CAM 63 letters
Two wheels good
I enjoyed James Randerson's whimsical article on cycling in Cambridge; but it is a negative reaction that prompts me to write.
The caption for one of the photographs states "Jake Gresham,sixth-former. The best thing about making my own bike is that it's personal to me and completely unique." He is justly proud of his work and we know he is speaking thus to emphasise his achievement. Now it is, perhaps, excusable that a Cambridge sixth-former does not realise, or even care, that there are no degrees of uniqueness - but the editor (sorry) should know and should have corrected the fault, particularly in light of the intended readership.
This is just one example of many similar "minor" errors eg "We were sat there on the grass ------" and so on. Are these deviations from what I was taught due to ignorance or indifference or simply evidence of how our language is evolving? I don't know the answer but I know it irritates me and, more damagingly, distracts me from the point of whatever the speaker or writer is saying. Am I alone?
Donald MacBean - Christ's 1958
Two Wheels Good
After the opening ceremony of the Fitzwilliam's Adeane Gallery in 1975 I discovered the then Chancellor, Lord Adrian, waiting with the Queen Mother for her Daimler limousine to arrive at the Founder's Entrance. On her departure, Lord Adrian collected his bicycle from behind the portico columns, wheeled it down the steps, took off the Chancellor's heavy brocaded robe and cap, stuffed them into the front pannier and sedately pedalled off along Trumpington Street. During her term as Vice-Chancellor (1975-1977), Dame Rosemary Murray sequestrated a bicycle stand at the Trinity Lane entrance to the Old Schools and had it mounted with a plaque proclaiming Vice-Chancellor. Unlike other places, official transport in Cambridge University in those days generally had two wheels.
Vernon McElroy (Director of Estate Management 1975-1987)
Dear Mira Katbamna,
I read with interest the item "Two Wheels Good" in the Easter Cambridge Alumni Magazine and agree with the sentiments expressed by the author James Randerson. Another aspect of Cambridge bike life seems to occur in the exam season. Of course the weather is always hot
when you have to be revising and a sort of madness seems to overcome otherwise sensible cyclists who do extraordinary things with old bikes. Three such are attached, all taken in 1954.
Maybe you could forward these on to James Randerson- he might be interested. If you wish to use one or more of them please do so!
Incidentally, Catlings Auctioneers, of Cambridge, used to have regular sales of the abandoned bikes that had been rounded up by the police. I bought one and brought it up to Huddersfield.Â One evening it was rounded up by the police here, who thought it must have been stolen and ridden up from Cambridge, as it still had Catlings auction ticket tied to it!
John S Murray (St John's 1951-54, still cycling)(Photos are on file)
CAM does such a slendid job of showcasing Cambridge â research, life-style, dons and departments. So why does the charming cover-girl of issue 63 (April 2011) look so dejected? Is she embarrassed by the acute yet serious error of her tee-shirt?
Dick Joyce (Jesus, 1947)
I hope you publish this.Â I'm appalled at the irresponsibility of your magazine in publishing just two of the ten photos of cyclists wearing helmets. While you were at it, why didn't you depict the same number smoking?Â Â Some of your cyclists are clearly about to set out for the open road.Â Well, remember poor Diana not wearing her safety belt?Â The same principle applies here.Â Helmets have been compulsory in New Zealand for some 20 years as we believe in conserving our (finer) intellects, rather than risk smashing them to smithereens.
Mark Stocker (King's, 1975-9)
I love the CAM magazine. You do a wonderful job!
Anyway â small comment.
Reading the latest article about cycling in Cambridge, I recalled that when I was at St John’s (1955-1958), the college not only had a lovely lockable cycle shed to hold 200 bikes, but more importantly, a full-time bicycle mechanic. He would oil, fix, mend, adjust â whatever on one’s bike. And all for free, as he was paid by the College.
I have not heard of other colleges with such a service, were/are there such?
Roger Dunkley (St John’s 1955)
I should like to recount my own Cambridge cycling experience. I was riding along the street towards the Catholic Church when I knocked a man down on a pedestrian crossing. He immediately jumped up, dusted himself down, and exclaimed, ‘I’m alright sir, I’m alright!’
Maurice O’Connell (Clare 1954)
Given that CAM is generally a serious magazine (and a very interesting one, congratulations) I was surprised to see the latest edition ‘fronted’ by a very pretty girl on a bicycle.
O tempura. O mores.
What next? Two pretty girls? And how many bicycles?
I can’t wait.
Alex Lawrie (Corpus â sometime in the 60s)
Dear Mira Katbamna,
I was delighted to read the cycling article in the latest CAM, but surprised that in order to illustrate the piece you chose to put on the front cover a fashion model clearly posing for the camera. I was even more surprised to discover that the shot had been previously used to publicize "London Cycle Chic" in 2009.
I would hope that when promoting the University to its alumni and the wider world, we can celebrate not only Cambridge's students and staff but also its own (equally photogenic) streets.
Richard Wilson (Christ's 1981)
Only A-level can predict degree success
While realising how necessary good exam results are in the present competitive market, they are not always a full measure of success.
My neighbour in Pembroke, Roger Eddison, and I both scored Thirds. He became a very successful Civil Servant, largely setting up a public health service for Greece and I was a consulting surgeon in the NHS. So no one should despair.
Robert Petley, the third in our group did make a top First, but was killed as a bomber pilot ; what a waste.
