CAM 57 Letters
A new design for CAM
Your Easter edition of CAM is far too good and the reading of it took up far too much of my time. There was not a single article in it that I did not want to read – and the task took an entire four and a half hour train journey from London to Edinburgh to complete. I even read the science-based articles – which is rare!
It must say something about the ‘Cambridge mind’ to which you have appealed so brilliantly, and it’s curiosity. Everything – print, presentation, feel – is excellent. Many congratulations.
John Tydeman (Trinity 1956)
Congratulations! I have always enjoyed CAM, but I am impressed by the new format. “History of a Friendship” is a splendid feature, and I look forward to more of the same. Likewise, the idea of “My room, your room” was appealing - made me wonder if anyone notable ever inhabited mine!
Keep up the good work – it’s a great journal.
John Walker (St Catharine's 1956)
I love the new format and look - the layout is nice and clear and it makes the magazine more attractive to read. Very good!
Nuna Staniaszek (Clare 1979)
I loved the new Cam, and read it from cover to cover. Interesting articles in a well-produced magazine. I would love to see an article on CUAS, my great love for the time I was up at Cambridge.
Bill Matthews (Corpus 1949)
This is just to say that I think the makeover is a big improvement. I particularly liked ‘History of a Friendship’. I felt the same as David Hepper (Ordinary folk, Letters CAM 56) to such an extent that, when I saw his letter, I rang him up to tell him (and I hadn’t heard of him before).
Michael Symons (Trinity 1966)
I'm writing to tell you I've enjoyed greatly reading the Cambridge Alumni Magazine Issue 57. I appreciate your endeavours in gathering such abundant and quality information as well as the delightful pictures in this publication. Please keep on your good work and I'm looking forward to receiving coming issues of CAM!
Helen Chang (Wolfson 1997)
Just one more letter, to the many I am sure you have already received, congratulating you and all concerned on the excellent new format, design and content of the CAM magazine.
Roger Harper (St John’s 1958)
I applaud the new format and content. Next to my quarterly Spaceflight, CAM really is my favourite comic. But “Alas”, as St. Exupery's fox observed, “nothing is perfect”. In your brainstorming for the new order, you overlooked the fact that a number of us crumbly alumni only read CAM in bed, one-handed!
Whereas the old cover was perfectly amenable to such a pursuit, the new upmarket and therefore stiffer manifestation is not, becoming the more demanding as one moves towards the centre and beyond. Perhaps you are attempting to suggest subtle parallels with driving into Cambridge or approaching Finals... but then perhaps not!
On the principle that problems are merely solutions in disguise, I found that one of my wife's powerful new spring-loaded laundry pegs served to tame the beast (which I humbly offer to fellow crumblies in crisis.
Bet you wish you could solve Cambridge's traffic problems as easily!
Geoffrey Brown (Fitzwilliam 1970)
I had thought that CAM was a quality publication – until I found the ultimate solecism in the Easter 2009 issue. Alumni dancers are welcome at Cambridge Dancers’ Club, ‘whether resident in Cambridge or just down for the weekend’. Could the editor possibly be from The Other Place? But apparently not.
I.S. Maxwell (St John’s 1936)
The editor hopes that “this new format will survive the rigours of your briefcase or bag, and that its layout is easier to read”. Easy to read, certainly, but the new width has to withstand rigours before it reaches the briefcase or bag, as it is now wider than my letterbox!
Bill Welland (Churchill 1970)
At last you have produced an edition of CAM which has a fair representation of women in its pages. So often the journal seems to feature lots of men – with the occasional token woman – because after all the university does have quite a lot of women as staff and students. But this time it seemed as though there was some sort of attempt at equality of representation and it made the journal much more interesting and readable.
Jan Pahl (New Hall 1956)
The unsolicited arrival of CAM on my doormat has in the past aroused only mild interest. But the Easter 2009 issue was a joy. Special gems were Reality Checkpoint, Mind Games and Children of the Strike; not to put down the remainder of the magazine into which these three articles led me.
So much is going on. My Cambridge was a quieter place, peopled mainly by returning warriors seeking to catch up on their studies and graduate in the minimum length of time. One diversion was spotting around the lecture rooms those who made eye contact with one another but whose lips were sealed. It was rumoured they had been doing special top-secret things at a mysterious place called Bletchley Park.
Fifty years later, my son’s father-in-law turned out to be not only a contemporary but also a code-breaker.
It’s a small Cambridge world!
