Category: University

Cambridge Part 6: The Haddon Library

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”
― Mark Twain

I’m furious to report that the photos of the first room we entered on our way to the Haddon Library didn’t turn out at all. This room was dark, stuffed with shelves filled with books about ancient Babylon, first contact with the Zulu, Assyrian and Egyptian glossaries, and other fabulous finds. Some of the old tomes containing early maps were nearly as tall as me. And it turns out that the room had a slightly scandalous recent history.

The academic who was in charge of interacting with visitors told me the story of a recent department reshuffle when collections of libraries were combined and had to be moved from one location to another. Not only did they have to worry about the proper transfer of historically significant books, they also had to be sure that the order and classifications were preserved–putting a collection like this back together from scratch if it was scrambled was too daunting a task to be thought of! Luckily the professor in charge found a moving company that specializes in this and a disaster was avoided.

It didn’t seem like too many visitors were going to the Haddon Library through this entrance and the professor and librarian talked to me for nearly twenty minutes simply because I started asking questions about the massive books. It’s always a delight to me what you can learn about the workings of places and people if you just pull up a chair and are genuinely interested.

The Haddon Library itself looks like a Victorian Eccentric’s private room and it’s wonderful. It supports primarily Anthropology students and research. What I loved was the old card catalog still there and still in use. No school like old school. Literally in this case.

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Cambridge Part 3: King’s College

“Cambridge was a joy. Tediously. People reading books in a posh place. It was my fantasy. I loved it. I miss it still.”
– Zadie Smith

King’s College is the jewel in the Cambridge crown. It’s a glorious Early Modern architecture find with the imprint of the Tudors all over it, and the chief attraction is the chapel. The spires dominate the whole city and in good weather (which we had, because the weekend gods were kind) the composition just gleams.

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When Mum was a student we could get into the chapel for free. So when I was on “study abroad,” and therefore dashing home on weekends with armfuls of friends in tow for home cooked meals and general Rodgers clan entertaining, we’d wander through it before trotting down to the Cam to be punted along the river by attractive male students in various degrees of shirtless-ness. Memories.

This visit was much more dignified. I adore the chapel for another reason: it’s choir. Come Christmas time, they dominate the both my iPod and Spotify and I wander around in a state of perpetual fuzzy holiday bliss.

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That fan vaulted ceiling at one point was the wonder of Britain. Architecture nerd fact.

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We took our time going over every nook and cranny of the chapel and I found many delightful elements I hadn’t noticed before.

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Like the greyhound on the right, which looks like it’s judging us.

Afterwards we wandered down to the river a bit and circumnavigated the grounds. The weather has taken a sharp turn for the chilly this week but up until then, this summer and early fall have been absolutely glorious and the gardens have lasted much longer than usual.

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I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major Theatre Geek

“Oh Frederic, can you not in the calm excellence of your wisdom reconcile it with your conscience to say something that will easy my father’s sorrow?”
“Can’t you cheer him up?”
– The Pirates of Penzance

Ah yeah, ladies, you want this.
Ah yeah, ladies, you want this.

Without doubt, one of the best things about working for a university with several renowned performing arts programs and groups, and the talent they manage to attract – is coupling all that with the sweet staff and faculty discount I get on tickets. I’ve seen at least one opera or musical and play every year I’ve lived here (The Magic Flute was painfully mediocre – although the witch trio was amazing, Die Fledermaus was one of my favorite comic performances ever, The Phantom of the Opera could have been mistaken for a Broadway or West End performance, Love’s Labour’s Lost – set in WWII France – was brilliant).

Today I bought my last tickets as a staff member: a summer performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance (the movie version of which starring Kevin Kline and so delightfully, purposefully camp was a childhood favorite). It felt bittersweet tucking my last discounted ticket envelope into my bag.

Then I got an email about next year’s lineup for touring performers. John Lithgow, Audra McDonald, and Joshua Bell. As well as a Middle Eastern group performing an adaptation of Hamlet in Farsi, a marionette troupe, and some really great looking Shakespeare.

Bittersweet to just bitter, alas!

…But then I think about how I can go to performances at The Globe and in the West End…and I’m mollified.

Dispatch From the Front

Academe, n.:  An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.  Academy, n.:  A modern school where football is taught.
~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Dear me, I think the semester has started.

The evidence: lines out the door, barely a third of my To Do list done (and it’s length growing exponentially), swarms of student pin-balling around campus in various states of befuddlement, calls from hysterical parents, and no lunch break.

Normally this would feel either overwhelming or at least a bit irritating, but it’s amazing what the prospect of London and working on Mysterious Projects can do for a girl.  Once she makes it through the midday “Where is my bloody chocolate bar?!  What New Year’s diet?!” episode anyway.

Don't judge me.
Don’t judge me.


London Day Four: Gowns and Graduation

“At commencement you wear your square-shaped mortarboards.  My hope is that from time to time you will let your minds be bold, and wear sombreros.”
~ Paul Freund

This was our day to be Very Serious, kittens, since it was sort of the point of the whole trip.  We spent almost the whole day in Covent Garden with only a few meanderings into Soho.

Getting dressed for the occasion.
The director offers a few words of last minute advice.

I’m unbelievably proud of that guy.  He worked incredibly hard, and it wasn’t a fun nine months, but it paid off.

I’ll Have the Usual

“This guy’s insane.”
“Well, he thought he was the subject of a secret government mind control project. As it turns out, he really was being given daily doses of LSD for 11 years.”
“Well, in that case he looks great.”
– R.E.D. (2010)

It’s going to be one of those weeks, minions.  Know how I can tell?  Because Lt. South came to me and started a conversation in this manner: “Remember this guy?  The one who we arrested naked in the sauna and who tried to set fire to the student center?”

