Category Archives: Cambridge

The Peterhouse May Ball…It Doesn’t Get Much Better!

The Peterhouse Ball is quite unique as it is on the only white tie ball in Cambridge.  I couldn’t wait to get all dressed up and I was even more excited to see Ben looking dapper as always in a tux!  The women strolled in wearing long evening gowns and the men wore tuxes, white gloves, and some even donned top hats and canes!  At one point in the early morning I asked a fairly drunken young man if I could borrow his hat for a photo.  He smiled and obligingly handed over his hat to me.  After a few photos I handed it back and said thank you, to which he bowed and tipped his hat!  So funny!

The ball was stunning.  We broke up the ball into several areas and it was amazing to walk through.  Guests entered through the gates to the Deer Park which is attached to the college.  This area had the main stage and a huge dance floor as most of our big acts went there.  This stage featured Cocknbull Kid, Urban Myth Club, and Jakwob just to name a few.  The highlight for me in this tent was the Abba tribute band that we had toward the end of the ball.  I am not a particularly big Abba fan, but I couldn’t help but sing along to classics like Dancing Queen!  The band was amazing and the place was packed.  Ben’s sister Rachel and her husband Alex were hired as photographers for the ball, and this was one point where we all met up and danced and sang along together.  It was so much fun! As the sun came up at the end we headed out to the rest of the park.

Outisde the main stage was the fair area where we had our largest attraction, a ferris wheel.  The Peterhouse Ball is known for having a ferris wheel and this year was no exception.  In this area there were lots of food tents, bars, and an outdoor stage that featured magicians, escapologists and my favorite, brass bands.  We also had wandering magicians and beautifully dressed stilt walkers.  We had three different brass bands play throughout the night and these got more people dancing in this area than anything else.

My favorite band was the Brass Funkeys who at one point jumped off the stage and played right in the middle of the crowd.  The danced and sang and even got on the ground and played while lying down.  The crowd went absolutely nuts!  As the sun was coming up and the other stages were coming to a close, the deer park filled up with people who were making their way to Old Court for the survivors photo.  The last brass band was finishing their set and the students went crazy.  They were dancing everywhere, getting on each other’s shoulders, giving piggyback rides, and running around with toilet paper rolls streaming behind them.  Some students were even wrapping each other up in toilet paper.  It was one of the funniest sites of the whole night.  You start off all posh and refined in the beginning of the ball and by the end you’ve got toilet paper mummies.  Granted, most students were beyond intoxicated, but it was funny to watch nonetheless.

Also in the deer park was a tent that featured a few comedians and the sounds of Motown, jazz, and barbershop quartets.  This tent was filled to the brim all night as it had a huge bar, plush sofas, and large wing back chairs.  Across the way from this tent was an acoustic stage that was set up in front of an elaborate dining area that looked like a classy teepee.  There was an area which we called the Gardens of Arabia, which had smaller tents, large rugs and cushy pillows that all centered around a few shisha pipes.  Probably one of my favorite areas was Gisborne Court which was described as “a tour through the dark, delicious mysteries of the Orient.”  This tent was centered around a tree that we had lit up and had chinese lanterns hanging from it  There were low tables all around and we had tons of throw pillows for lounging about.  There was sushi, sake, tea, portrait artists, and geishas.  It was a beautiful area that was very relaxing.

The next area was the college bar where we had a casino running all night. Students seemed to love this as they didn’t have to lose any of their own money as it was all just for fun!  We also had a powder room for the ladies.  This included a seamstress, massages, and makeup artists from Bare Minerals.   One of the smallest areas of the ball was in the dining hall which we turned into a funky silent disco.  Students put their headphones on and danced around which was hilarious to watch as a bystander who couldn’t hear anything.

The other main area of the ball was Old Court which was called the Mirrored Court.  It had huge full length mirrors that were gilded in gold and hung from the tent.    There were punts filled with champagne, shrimp, and other cocktails.  When I was dancing in this area, I felt as though I had been transported back in time.  It was so beautiful and just so sophisticated.  The stage in this area featured big bands and classical music.  There were waltzes and even lessons to go along with it.  The main event in this area was the image mapping show that took place on the front of the chapel.  At one point the chapel looked like it was ablaze.  It was incredible!