Barbara Judy Herzmark (Newnham 1946)
Although the new version of Cam looks better, I detect a deterioration in the quality of the content. This now appears more superficial and generally less stimulating.
For example, the three interviews by Dina Medland were condensed into a single page whereas the reminiscences of the group of female alumni was splurged over double the area but said very little.
The potentially interesting section on old letters was little more than a flyer, which was more Mail on Sunday than Cam, and the article on neuroscience gave no references and spoke in the vaguest of terms. Wanted - more detail, more depth and less of the Sunday supplement type approach.
George Bird (Trinity, 1976)
Well, just a long and boring letter. First, CAM is brilliant. I am 74 and love to get it. It is so interesting that I read and re-read articles.
Anyway, here comes the boring bit – my original connection with CU was when I was 17. I was a good runner. I represented the Amateur Athletic Association. My two other compatriots were Alan Law and John Disley, both already British Internationals. Anyway, I came third, but my time was 4:12:8 for the mile, a World Junior Record. I held it for 6 months, until some chap called Herb Elliott lowered it by two seconds!
I subsequently spent 2 years in the RAF doing National Service, before finally arriving at St. John’s to read history. Training 150 miles a week and racing almost every Saturday, I still managed a 2:2! I was quite proud.
My years at John’s were the best in my life. Luckily I studied under Professor Sir Harry Hingley – a genius. Lucky old me!
Roger Dunkley (St John’s 1955)
Children of the strike (CAM 57)
In the piece on the 1984 miners’ strike Alexander Deane, former chief of staff to David Cameron, was quoted as saying:
“Sometimes, despite all the shades of grey that make up political life, there are clear rights and wrongs, and when that’s the case one has to fight for the right. That was the case with the miners and that is what Thatcher did. We owe her a great debt.”
By ‘the right’ does Mr Deane mean the right of the political spectrum or what is correct? If it is the latter then I amazed by his arrogance. I’ve just googled him and discovered that he thinks “(John) McCain was right on Iraq”. McCain has said of the Iraq war that it is “necessary and just”. What is necessary and just about an illegal war that has cost billions of pounds and the lives of over a million people?
Neil Laurenson (Homerton 2001)
It came as a surprise to me to read in Cam 57 that in the wake of the miners' strike of 1984, "a new village called Easington Village was built". I expect it would also have come as a surprise to Nicholas Breakspear, the twelfth century English pope, who lived for a time in Easington Village before his rise to fame. My involvement was as minister of Easington Village Methodist Chapel on the village green, built in 1870, and extended in 1996.
Rev David E Flavell (Christ's 1981)
Lucy Jolin’s article ‘Children of the Strike’ (CAM 57) uses the term ‘miners’ strike’, but it was the NCB under Thatcher’s direction which went on strike by withdrawing management and money from the coal industry. I heard Scargill tell the 1983 Durham Miners’ Gala that though the Coal Board had denied the existence of the pit-closure list he had attacked three years previously, all the Durham pits on it had been closed.
Contrary to the impression given in Jolin’s first paragraph, the police and not the miners charged first at Orgreave. And the reason why children have little knowledge of the convulsive clash is that governments have dumbed down the teaching of recent history such as would explain the development of contemporary society.
As for Deane’s claim that miners were against their sons’ following them down the pit, my South Wales relatives tell me that the consensus there was that the harshness of the work was outweighed by the warmth of the fellowship on the job, the destruction of which has recklessly subverted our national self-sufficiency, delivering us into dependency on Middle East oil. Other fuels were subsidised but not coal.
I agree with David Lunn the then Bishop of Sheffield’s 1994 verdict: ‘The wrong side lost…the heartless way in which the livelihood of the coalfield communities was suddenly cut off will leave permanent question marks about the judgement and commonsense of those responsible. And, I add, of today’s admirers of Thatcher’s contemptible victory!
Frank R. McManus (Caius 1945)
Your article on the National Coal strike made me reflect on the first week of my first job, having come down from Cambridge in 1960.
On the station on the way home I bought a copy of The Economist, which had a picture of the winding gear of a coal mine on the front cover.
The article inside pointed out that the domestic and the train market were both doomed and the Coal Board should put up the price to both, and the mines be run down.
Politicians failed to face up to the reality of the mining industry for a further twenty-four years.
Had the billions not been invested in the mines with massive subsidies to the private sector, there wouldn’t have been all the miners in 1984; those very people could have had their time invested in sun-rise, not sun-set industries; and Britain might have had more manufacturing.