Keep off the drugs, kids, they get you banned from respectable universities.

Fowl Fatale

The following is a true story as told to C. Small Dog by one of the detectives.  Some [tiny, practically unnoticeable] liberties taken.

It was a dark and stormy night* when this dame called up.  She’d seen something horrible and thought she was being followed so she couldn’t squeal.  I wasn’t in the mood to do the damsel in distress routine, I’d been drinking since noon and musing on the wretchedness of the human state for nearly as long, but she sounded desperate.

The Big Sleep (1946)
I thought about starting a doomed romance, but she was too perky and I like my dames to brood.

As it turned out, she did need me.  She’s witnessed a kidnapping and had every reason to suspect the worst.  One of ducks that lived at the campus pond had been snatched before her eyes, shoved squawking into a bag by gorilla armed goons and driven off in an unmarked car**.  I suspected that the fowl had run afoul of the bootleggers and crooks who run this town – whiskey is normally involved.  And if it isn’t, I involve it.  I carry a couple flasks just for cases like this.  You can’t see what I’ve seen and do this job sober.

A couple of contacts of mine down at the botanical studies buildings tipped me off about the car and I knew enough to trace it to a run down part of town infested with the scum of humanity and broken dreams***.  I’d been there more times than I cared to count, but I had a job to do.  I had to break a few ribs, but eventually I found the guys that had been hired for the job.  A couple of drinks, some moody dialog and veiled threats and they squealed.  They told me that this guy they called The Mallard**** came up with the plan to get back at this other guy, The Loon, by using the duck to stir up trouble.  They dumped the duck at The Loon’s joint, leaving it to wreck the place and its crap all over the floor (an apt metaphor for life) before returning it, a broken bird, to its pond to live out what remained of its days.

The Maltese Falcom (1941)
This Mallard was the kingpin of duck trafficking, with the law in his pocket, justice as his dinner guests, and sinister butler to boot. I had to be careful.

I found this Mallard and let him know how many federal laws he’d violated, ducks were protected in this town and he knew it.  Turns out he’d had his way with ducks like this before, but I wasn’t going to turning a blind eye to it.  His laugh ended when I plugged a bullet in his brain***** and walked out, leaving the assorted persons and waterfowl to contemplate my anti-hero behavior and debate the wisdom of cheering a guy like me on.

I left them there, stuck in moral ambiguity, and went to the bar and let some of the boys from the precinct know I’d been doing their job for them again.  They reacted with the usual disdain of the establishment when shown up by an outsider.
“Good job, Duck Tracy.”
“You quacked the case.”
“Any evidence of fowl play?”******

I didn’t care.  I’d done my job.  I knocked back the whiskey and headed back out streets where I belonged.

Fallen Angel 1945
Someone's got to clean up this town.

*About 3 in the afternoon
** Partial license plate
****The idiot whose idea this was
*****No one was harmed in the making of this noir
******Actual puns unleashed by our witty, witty staff

Masquerade! Paper Faces On Parade…

“I’m going as your mom.”
“And I’m going as your dad.”
“And I’m going…to therapy.”
– The Fairly Odd Parents

Costumes spotted on campus:

Captain Jack Sparrow (in swaggering, drunken form)
Mario riding a papier-mâché Yoshi
Ninja Turtle
An 18th century girl
Steampunk galore
The King (of Burger King fame)
Hermione Granger
Hobbit (in bare feet, the freezing idiot)
The Doctor (which is not the same thing as a normal doctor.  Is it, fellow geeks?)
The medieval club in full regalia
And a whole host of babies dressed up as everything under the sun (the cutest is Janssen’s darling little cheeky monkey, even if they weren’t technically on campus)

I was thwarted, I had two really good costume ideas and wasn’t able to find crucial components to either of them.  Next year, dumplings.  True to expectation, Hennessy and I ran to the university bookstore on a break, and the red and green are already on display.  Le sigh.

Leave It To Beaver

“They might in the future more than ever before engage in hunting beavers.”
– Samuel de Champlain

We have a bunch of feral cats that roam campus after dark and periodically leave their kittens in bushes for us to find, we had a young bull moose on campus that trampled two cars once before being tranquilized, we have tons of deer that come down from the mountains and graze the lawns and landscaping in the early hours of the morning (once when walking to a class I heard a snapping of branches to my left, looked up and not three feet of me was a young buck munching on acorns, as placid as a cow).  You get what I’m saying, right, lovelies?  We attract the wildlife at Undisclosed University, we are pals with Mother Nature,  we can deal with the fluffy and furry.

But every once in a while something weird happens.

Oh, hello! Could I hitch a lift?

For example, when a beaver crawled into a truck engine like a cat and road to campus from parts unknown.  When it arrived outside the student center and the truck came to a halt, the beaver shot out and began running around looking for a new place to hid – prompting our dispatchers to be flooded with calls of, “There’s, like, a huge rat over here!” and “Kill it kill it kill it kill it!” and “My daughter just called me and told me there was a rabies infested rodent terrorizing students, and I want to make a safety complaint.”

Our officers were on the case.  Armed with long poles with a lasso like loop on the end of them, they chased the beaver around campus until in Animal Control moved in to take over, by which point the beaver had retreated to another truck engine and was stubbornly refusing to budge.

We were simultaneously setting up a sting operation for stolen electronics and dealing with a domestic violence incident that required most of our on duty officers to diffuse.

And that, my pumpkins, is what we call “Friday.”