between the two universities is also staged.
Spitafields City Farm in London is the venue for the 5th annual Goat Race. Apparently Barney the Goat has secured victory for Cambridge in the past four years.


Lady Margaret Beaufort

St John’s College Chapel was closed to the public this week for 2 reasons. The start of the week it was hosting auditions for musical scholars while later in the week the film cameras were rolling, capturing footage for a BBC film on the college founder Lady Margaret Beaufort. This truly remarkable women, gave birth to her son Henry Tudor,(later to take the throne as Henry VII), when she was only 13 years old. She was never far from the heart of the political upheavals during the Wars of the Roses and still found time to found not only St John’s College but also Christ’s college here in Cambridge.

Lady Margaret Beaufort

Lady Margaret Beaufort

Archbishop of Canterbury

105th Archbishop of Canterbury

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

March 21st 2013 saw the enthronement of the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. Justin Welby was a Cambridge graduate (Trinity College) as indeed was his predecessor  Rowan Williams (Christ’s College).
Part of the ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral involved the kissing of a very old book called “The Canterbury Chronicles”. This book was brought to these shores in AD 597 by a monk, St Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory to convert England to Christianity.
The book is housed at The Parker Library in Corpus Christi College and the enthronement is the only time it ever leaves this famous library.
Dr. Rowan Williams is now Master of Magdalene College.