CAM 60 Letters
One for Hall
I enjoyed Michael Bywater's article in the Easter 2010 issue. Thinking further about 'restaurant' and 'refectory', I remembered a passage in W. D. Elcock's _The_Romance_Languages_: 'The V[ulgar] Latin COMPANIO is formed from CUM and PANE, which corresponds exactly to the Gothic GA-HLAIBA (cf. Eng. "loaf").' A companion is someone with whom one shares bread, and a company is made up of bread-sharers - though in many boards of directors bread has been replaced by Rich Tea biscuits.
Incidentally, the briefer grace does not have the indicative "benedic_i_t"; it has the subjunctive. So the Latin in the article is correct, but the translation is wrong. The blessed one ("benedictus") doesn't automatically bless anything when someone says the magic words*; it is a prayer (subjunctive) that he _may_. I suspect that the mistake is not Michael's, but that of an over-zealous sub-editor inserting a mistranslation willy nilly.
* "hocus pocus"... Hmm... While we're on the subject of bread, the Vulgate's HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUS is an alleged source of the conjuring term (according to a charming and probably fanciful assertion about which the OED is characteristically sniffy: 'The notion that hocus pocus was a parody of the Latin words used in the Eucharist, rests merely on a conjecture thrown out by Tillotson').
Bob Knowles (Corpus Christi 1971)
After five wartime years of “gilded and decorative” Latin graces three times daily in dining hall at Summer Fields preparatory school the textual corruptions at Corpus and Magdalene reported by Michael Bywater in his delightful article in Cam 60 came as a surprise. “Benedic nobis Domine Deus atque eis donis tuis â¦. “ followed by “Agimus tibi gratias Omnipotens Deus pro his et universis donis tuisâ¦..” remain engraved on my memory for life. Tiny details make civilisations, yes. But not quite as useless as Bywater makes out. Rescue when asked to say grace on formal and family occasions. Even more in demand in today’s internet age with its endless requests for constantly changing passwords and “memorable information”.
Martin Knowles (Trinity 1953)
I liked Michael Bywater's piece in praise of Hall. His suggestion that the Latin graces may be a 'demonstration of exclusivity' is possibly confirmed by his falling into the common error of treating benedicat as indicative rather than a jussive subjunctive. Benedictus benedicat has to be translated as 'May the Blessed One bless.' I was on the point of generalizing and saying that prayers shouldn't tell God what He is doing when I remembered that the Sidney Sussex prayer does just that, including a whole string of indicative statement 'tu das eis... aperis tu manum tuam et imples omne animal...'. Bywater rightly pays tribute to the amazing 'recess of the memory devoted to useless but marvellous things.'
Timothy Stunt (Sidney 1960)
I read with fascination, Michael Bywater’s article on “One for hall” in the Easter issue.
Over a span of over 70 years, my strongest and abiding memory of the University is that of dining nightly in Queens’ old hall â surely the finest in the University. Now, sadly, that privilege is no more, due to expansion. What a tragedy.
A pity Michael quotes only half the Latin grace which I would complete (Phonetically only, I fear, having heard it read by the scholars each night for three years):
Benedic Dominee nos et (at Queens’) dona tua, quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi
Et concedi et ille salurbrious nutriti tibi debitum obsecrium Â praestari valleamus. Per Cristum Dominum Nostrum.
Hows that after over 70 years!!
May I add my admiration for Charlie Troman’s photograph of the High Table. How on earth did he manage to clone one Don into ten Dons and three waiters!!
It so well illustrates what we (and Belloc) thought of themâ¦â¦.
“Compact of ancient tales and port
And sleep â and learning of a sort”
I am, Sir, your obedient servant.
Paul Lester (Queens’ 1936)
I was fortunate enough to be at Cambridge when Hall -- gowns above at least jacket with shirt and tie -- was still compulsory: dashing in at the last minute, sitting wherever a gap could still be found, one met, conversed with, got to know men (only, then) of other years, reading for other subjects, living on other staircases, most of whom one would otherwise have failed to meet.
Hall made my life richer, its passing to be regretted.
