Thursday, 25 December 2008

Travels with Muriel IV: Merry Christmas

I haven't been to church since at age 17 I was effectively excommunicated for being a loudmouth. I was 'asked' to leave Confirmation classes and consequently, as a nasty heathen, wasn't allowed to get married in church. While I'm not saying my marriage failed because it hadn't been sanctified in the eyes of God in His own house, but rather in the eyes of my mates in my parents' home, I don't think it helped.

Last night, here in Hitchin, UK, I went to the children's Christmas church service, where I was so overcome that I cried real tears; and I drizzed again this morning when I went to church for the 'real' (adults') Christmas service. Yup, that's TWO church attendances in two days, and I can't say I didn't enjoy them. For the simple reason that I did. (The genuinely stupendous St Mary's church, which is vast and beautiful and very very interesting, was one of the reasons why - go to

On less religious matters, I spent yesterday in the historic university town of Cambridge - it's the 800th anniversary of the varsity next year, so it's been around a pretty long time, more or less from when Robin Hood and his Merry Men were causing havoc in Sherwood Forest.

This is what I noticed about Cambridge, as opposed to Guildford, London and Hitchin (the only other three places I've visited so far): a LOT of people ride bicycles; a surprising number of people smoke (I haven't had a fag since last Saturday and that secretive Malboro at Ruth's place); the traffic isn't so bad (this is because, my friend Michele tells me, there is a 'traffic calming' project in place, where people park on the outskirts of town and catch a bus in - so, as elsewhere, there's really efficient, fast, frequent public transport); and the coffee shop staff are as gratifyingly abrupt and inept as much of what might be found in South Africa on a good day.

Really fab in Cambridge (aside from the bookshop, Waterstones, which I could quite easily have moved into and stayed for ever) was the Corpus Clock (or Chronophage, which means 'time eater'), a monumental modern mechanical sculpture based on historic timepiece principles. The grass-hopper that tops it is so wonderfully evil-looking with its needle-like gold teeth and its gold-plated eyelids (which it blinks creepily now and again); and I love the idea that it doesn't keep exact time (except once every five minutes) because the inventor wanted to illustrate the 'irregularity' of time. That lateral thinking thrills me. Go to for more.

Am about to sit down for a blow-out family Christmas lunch, so until next time, happy happy Christmas.

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