But the politicians, ostrich-like, buried their heads in the sand and hence led to the ill-feeling, as explained in the article.
Geoffrey Granter (Jesus 1957)
My room, your room (CAM 57)
I enjoyed your piece about G2, New Court, Corpus – that was my room in 1961-2. Like Michael Bywater, I also changed courses in my final year – from engineering to English. The shift from Young's modulus and Bernoulli's equation to Pope and Henry James opened a new world, and one that I have been grateful for ever since.
In winter, the room was bitter; the bedroom, which looked onto Trumpington Street, used to freeze on the inside of the window...
But that last summer was special. I remember the freshness of the New Court sun; and madrigals, and bumps, and friendships that we promised to keep – and in several cases we have.
Richard Larcombe (Corpus 1959)
I was amused by Michael Bywater’s comments regarding the cartoon cut-outs (Andy Capp et al) which graced the Corpus May Ball in 1974, produced by Francis Maude. Sad person that I am (but I was May Ball president that year so have half an excuse), I still have one surviving example, residing on the staircase at home – it was the Snoopy that greeted guests as they arrived at the Porters’ Lodge. No, I am not ready to bequeath it back to the college yet, as it does still add a certain something to my home.
Brian Phillipson (Corpus 1971)
Reality Checkpoint (CAM 57)
Edward Hollis’ article on Reality Checkpoint on Parker's Piece reminds me of another graffitoed witticism, certainly current in my era, 1977-80, on that solitary lamp post. On the return journey from the serried terraces of the Kite towards the University, the glow of the lantern was just enough to illuminate the legend: ‘You are now entering Narnia’.
Stephen Cooper (Trinity 1977)
Ice cream (CAM 57)
Readers interested in the illuminating article “Ice Under the Volcano” may like to know more about how the consumption of ice cream influenced society in Britain too. I was surprised by the lateness of dates quoted for Naples, because as early as May 1752 a Shropshire family was preparing to produce its own ice cream.
Whilst Thomas Hill of Tern, M.P. for Shrewsbury, was in London, his steward Thomas Bell wrote on the 25th of that month (112/12/23.52 at Shropshire Archives) that the icehouse was ready and so his mistress could begin to acquire the cases for the iced creams. Neither Hill nor his wife had visited Naples, though Hill probably visited Venice in the 1720s, but they had acquaintances who would have been there. If they thought it enhanced their social standing, presumably other ambitious families were also launching into ice cream making throughout Britain, which perhaps reduced the novelty of what their offspring found in Naples. It was evidently a step up the ladder. Hill’s father was a grocer; his son became Lord Berwick of Attingham.
May I add how heartily I endorse John Tomblin’s letter? With the improved Letters Page I hope the hitherto rather superficial tone of CAM will be replaced by a more pertinent and constructive exchange of well-informed ideas (which does not exclude humour).
Dorothy Woolley nee McGrath (Girton 1954)
Bonnets, crinolines and a steaming Mr Darcy (Debate CAM 57)
I don’t believe there is any reason to be "sniffy" about TV (or movie) adaptations of the classics. Some novels are of such huge scope and complexity that they can be hard to “get into”.
We know from neuroscience and psychology that people apprehend and process information in widely divergent ways. For some it is therefore difficult to build the larger picture of a novel even as the characters are introduced and developed, and as the events of the plot unfold.
A good adaptation can help to provide this larger picture or context, and then people can be encouraged to explore the actual text which they will be able to appreciate and understand with greater ease and enjoyment. For this to happen, the adaptation must be as faithful to the original as possible. Casting becomes all-important. Location, costume, and music are equally important; they must ring true – unless it is the aim of the adapter to produce something new or tangential to the original.
I recall an old movie version of “Great Expectations” shown at school when I was about 12, which encouraged me to persevere with Dickens whom I came to love. I also recall a BBC TV adaptation of “The Three Musketeers” which led me to explore all of the D’Artagnan romances and much more of Dumas. While they were entertaining and enjoyable in themselves, these adaptations served as fine introductions to great literature.
Peter Orme (Sidney Sussex 1962)
Sport (CAM 57)
I was surprised to read the article, in CAM 57, about the Cambridge University Amateur Boxing Club.
For some time the policy of the British Medical Association has been that boxing should be banned, not least because of the substantial risk of cumulative brain damage. Its cogent arguments are set out on its website.