Stephen PÃ¡lffy (Trinity Hall 1957)
Yesterday I returned from a foray in local charity shops bringing a few books for summer reading - not on the beach - but in my garden. The post had arrived including the latest edition of CAM. I thumbed through it wondering again if I would find any affinity with the usual reports on these bright, successful and earnest people - my fellow alumni. Ah. Here was an article on ' Books for Summer Reading; What will you be reading on the beach this summer'. I wondered if I could pick up some recommendations - Prof. Robert. Gordon was looking forward to Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People - in the revisionist mode; Diane Reay recommends Danny Dorling's 'Injustice; Why Social Inequalities persist'....etc. Could one really read these on a beach?
My latest haul included books by Lee Child, John Grisham and Minette Walters.
Just now and again could we have less of the 'super glossy' and more of the humdrum lives lived by the not so glittering alumni please?
Mary (Sumner) Conn (Girton 1947)
This sporting life
Robert Hudson gives the impression that the Boat Race became popular in 1954. As a free spectacle the Boat Race must have attracted public attention from a very early date.
In the thirties my friends and I,as children,would support one crew or the other,although we had no connection with either university.
One stimulus to interest boys, and indeed parents, was the cigarette card. I still have cards from 1934 celebrating T.Frame-Thomson,the Cambridge stroke of 1933,and R.W.G.Holdsworth,the Oxford stroke.
Furthermore,interest in rowing may have been stimulated by the pre-war 6 o'clock news bulletins which gave the results of inter-college races,although I would imagine that "Clare bumped Trinity" was of importance to about as many listeners as the "Fat stock prices" were to others.
Geoff Parker (Pembroke 1948)
A subterranean mystery
Congratulations at having discovered the remains of a lost Cripps Building at Jesus College (‘A Subterranean Mystery’ CAM 60). Judging by your pictures, it clearly has all the charm of its counterparts in other colleges, and I hope it will be Listed in due course.
Patrick Little (St John’s 1987)
Jesus’s air raid shelter (Cam 60) was very grand and solid compared with Trinity’s.
This was part of a cellar below the Great Hall, the other part of which was the college’s very notable wine cellar, divided only by a thin wooden fence. Whenever we had to take shelter here, we rather hoped a little bomb would destroy the fence.
Being Shelter Warden, along with frequent Home Guard exercises, Air Squadron training, YMCA canteen driving and fire-watching left me little time to prepare for my war-time degree.
Christopher Wade (Trinity 1939)
On arrival of CAM (Issue 60) upon the door mat, the writer was personally surprised by the cover, as it is the first time an underground structure has been illustrated or one of them to be the subject of an article within. The writer then realised that very few people in Cambridge are aware that the national society Subterranea Britannica has its roots in Cambridge. This society studies mining, methods of extraction, the man-made and man-used underground space left behind, its actual structures, or re-use for example the bunkers associated with World Wars one and two, those of the Cold war and related hidden fortifications declassified by the MOD as have most of the former 'seats of Government' away from the capital.
Geologically Cambridge is not an area that readily springs to mind, except for coprolite workings, chalk/limestone quarries:Â but like many other places it does have its former Air-raid shelters, and some colleges still have the odd ice-house (fore-runner of the refrigerator) on their premises.
Archaeologist Prof. Raymond Mauny (Sorbonne and Dakha University) asked the writer to try and start a society in BritainÂ similar to those already in existence in France (SocietÃ© FranÃ§aise d'Ã©tude des Souterrains) and Germany (Arbeitkreis fur Erdshallforschung). In September of 1974 an inaugural meeting was held in Emmanuel College, chaired by Dr. Raymond Smail (Sidney Sussex) who had volunteered to chair the meeting and who at that time was mentoring the writer.
The founder (the writer) was an aspiring archaeologist who started a week later as a Mature student at Lucy Cavendish College to read Arch/Anth towards a BA (Hons.) degree. It was not long before Prof. Glyn Daniel (St. John's) agreed to become the new society's president and three years later, saw the the late Dr. John Alexander (St. John's) as Chairman.