Robert A D Crawford
your inclusion of an old-fashioned naughty beach postcard in the current CAM marks something of a transition from your usual staid journalism. The world moves along.
It may interest some of the more inquisitive among your readers to find on some arcane music site a song "The Gentle Professor", written somewhere in the 60s by my younger brother Alasdair Clayre, scholar of Winchester College and The House, Fellow of All Souls (where I think he probably first sang it at a Ladies Night), listed in The Times years ago as one of London's Top Ten Speakers and after-dinner entertainer at the invitation of Princess Margaret, now sadly deceased for no good reason. It begins, as I remember him singing it:
"There was a professor, in fine summer weather, went holidaying by the sea;
When he got to the station and sniffed the salt air, his spirits were high and free.
He was a fine sight in his clothes of white, as soft as the plumes of an owl,
With his thesis on Kant and his sun-bathing pants wrapped in a blue-striped towel"
It carries on in a vein somewhat the reverse of your postcard, but equally amusing. Forgive me if the lyrics are not totally accurate; it is a long time ago.Although I am a died-in-the-wool Light Blue (stroke of the winning 1957 Blue Boat, and with a Boxing Blue for a son), one has to admit that some good things do (or did) come out of Oxford, as Stephen Fry reminded us in New York a while ago at the 800th Centennial Dinner. He referred to those prescient Clerks of Oxenford who said "This is a piss-awful place. Let's go and start Cambridge." It brought the house down.
With all due respect,
Dr Iain Clayre (Queens' College Cambridge 1954-57, Edinburgh 1971-73)
Stephen Jolly (in Cam, issue 63) tells us that “we all share responsibility for Cambridge’s reputation”.Â So it is unfortunate that, as Director of Communications, he is unable to write in clear, precise, elegant English.Â Instead, his article is constructed entirely from bolted-together clichÃ©s and the ready-made phrases of contemporary management-speak: “grassroots flowering”, “flagship film series”, “paradigm shift”, “broken the mould”, “global hub”, and on, and on.
The reason clichÃ©s are objectionable is that they block original and individual thought.Â Intelligent and critical thinking cannot be conducted in pre-formed phraseology.Â As George Orwell recognized, such jargon not only limits what can be said, but also creates a closed class of those who speak it.Â Mr Jolly is probably unaware that much of what is writes is unintelligible to an average (Cambridge) educated reader.Â (What does “disintermediate” mean?)Â Other articles in CAM regularly convey, in remarkably clear terms, complex ideas from technical areas of study.Â But the University’s expert on Communications can produce only a woolly, self-congratulatory fog of words, in which concrete facts are difficult to discern.
Universities, even more than other institutions, should resist the rise of this verbal sludge, which corrupts and corrodes both language and thought.
When the Cambridge Alumni Magazine arrived through my letterbox, my first thought was that it would be someone wanting money in these cash-strapped times, but now I positively look forward to it coming. I read it almost cover-to-cover, finding many many interesting ideas even when the subject appears at first sight to be unpromising, such as eeearch in the Building Industry or bikes. I loved 'From Little Acorns' , about a , friendly and efficient 'cluster', clusters being in the scientific news at the moment, and I even read the letters.
So from a position of disdain, I have become an avid reader of anything and everything in this magazine. I can always rely on the quality and enthusiasm of the contributors to make the incomprehensible fascinating.
Rachel Lewington Homerton 1958
The most interesting article on the super-computer, Darwin,(CAM issue 63) brought back fond memories of EDSAC II that I used when I was a PhD student in engineering in 1963-65. I remember programming it in a primitive ‘language’ on Creed 5-hole paper tape machines, very prone to error. One’s program was checked for ‘typos’ by a young woman assistant from the Math’s Lab by holding it to the light and reading it before she took it to EDSAC. When passed it was taken and run on the precious machine and the results returned in a few hours. I once saw EDSAC but before I could I had to read the fire regulations and sign that I had read them. I remember a room full of paper tape all over the place â no wonder there were strict fire regulations. EDSAC occupied one floor and the cooling system occupied the floor above. Before I left Cambridge I was privileged to be able to see TITAN, EDSAC II’s successor. TITAN was viewed through a long glass window from a spectator’s corridor slightly higher than the machine room as I remember it. I regret very much that I did not keep the few pages of instructions on programming EDSAC which would make interesting reading today.
Jack Cribb (Caius 1965)
View from the top
After reading the Vice-chancellor's View from the top, issue 63 Easter 2011, I think that he totally misses the point about the nagging troubles of higher tuition fees whereby higher fees are a necessity to provide for a Cambridge education.
There was a time when the British education system, both secondary and tertiary, was the envy of the world, and only the best suited academically inclined individuals went to university unencumbered by tuition fees, in other words education was 'free'. Nowadays it is a ridiculous case of the 'inclusive politically correct mindset' that has been responsible for a highly inept prescriptive education where anyone can go to university being able to apply to a plethora of institutions and pass exams on gaining a very low percentage, 35%.
The rot is already setting in and the amazing thing is that as higher fees are being charged standards are dropping where dumbing down is now common place and professors instead of spending more time actually teaching are carrying out so called government dictated research. I was amazed to find at Cambridge during my time students being offered remedial help in writing essays as they found it difficult and at the same time not receiving a single lecture from a professor within my faculty.
Bring back the Grammar schools, be much more selective about who goes to university and do not charge any fees for an excellent tertiary education, while at the same time close down the mickey mouse institutions that have have proliferated in the last 30 years...