The article appears to be a thinly-veiled plea for support from the University. However, it seems to me that the University has a duty of care to those who are in statu pupillari and that it should therefore have regard to the strongly-held views of the BMA.
A university which has a reputation for training outstanding medics should not at the same time be in any way encouraging boxing.
John Clare (Clare 1963)
Take three (CAM 57)
It is very good that you have included responses from three experts about the British banking ‘system’. We should be very concerned about a disease which destroys the well-being of millions in this country and around the world.
Change is always resisted. And changes which will affect the power and lifestyle of the many who benefit from the current system will be resisted fiercely. There will have to be a determined and organised effort for reform.
Our university, in the forefront of so much research and development, should surely have enough influence and financial muscle to help bring about reform of the system which is so fundamental to all our lives. But where do we look for leadership? Who will free us from the adventures of these ‘masters of the universe’? Take Three is pointing the way.
Don Whitehouse (Christ’s 1942)
Ordinary folk (Letters, CAM 56 and CAM 57)
I was rather put off by the "anti-elitist" flavour of some of the things said in [CAM 57].
Cambridge is about striving. It would be a negation of this to fall into the temptation/current fashion to elevate the ordinary (and by implication to denigrate the unusual/successful). The fact that I am very ordinary does not mean that I think I am interesting. But I am interested in the out of the ordinary a lot more than in the ordinary.
Michael Forrest (Trinity 1951)
There must have been something in the air at Homerton in the 1950s!
When we five friends read the article “History of a Friendship” in the Easter Cam magazine, we all said, “That is exactly us too.”
Seven of us who were at Homerton from 1951 to 1953 became good friends. Jean had a mother who had been part of a “round robin” group letter in her post college days so we decided to do the same when we left. One of the seven gave up writing quite soon. Sadly Margaret died when only 48 - and there is a tree planted in her memory in the Homerton grounds.
The rest of us have kept up writing and sending photographs of family - now including grandchildren. Rachel, now widowed, has been able to round the country and stay with each of us from time to time, and we still all meet up for occasional days or weekends together – without husbands of course! We even go to Homerton reunions sometimes. When we get together the years roll away in lots of laughter and “Do you remember?”
We too have had sad times. Illness and death have touched most of us, but we know we can rely on the support that has lasted for fifty-eight years. The friendships we made when we were twenty are so precious that we recommend to everyone the effort to it takes to keep in touch by email, facebook or old-fashioned letters.
Kath Abrahams, nee Gray; Peggy Baker nee Hollingworth; Wendy Cotton nee Brazier; Jean Packer nee Ellis; Rachel Rowlands nee Edwards (Homerton 1951)
Climate change and John Tomblin (Letters, CAM 57)
I hope that you will not follow the request of John Tomblin [on the letters page of CAM 57] that you focus more on climate change. We read quite enough already from the ecofanatics.
Some of us believe that global warming is part of a natural cycle of climate change in which the effect of human activity is insignificant. It is not worth paying an economic price in order to try to achieve an, at most, marginal slowing down of the process.
It may be that as a result of climate change certain species of animals and plants may over time become extinct (and this might include the human race), but there is no point in trying to arrest the course of nature.
Michael Broke (Corpus Christi 1954)
The letter from John Tomblin mentions his disappointment ‘that there is little or no mention of climate change and peak oil’, and hopes he can provoke some constructive and lively debate about what he believes to be ‘the most urgent environmental challenges that we face today’.
Recently, twelve of the tallest wind turbines yet made have sprung up within a mile of where I live. On the last two mornings, and on many more occasions, the turbine propellers are all stationary, because high barometric pressure produces no wind. Similarly, when pressure is low and winds are high, the blades are ‘feathered’ and stopped, to avoid possible damage. In both these situations, alternative electricity on ‘standby’ has to be switched in to fill their output.
These turbines cost £40m to set up, and start with an especially high ‘carbon footprint’, due to the high quantity of cement in their bases. The result is waste and inefficiency on the grand scale.
Recently, tidal electric generators have been installed in some of our major outlets, and these are clearly much more efficient and reliable.
Wind turbines should be taken out of the political arena, and judged on their practical merits alone.
Ted Richardson (Queens’ 1949)
Your correspondent John Tomblin calls for more content on climate change, in addition to requesting to be told the carbon footprints of the College and University buildings.
I trust that, in the spirit of freedom of thought for which the University is justly renowned, you will also give space to the views of the ever-increasing number of people who do not believe that climate change is caused by man-made carbon emissions.
