Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cambridge and a load of Punts

The river's called the Cam and there are lots of bridges across it, which is presumably why some inspired now-dead person came up with the idea of calling it Cambridge.

Similarly, and to digress a bit, some old Roman must have found a broken bridge in Yorkshire somewhere and decided to call the place Pontefract, which is what it means if you speak Latin, which I used to, a bit. But hey! They've probably mended the bridge by now, or replaced it altogether, and the town's still called Pontefract. It's the equivalent of us calling somewhere Broken-Down Lorry.

Anyway, Cambridge, jolly famous university city. It sort of runs from North to South with all the colleges next to each other, mostly very beautiful and all knowing how to take money off tourists.

At the back of the colleges are what's called the Backs (by 'eck, they knew how to name things in Cambridge). These are grassy bits with a river flowing through them, called the Cam, and there are lots of bridges over it. Yes, I know, we've had that bit.

I was going to Cambridge to see an actor in a play, and Silverback kindly agreed to accompany me, and what's more to drive too. This driving offer may, perhaps, have been a gesture of self-preservation: but anyway, it was all highly enjoyable, to me at least.

Anyway, in the early morning the river looks all tranquil, like this:

It doesn't last though. In the daytime, at this time of year at least, the river is full of people on punts, which are the British equivalent of gondolas. You stand at one end and push it along with a pole.

You can't walk more than ten yards in Cambridge without someone asking you if you want to go on a punt: it gets very irritating after a while and you find yourself thinking of sentences that start with Go Away and have Stupid in the middle and then a bit of rhyming slang at the end.

You can go on a punt with someone to punt it, or you can - if you're more adventurous - hire one to punt yourself.

So, once all this is going on, the river looks like this:

or like this:

It may look easy - - actually, it doesn't look easy, now I come to think of it. It looks like a blend of hard work punctuated by lots of opportunities for close encounters with the wet bit.

So there's a mixture of skilled punters who clearly spend the whole summer trogging up and down the river with tourists in the punt - - and self-punting tourists who think it can't be too difficult.

Lots of crashes, lots of punts spinning round in a circle, the occasional lost pole. One person actually fell in the river whilst we were watching, though cruelly didn't wait until we could get our cameras on him. Very entertaining, though.

I had a lovely time in Cambridge - - thank you, Silverback for your excellent company - but now I'm trying to get my head round my next little adventure, which is going to Paris tomorrow, back on Saturday evening. What a great week! It's work, Captain, but not as we know it.


Anonymous ruth said...

So glad you participated in the traditional local pastime of watching the tourists trying to punt (and didn't succumb to being part of the amusement).

Of course in Cambridge they do it from the wrong end of the punt. And they have far more people who punt for you than we do in Oxford which I think deprives the locals of much sport and entertainment. I'm Oxford born and bred. I know how to punt. Goodness only knows why maybe it's something we simply absorb at a very young age.

I love watching the poor tourists going round and round in circles, or punting from the middle of the boat or from one end but going the wrong way or, of course, falling in.

You might be going to Paris this weekend but I think I'm going punting. I know you'll have a wonderful time but I don't feel so jealous now. Yes, it's physical hard work and you get wet as the water runs down the pole but the pleasure of being on the river totally outweighs all of that.

And our river is called the Isis which of course is actually the Thames. So go on, explain that one! (though we are called Oxford because of a ford for oxen - as you would say, inspired!)

8:32 pm  
Anonymous Bun said...

I have still never been to Cambridge, I'm embarrassed to admit. Nor Oxford... sad but true.

10:38 pm  
Blogger Dizzy said...

If you want a punt with real grunt, then try one of these!

11:33 pm  
Blogger Tillerman said...

We went to Cambridge in 2006 on our big OE from NZ - went through one of the college chapels (very beautiful) - my wife made the day of one of the groundsmen who was bending over a mower doing some sort of adjustment, "It's good to see that someone around here does some Real Work" he laughed out loud and seemed really chuffed by the comment. (And of course academics is real work too.

11:08 am  
Blogger Hadriana's Treasures said...

Like your Roman you can imagine re: my blog title. Been to Cambridge and Oxford (not as an academic sadly purely as an onlooker)...wonderful places. Came to you via Yorkshire Pudding.

4:32 pm  

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