One Cambridge archaeologist had told the writer that such a society would never take off in Britain and she was wasting her time. However, Subterranea Britannica has gone from strength to strength, liaising with many similar like-minded societies world wide and the paid-up membership topped a thousand members this year.Â
Sylvia P. Beamon (Lucy Cavendish 1974)
I was concerned that the new layout in CAM 59 might reduce the pleasure I gained from reading it, but CAM 60 has restored my faith - the most enjoyable issue for a long time: the sheer nostalgia for punting, the entertaining book reviews and the article on Alison Richard's vice-chancellorship, were all good. As was the article on Hall - but is this no longer a part of the daily ritual? As I remember, dinner in Hall was the fixed part of the day, missable only on a limited number of nights. And it required gowns if no other formal dress. Has that really all been discarded?
John R Gosden (Peterhouse 1956)
An Idler’s Idyll
I read with interest the article "An Idler's Idyll" in the Easter 2010 copy of CAM. I may be able to assist your readers with their punting technique. I send this from sunny Alabama, USA, where I now live with my wife on the side of a mountain in "Deliverance" country.
I grew up in Oxford where we punted on the river Cherwell. So I was exposed to punting at a very early age. My father, who was skilled in all types of boats, taught me how to do it. Consequently, I was an expert by my early teens. The first thing to point out is that, in Cambridge, everybody punts from the wrong end! It's simple physics to know that punting from the hollow end of the boat and not while standing on the flat, boxed-in end lowers the centre of gravity of the punter and hence makes him a lot more stable. Also, with your feet in the hollow end you are standing in the bottom of the boat which has slats or duck boards to help the feet maintain their grip during the thrusting part of punting. Apparently, the undergraduates in Oxford are cleverer than Cambridge because they've worked this out and consequently all punt from the hollow end. I can't tell you how many Cambridge punters I have seen wobbling around on the boxed-in end only to fall in the river due to this simple piece of technical knowledge. Also, with practice one can steer the boat by using the last bit of the thrust on the pole to nudge the boat gently in the opposite direction that one wishes the bow of the punt to steer. This allows one to punt from the same side and obviates the need to use the pole as a rudder, which practice just demonstrates to onlookers that the punter is a beginner. Also, with this technique one can get in more poles per minute, which is essential in punt racing as used to occur on the river Cherwell in Oxford, usually in the close proximity of a public house such as The Victoria Arms in Marston.
I trust that these hints may be helpful.
Dr. David Goodwill (Christ's, 1966)
Tom Hodgkinson in his article, An Idler's Idyll, CAM Easter Term 2010, mentions two pranks he had heard of but not witnessed, one of which consists of snatching a punter's pole from his hands. I have seen this done. It is best done by bystanders on one of the bridges just as a punter clears the bridge and raises his pole for the first thrust under a clear sky again. A wary punter will keep his pole well out of reach of bridgestanders and, on approach, ensure that his boat has enough speed to coast well beyond the bridge before having to raise his pole again. This takes some muscle when crossing upstream under one of the wider bridges; Silver Street Bridge, near the Anchor pub, and Magdalene St. Bridge come to mind, and were, in my time at Cambridge, particularly preferred for pole snatching and pole snatch spectating. Attached is a foto of a wary punting clearing the bridge at the Anchor.
A pole can get stuck in the muddy bottom when punting to Grantchester, occasionally pulling an unwary punter off the back of his boat. A tip for those in that precarious fraction of a second when the determination to hang onto the punt pole may mean watching the punt glide out from under your feet: rather than trying to jerk the pole loose, twist it. If one sharp twist won't dislodge the stuck pole, let go and use your paddle to swing back and retrieve it. Or, if you were sensible enough to punt to Grantchester not alone, let the other punter get it for you.
Finally, you can clearly see punts on the Cam at Google Maps satellite view.
Flash qFiasco (St. Edmund's 1984)
An instructive article on punting.
In the main image, by Patrick Lichfield, the punter is standing in the wrong place in the middle of the punt, holding the pole awkwardly and apparently with a spare pole in case he loses his first one. He has one bored young lady in the punt with him.
In the second image, by Martin Parr, the punter is pretending to be a chimpanzee. But he stands in the correct spot on the rear deck and is at ease with his pole. He has at least six lively young ladies with him. Enough said. Class will out.
