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A willow crown and cardboard visitors

In case you didn’t know or perhaps never really wondered where King Charles III spent his student years, Trinity College, Cambridge, is declaring it to the world. They are displaying a delicate willow crown, hand-woven by its skilful gardeners. It’s on the lawn right next to the famous apple tree, glittering in the sun, and is meant to remind us of Charles’s efforts towards sustainability and protecting the environment.

On Saturday, 6th May 2023, some also spotted bright-coloured new arrivals in Queens’ College, next to the Mathematical Bridge. No comment…

8th March

Do you find sometimes that certain special days in the calendar are linked in your mind and memory to particular colours?

For me, the International Women’s Day has always felt bright yellow – the colour of first spring flowers and sunlight. And mimosa, shining, fluffy, fragrant mimosa…

Today, I’ve found out that the official colours are purple, green, and white, chosen over a hundred years ago for their symbolism. Purple apparently stands for justice and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope.

I couldn’t find much purple on the streets, but there was plenty of white on green today in Cambridge, due to a striking wet snowfall that lasted almost all day!

Well, let’s mark 8th March with reflections and spring flowers, or whichever way you prefer.

Happy Birthday, DNA!

This is not a beer advert! Although it would be quite appropriate to drink this beer today, to celebrate the anniversary of a ground-breaking discovery.

Precisely 70 years ago, on 28th February 1953, at lunchtime, two respectable gentlemen ran into The Eagle, Cambridge, in a state of extreme excitement. “We have discovered the secret of life!” they declared out loud.

Their names were Watson and Crick. In the era predating Twitter and Instagram, the poor chaps had to make their way from the neighbouring street to break the news to their drinking mates in person. They had just cracked the structure of DNA, a molecule underlying all forms of life. Admittedly, we now know that a few other names were also behind this discovery, some undeservingly overlooked – Erwin Chargaff, Rosalind Franklin, Raymond Gosling…

“Eagle’s DNA” is a great ale, apparently, very smooth, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. And what is your favourite type of beer?

International Tourist Guide Day

Happy International Tourist Guide Day (21st February) to my colleagues all over the world! Plus, my love to all tourists, travellers, pilgrims, wanderers, visitors and guests, as well as adventurous locals – whose eyes are shining with joy and curiosity as they go for a stroll, and they are keen to explore, absorb, wonder and be amazed. Walking with you is a mere pleasure!

Invasion of Ukraine

Today I was asked by ITV New Anglia West to comment on the feelings of the local Russian-speaking community on the invasion of Ukraine.

Up until two days ago, I never believed it was possible – Russia invading Ukraine, even when the sinister signs were becoming more and more conspicuous.

The shock, and shame, and despair is beyond any description. It feels like the whole world has turned upside down. A bunch of evil criminals from my native country have unleashed a horrible fratricidal war. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine – they are constantly in my thoughts and prayers.

PS In this video, I said the truth. I was talking to the press on the third day of the war. By then, I hadn’t encountered anyone who supported this atrocious invasion.  Later on, very sadly, I discovered that such people do exist…

Autumnal colours

Cambridge autumnal colours gradually ripen and grow warmer and juicier. Ginger-coloured mushrooms or, more likely, toadstools are perfectly camouflaged amongst the rustling fallen leaves.

The autumn term is known here as Michaelmas, after the feast of St. Michael that is marked on 29th September. It used to be much loved and celebrated with vigour and lavishness in the Middle Ages. Many a geese were consumed, apparently, as there was a common belief that a roasted goose for dinner on St. Michael’s Day would rid you of any hardships for the rest of the year!

New year starts in October!

Guess on what day a working week starts at Cambridge? Perhaps on a Monday? No such luck! A new academic year traditionally begins on the first Tuesday in October, after harvest, while lectures kick off on Thursday (i. e. today). So weeks are numbered “week 1”, “week 2”, etc, from Thursday to Wednesday!

During the first (Freshers’) week, hordes of students matriculate at their colleges. This means that they sign in a register. The word goes back to the Middle Ages, when unauthorised youngsters could simply walk in and start studying – magnetic swipe cards hadn’t yet caught on, I presume! This chaos needed to be stopped, and all proper students were asked to write their name in a “matricula”, a roll or register, with a quill pen.

Some colleges still keep up the tradition, although they’ve replaced a quill with a fountain pen, for the ease of use…

Good luck to the graduates!

Graduation ceremony is in full swing in Cambridge; slightly unusual timing but there is still a lot of catching up to do from last year. Yesterday, over 500 smiling, happy people proceeded to the Senate House in orderly, regularly spaced out groups, wearing all sorts of colour linings on their hoods – scarlet silk for PhDs, blue for MPhils, light-blue for MEds, and white fur for BAs, to name but a few. Let’s wish them good luck for the future!

No Mooore Gin

No “Mooore Gin” any mooore… The colourful visitors, Cows about Cambridge, who so triumphantly invaded the city two months ago, are all now gone, and, unexpectedly, the spaces they left behind look strikingly bare.

Cambridge scientists in a shop

I popped into Ted Baker’s the other day – not to browse through their garments, of course, but simply to look at the interior, and was pleasantly surprised to see some familiar Cambridge characters on the wall. There was Isaac Newton’s rough-hewn image with a piercing gaze, a strikingly young and handsome Lord Rayleigh, and a heavily bearded old Darwin deeply engrossed in his thoughts. ‘What a great idea’, I noted, ‘male scientists as role models to inspire the customers to aim high’.

Then a grand staircase leading to the women’s department caught my attention – and I was almost flying up the stairs before I knew it, in the anticipation of a close encounter with Rosalind Franklin perhaps, or Dorothy Hodgkin, or Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Guess whom or what I saw there instead? Just a couple of dead birds on the wall…

Cambridge scientists and dead birds: inside Ted baker's shop in Cambridge