I don’t think I have ever been to an event like this.  There was entertainment at every point in the evening and with six stages, you were never bored.  You could dance the night away, laugh til you cried in the comedians tent, be amazed by escapologists, drink any kind of beverage you could dream of (or in my case…as many hot chocolates and cokes as I wanted!), gamble til the wee hours, or view the sun rise over the trees from the top of a ferris wheel.  Though Ben and I had to work throughout the ball, it didn’t keep us from enjoying the night and all it had to offer.  I loved dancing to so many different kinds of music, eating tasty sugar covered donuts, and hearing the sounds of the ball from the atop the ferris wheel.

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Reasons to Visit Cambridge #9 – Imperial War Museum at Duxford Airfield

Just six miles outside of Cambridge lies the Duxford Airfield, where many flights for the allied forces in the two World Wars were based.  Now, the field has been converted into an aviation museum, and really this might be the coolest museum I have ever visited.

My parents and I took a bus out to the museum, which has its pluses and minuses.  On the positive side, if you ride the bus, you get a discount to the museum that just about covers the cost of your bus ticket.  On the negative side, the bus ride takes forever.  We spent a good solid hour on the bus each way.  We kept turning at virtually every intersection, cruising slowly down almost every street in town, gradually acquiring more and more elderly people on our way.  Now, for my mom and me, that ended up being really funny, because my dad was freaking out the whole time about how bad he needed to use the restroom.  Still, if you value your time, you might want to take a taxi instead of the bus.

Anyway, the museum itself is incredible.  There are multiple hangers filled with airplanes, airplane parts, and WWI and WWII artifacts.  You can learn about the history of aviation, climb aboard a Concorde jet, and look out over the airfield that was so instrumental to the war effort.  They also have little tours/informational sessions hosted by enthusiastic guides, which I would definitely recommend.

My favorite part was the American hanger.  The place is filled with planes.  For that hanger, the tour guide asked us to pick one plane, and he would walk us over to it and talk about it.  We don’t know anything about planes really, so the choice was overwhelming.  After standing there with a catatonic stare for a while, the guide narrowed it down for us – Fast, Big, or Old?

We went with fast, and he showed us the SR-71, the fastest plane ever created.  Apparently this is the only SR-71 outside the US.  The guide told us all about the plane, why it was commissioned, how they made it so fast and stealthy, how they ignited the fuel, and how insanely expensive the whole enterprise must have been.

The Imperial War Museum at Duxford is well worth a visit, either for a day trip away from London or a half-day from Cambridge…just don’t take the bus!


Reasons to Visit Cambridge #8 – The University of Cambridge Botanical Gardens

When I hear the words ‘Botanical Gardens’, I don’t naturally get excited.  I think of a relatively small plot of land or greenhouse overrun with plants and flowers.  So I wasn’t initially very excited about visiting the botanical gardens when my parents came to town.

Once we got there, however, I was blown away by how big and nice the gardens are.  It’s like a massive, very well manicured park.  There are some beautiful flowers, some very tall trees, and really just the grounds themselves are pretty.  Now it seems silly to me that I waited two years to go to this amazing garden that’s less than five minutes from my doorstep.  The gardens were one of my mom’s favorite activities in Cambridge – she says they’re as nice as any gardens she has ever visited.

On a sunny day, the gardens would make the perfect setting for a picnic.  If you’re a Cambridge student, entrance is free.  Otherwise, it’s still less than £5 a person.  The botanical gardens are a great place to spend a couple hours outdoors.


Reasons to Visit Cambridge #7 – Cambridge American Cemetery

We recently had Ben’s parents in town for a couple weeks.  It was our first visit from family since moving to the UK, and we really loved being able to show the parents what our life is like in England.  On top of that, the visit allowed us to act like tourists again in Cambridge, discovering even more cool stuff in the city we inhabit.