Henry Southworth (Queens' 1961)
John Tomblin asks for the carbon footprint of the Colleges. I would argue that in this Darwinian year the balance of debate over climate change is completely wrong.
Whilst trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is laudable and worth attempting, I believe that, despite their protestations at conferences, neither the major industrialised nations nor the developing countries have the long term political will to damage their economies, reduce their populations’ lifestyle or give up aspirations of prosperity to a degree that might, just, control temperature rise.
Instead we should concentrate much more money and effort on adaptation and survival and this means water management, population relocation and new agricultural methods. History suggests that appropriate measures are seldom taken until after a disaster strikes when it is left to the fittest to survive.
Cannot someone in the intellectual and scientific powerhouse that is Cambridge now challenge the misguided lobby of environmentalists?
Phillip Edmondson (Christ’s 1957)
John Tomblin (letters CAM 57) calls for a ‘lively debate’ on environmental matters. Does he know that when Erik the Red discovered and colonized Greenland in the tenth century, it was just that – a green land? That the first half of last winter was the coldest ‘for about 30 years’? That William Hill in February ‘cut the odds on 2009 being the coldest year on record’? That they had snow in Scotland this year in June? That South Australia, ‘ravaged by heat, drought and wildfires in early April, then had Melbourne’s ‘coldest temperature for more than 50 years’, while some places in South East Australia had their coldest April day on record? That three cautionary conclusions by climate scientists written for the intergovernmental panel on climate report were deliberately removed in favour of an alarmist statement and that a number of IPCC scientists resigned in protest?
Does he know that New Zealand (closer than most places to Antarctica where much ice melting had taken place) has had its coldest winter since the 1930s – that’s 70+ years? That there was a medieval warm period, say from 1200 to 1400, when temperatures were higher than today, but that the graph showing this has been altered by Mr Gore and others to fit the global warming theory and, most disgraceful of all, the well-known ‘hockey stick’ curve on which computer predictions and alarmist extrapolations are based has been achieved by omitting to include the figures from a large number of meteorological stations, many of them in Siberia where it is very, very cold?
Clearly, the average temperature will rise as a result. There is a word for this sort of thing: cheating. Plus ça change…35 years ago we were told that ‘global cooling’ – the big threat – was caused by burning fossil fuels – ‘the smoke deflects the sun’s rays’. Now they’re being blamed for the reverse.
All the temperature fluctuations we have seen lie within the bounds of known natural variability over millennia – man-made emissions play a negligible part – and computer models cannot correctly predict a ‘barbecue summer’, much less ‘climate change’ on a global scale.
Ray Foxell (Fitzwilliam 1957)
John Tomblin wants to see climate change and ‘peak oil’ debated in CAM. Maybe that’s surprising in view of the continual gloomy picture presented in the media. I have some good news.
As an old oilman, who in 1975 warned of a dangerous energy crisis in the early 21st century, I believe that much of the economic damage and the consequential lifestyle changes can still be avoided by making intelligent and rational use of energy a top priority.
Unfortunately priority is being given to the replacement of cheap fossil energy by extremely expensive renewables and nuclear, with scant attention paid to reduction in energy consumption. No mention is made of the inconvenient fact that almost all alternative supplies come at the price of electricity, which is four times as expensive and capital intensive than fossil fuels. This does not matter for electricity used in normal electrical appliances, which accounts for little more than 10% of total delivered energy. Almost 90% is for heat and engine fuel where it matters a lot.
Fortunately it is cheaper and less demanding of capital to reduce consumption than to generate energy. So the rational thing to do is to make energy consumption reduction first priority, in order to avoid very unwelcome lifestyle changes in a future of expensive energy. Because Britain is one of the least effective and efficient users of energy, we have the most to gain from such a priority. All energy-use systems need urgently to be redesigned and engineered by industries for minimum energy consumption. Without this, everybody’s lifestyle will be seriously damaged, with the poor suffering the most.
John Davis (Sidney Sussex 1941)
Dear me! Has it not yet dawned on the cognoscenti that global warming by CO2 is a myth? That a trace of this gas, at 300-400 parts per million in the air, has, and has had, only trifling effect? (Water vapour does the job.) The Sun is actually rather annoyed that all his work has been misinterpreted. So annoyed that for over a year he has swept his face clear of the usual attractive freckles.
E.S.Chapman (Trinity Hall 1937)