Jon Pasfield (Trinity 1959)
I was surprised to read, in the extract from a Cambridge sports magazine, that "the punter should take up his position about three- quarters of the way towards the stern of the craft."Â I was taught that the proper position, for a Cambridge man, is that shown in the photograph on page 23 ie on the raised platform at the rear.Â At Oxford, I think that the punter stood at the opposite end.
Clearly the man depicted on page 20 came from neither University nor had read the sports magazine's advice
Ian Bull (Queens' 1953)
The article about punting reminded me of many pleasant hours spent on the river during my Cambridge days in the 1960s, both on the Backs and in the almost magical dappled quiet of the upper river. I never heard of the Dampers Club even though I managed to fall in fully-clothed several times myself, and made the full trip to Grantchester on only one occasion. Venturing onto the upper river required hauling the punt past a weir on rollers.
However I was surprised by the advice apparently given in 1953 that correct position for a punter is "three-quarters of the way toward the stern" (as illustrated by the rather over-dressed young man in Patrick Lichfield's photograph). I always understood that Cambridge practice is to punt from the platform, like the rather more suitably dressed punter in the other picture(short sleeves are sensible as water always runs up your arms!). Those cowards at Oxford were despised for punting from the punt floor at the other, the wrong, end - falling in was much more likely from the correct, or Cambridge, end!
Stephen Butcher (Trinity 1964)
In leaping to defend the tragic hero Captain Scott, Julian Dowdeswell (CAM 60) has somewhat overstepped the mark. His claim that the extensive “Discovery Report” series represents contributions to science derived directly from Scott’s expeditions is incorrect. The Discovery Committee was formed by the Colonial Office in 1924 to investigate issues relating to whales and whaling in the Falkland Islands Dependencies (and later the entire Southern Ocean), and the only association with Scott is the fact that the Committee purchased his old ship the Discovery to use as an oceanographic research vessel.
Peter Best (Jesus 1959)
I was interested to read of Jack Linnett's (two ts please!) conception of The Cambridge Society. Linnett was my chemistry tutor when I went up to Oxford in 1947 and I co-authored my first paper with him in 1951 (Trans. Faraday. Soc. 47, 1033). Sadly his death in 1975 precluded further hoped for contact when I spent a sabbatical in Cambridge as an Overseas Fellow at St. John's in '76 - '77. However, I am still enjoying the fruits of his efforts re The Cambridge Society through the monthly lunches and other activities of the society held here in Ottawa. He was a distinguished chemist and an extremely nice man whose guidance had a major effect on me and, I'm sure, on all who worked with him. There are many reasons to remember him with affection.
Anthony PoÃ« (St. John's 1976)
I always expect that CAM will be written in English, but the standard appears to have slipped in Edward Stourton's article. He refers to the house in Connecticut as having been "rented out". Could some one point out to him that one does not rent in, out, or sideways? The two relevant verbs are "rent" and "let".
Adrian March (Sidney Sussex 1950)
I liked very much the latest CAM. Hit all the right buttons for me, keying into the timeless Cambridge myths and archetypes: Hall, punting on the CAM, living in Trinity Great Court, Byron statue in Wren library, three theatre friends. Article on the first 100 days left me a bit cold, as did the article on the boat race which I thought would be an article on the boat race but wasn't. Good piece on the V-C. All intelligent, well-written, clear English. A global network was an added plus (miffed you did not interview our Cambridge Society of Nova Scotia president!). Peter Agar's piece was surprisingly intelligent and imaginative. Piece on books for summer reading was good and not too trashy. Cambridge journalism is very different from London journalism, latter which is so abysmal and sensational! Nice to see another perspective on Scott, if a bit prickly. Your crosswords leave me cold: this being so abstruse and erudite (a British institution). The Cambridge essay is alive and well in CAM.
John Devlin (St Edmund’s 1979)
I just wanted to let you how interesting I found this issue. I have to confess to being a little behind on my reading and was considering giving up on the backlog but I am very glad I didn't as I really enjoyed your articles.
Thank you for making my commute fly by.
Jade Moore (Gonville & Caius 1992)