On one afternoon, Ben and his parents went three miles outside of town to the American cemetery for WW2.  Quite simply, if you are an American visiting Cambridge for more than a day or two, you really should check out the cemetery.  Set on a beautiful hillside, the cemetery is home to the graves of the Americans who died in the battle of the Atlantic or on British soil during training missions or due to illness.  The cemetery also has a memorial wall for those from the war whose bodies have never been found.  Reminiscent of the Washington Mall, the cemetery is the only cemetery for Americans from WW2 in the UK.

If you plan on visiting the cemetery, be sure to start at the visitor’s center.  You can meet the superintendent, and the friendly people at the office are eager to give a very informative and helpful tour through the memorial.  Also be sure to spend some time in the chapel, which features a mosaic ceiling of over 900,000 tiles, as well as a wall-sized map of the flight paths of American air campaigns originating from the UK.  You’ll learn a ton about the war and gain a renewed appreciation for the sacrifices others have made  for the cause of freedom.


King James Bible – 400 Years of Thee’s and Thou’s

This past Wednesday at Cambridge we had a full day celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.  By ‘celebration’, Cambridge meant a series of 6 lectures addressing the historical context of the King James translation, the impact of the King James Bible upon literature and culture, its publication, and its theological legacy in translation.  Several tidbits of the conference were interesting, even if a series of six lectures in a rather cold and uncomfortable church did make for a long day.

The one thing that I took away from the conference more than anything else was the desire to read the preface to the original 1611 version of the King James Bible.  In the preface, the task of translation is considered from a theological standpoint.  With a series of metaphors, the translators explain the need for a translation of Scripture into the language of the people.  This series of metaphors was the foundation of archbishop Rowan Williams’ talk at the conference, and I really think it is an eloquent expression of the task of translation:

Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which means the flocks of Laban were watered [Gen 29:10]. Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which is deep) [John 4:11] without a bucket or something to draw with; or as that person mentioned by Isaiah, to whom when a sealed book was delivered, with this motion, “Read this, I pray thee,” he was fain to make this answer, “I cannot, for it is sealed” [Isa 29:11].

What a wonderful affirmation of the perspicuity of Scripture and the necessity of translation!  Here’s a link to the preface.  There are 10 pages to it.  Pages 3 and 4 are especially rich.  Bottom line:  Any preface to the Bible that uses the phrase ‘vulgar tongue‘ deserves to be read.  I highly recommend taking a look at this preface, as it really gives you a sense for what the translators of the KJB were and were not trying to accomplish.

Mark Noll, a scholar from Notre Dame, also gave an interesting talk on the KJB in America.  It’s fascinating how the language of the King James Bible continues to influence public discourse in America, even though the KJB has been displaced by more recent translations in many of our churches. 

I left the conference with a renewed appreciation for the gift of a Bible in my own language.  We English speakers are uniquely blessed with numerous quality translations of Scripture that we can understand.  The Bible has never been more accessible to anyone than it is to us in the English-speaking Western world.  That’s a sobering, convicting statement that I probably don’t think about often enough. 


Things I am Surprised I Love About Cambridge #2

As I mentioned earlier in the week, there are things that I have been surprised to find myself loving here in Cambridge.  Here is the second thing I have been surprised by here in this lovely city. 

Amazing places to run.  This may not seem like it would be a surprise, and it probably wouldn’t have been, had I not just started running seven days ago.  For years I have despised running for a whole host of reasons (my legs itch like crazy, I get bored, runner’s stitches, etc…), but I recently found myself jogging to and from my bus stop every day.  I get off the bus and I am just ready to be home, so I started running to get there faster.  I definitely look like an idiot dressed in my business clothes, half jogging, half skuddling along the busy streets of Cambridge, but who cares as long as I don’t waste my precious evenings? 

I really only ran home at night until I realized one morning I could sleep in an extra five minutes if I ran to the bus stop.  Wahoo!!!  So I started jogging every day each way (granted, each stretch is only about a 5 minutes long), and if I am honest, I liked it.  So I decided to start running.  It is going ok, but what makes it worthwhile is the scenery.

