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I’m here as a summer student on a creative writing course. I’m lodging at St Catharine’s College. I believe places have a feeling, the ghosts of hope and learning. A thousand years ago, scholars founded this city and stayed here. There is a surreal continuity and a sharp feeling of the moment. It’s a slice of life I could get used to. I’ve cut up this slice into vignettes.
I wake to the pealing of bells. My window faces the university’s oldest college, 800-year-old Corpus Christi College. A sign on the door says my tiny room, with a minuscule bed (I’ve fallen off twice on waking up), belongs to M Healey (one of 19,000 Cambridge students in this town of 120,000). M will be glad to know I like his or her view from St Catharine’s College. I see mediaeval chimney tops; the autumnal colours of this city—sandy, chocolate; faded red brick through slanted rain; bright rising and dipping sunshine.
We are shown around by full-time students. They are studying physics, pure math, languages I hadn’t heard of, yet they willingly carry our bags to our tiny rooms. I walk out of the dining hall into a square quad in the softest of rain, rimmed with bright summer flowers, soft roses, a refreshing edge of chill.