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Why Tangential?

Why Tangential Cambridge? Well, for many reasons! First of all, we’ll roam and meander on our tours, exploring links and allusions and often going off at tangents, which is much more fun than sticking to a single track. Secondly, it’s a reference to an iconic Cambridge site (see the picture – courtesy of Wikipedia). Also, it’s a mathematical concept close to my heart. And, finally, it somewhat resembles my own name, Tanya!

Maths Bridge Coloured 2
This is the so-called Mathematical Bridge. The straight, coloured lines together describe an arc, and each of them is a tangent to it! That way the stress is distributed lengthwise rather than perpendicular to the beams which makes the construction much more robust.

Giraffes in Cambridge!

Meet Riley (in the first photo), the Rights Respecting Mini-Giraffe. He was created by children from Swavesey Primary School, who were inspired by UNICEF’s “Rights of the Child”. The dashing French one with croissants is called Gaston, and there are many more!

Mini-giraffes have been seen in Cambridge, here and there, for at least a week. I’ve bumped into them in a shopping centre, in a book shop, and at the entrance to Anglia Ruskin University.

However, the main guests are starting to arrive today. They are proper big giraffes of all breeds and colours. I’ve already made acquaintance with a few. 31 bright and cheerful “visiting fellows” are expected in total, as if to match the number of Cambridge colleges!

It’s a charity project, organised by ‘Break’ who help children in care or leaving care, in partnership with ‘Wild in Art’. A giraffe auction is scheduled for early June.

Don’t miss a guided tour of giraffes – watch this space!

New Vice-Chancellor

Passers-by, onlookers and tourists are watching and wondering – what on earth is going on? Why such a gathering in gowns on the steps of the Senate House? Yet another graduation? But where are the actual graduands?!

Yesterday (5th July) there was a much rarer ceremony in Cambridge – the swearing in of the new Vice-Chancellor, Debbie Prentice, the third woman in this role and the first American.

It may be hard to believe, but she’ll be the 347th Vice-Chancellor since the early 1400s. In the past, they used to replace each other in a quick succession, usually as often as once a year!

Debbie Prentice studied Psychology at Stanford and Yale, and recently was the Provost of Princeton. To mark the occasion, the University flag is flying high up Great St. Mary’s tower.

Chronophage is back!

Not only did the legendary Chronophage return to its usual place of glory, after an unfortunate act of vandalism back in March, but it was adorned with a gorgeous flower wreath today, to celebrate British Flowers Week.

I just about caught the moment when some flower decoration could still be seen, before it was finally taken down!

Singing from the Towers

There is one day in the year when Trinity college porters are especially smiley and cheerful. Everyone is warmly welcomed to the grounds, and even though it’s not officially allowed, nobody minds you sitting and walking on the grass, on the vast and glorious lawn of the Great Court.

It’s Sunday, the end of exams, the end of academic year, and the start of merry “May Week” (in June!) At noon, after the clock strikes 12, the renowned Trinity college choir gives a beautiful mini-concert from the towers.

It may seem like a very old tradition, but it turns out it was only invented some 40 or 50 years ago, by the then Director of Music, Richard Marlow.

Half the choir climbs up to the top of the Great Gate, while the other half ascends the Clock Tower. The towers are roughly 70 yards apart, and appear to be having a conversation! The choristers take turns to sing chants. It’s called antiphony. Then a brass band joins in from the Queen’s Tower.

I sat there by the fountain, totally enchanted by mediaeval refrains in the air, the gentle murmur of the water, hot sun, and the white and red attire of the choristers who were almost up in the sky…

According to another tradition, in the evening the same choir sings on the river standing in the punts.

Exams & Strawberry Fair

“Quiet please – exams are in progress” (even on a Saturday!)

Students finish their papers and humbly leave examination halls, in ones and twos, deep in their thoughts. They switch their phones back on, and cycle away…

It’s almost impossible to imagine the buzz and bustle and flamboyance of the Strawberry Fair that is in full swing just round the corner, on Midsummer Common. Scroll through for comparison…

Do these two worlds intersect?

Towel Day

Inspiration often comes unexpectedly. Once a young English writer found himself somewhat drunk, in the Tyrol, lying on the grass and gazing at the night sky, while clutching a guide book, “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe”. This is where the idea came from… 

It was Douglas Adams, of course, the future author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was originally a BBC radio comedy in the late 70s, before it became books, TV series, a film, and a video game.

Today, the book and the author are celebrated with the so-called Towel Day! (25th May)

“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”, apparently! 

Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge, raised in Essex, and went to St. John’s College, Cambridge (see the photos). 

It’s not exactly a towel in the man’s hands in the first picture, but the nearest thing I could find…

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!