Last Friday, I took my first jog through some neighborhoods on my way to a friend’s house and it was wonderful.  Saturday I jogged through town and loved getting to absorb the energy that just emanates from the city centre.  Sunday was one of my favorite days, as I went running in the countryside with my good friend Alice (who is also my temporary running coach…thank you Alice!!).  We ran to Granchester, which is a little village outside Cambridge which has a famous tea house (which is another good reason to visit Cambridge) and the path there was just lovely, and so peaceful.  We passed grandparents, moms with strollers, joggers, and of course, cows. 

Wednesday Alice and I went out again and she helped me with my breathing and helped me work through my side cramps.  What helped distract me from the pain was the beauty that surrounded us.  She took me running along the backs of the colleges where you can see the river, several gardens, bridges, and pathways lined with flowers that are just beginning to bloom.  We then cut through one of the colleges, headed down King’s Parade (a main street here in Cambridge), jogged along Jesus Green (a huge park) and then wound our way through town back to my place.  It was a wonderful run.  As we went in the early evening most of the streets were empty and it was just really relaxing…minus the fact that I was running and trying to get enough air into my lungs. 

I decided that I wanted to take a couple of pictures of where Alice took me running, so todayI went out with Ben and walked the path she had shown me.  Hopefully the pictures will inspire some of my runner friends to get out here and join me for a run.  Who would have thought I would come to love running in Cambridge…the coldest, wetest place I have ever lived?

Pathway leading to King's CollegeCrossing the bridge to Kings

Crossing the river to Clare College...lots of students out enjoying the sun

Heading to town

King's Parade

St. John's College

Cute neighborhood along Jesus Green

My favorite path through Jesus Green

Jesus Green swarming with activity on this lovely March day!


Things I Am Surprised to Find that I Love About Cambridge #1

There are things I knew I would love about Cambridge before I even arrived in the country  I knew I would love the architecture as I love history and well, architecture.  I knew I would love the chocolate and the slower pace of life.  But as with any new place, there are things that pleasantly surprise you.  Cambridge is no different.  So I thought I would put together a short list over the next few days of the things that I have been surprised to find that I love about Cambridge. 

1. The Queen’s English.  Most people who know me, know I love to talk in accents…especially a British one.  That is until I came to England.  Occasionally it slips out as I hear it all day long and I am like a parrot who mimics everything I hear, but for the most part I have been able to keep it under control.  The funny thing is, I couldn’t wait to get to England and hear all the different accents and familiarize myself with them so I could replicate them when I went back to the States.  That has since changed.  I just want to hear good old Queen’s English. 

The more polished, enunciated the speaker, the better.  If not for my job, I am not sure I would have been grateful for how proper most people are in Cambridge but since answering phones and dealing face to face with people from all over England, I have come to realize there can be a real communication problem between me and well, anyone who doesn’t speak clear English.  This is evidenced by the fact that today I had an employee wave me over and ask me a question.  I leaned over his desk and he started talking and I started to panic again as I couldn’t understand AT ALL!  I smiled (as a that always seems to help…and buy time) and tried to register what he said.  Nope, nothing.  I asked him to repeat himself and he did.  Still didn’t get anything.  I picked up a few words and thought his basic question went something like this “for my position, do I need to attend induction (new hire orientation) all day?”  I smiled and answered that he did have to attend but that it would be a good day and should be pretty enjoyable.  I then quickly walked away.

 Apparently after I smiled and left, he went over to my colleague where he asked his question again which was, would there be lots of paperwork at induction because he was dyslexic and didn’t know if he could complete it all.  Wow.  Really?  That’s what he said?  Thankfully my British colleague said he could barely understand him.  Phew, I am not the only one.  Thank goodness for all those folks who speak that beautifully clear Queen’s English. 

Don’t get me wrong, I can understand most people here, but as an American, there are some dialects that are just easier to understand right away.  The Queen’s English which sounds very Jane Austen to me, is easy to follow.  Cambridge has people from all over the world, but a large segment of the population speaks with a clarity that I am most grateful for.  Slowly but surely my ear is becoming accustomed to these other accents, but it looks like it is going to take some more time.