Ok, I admit it, I am a sore loser. My family and I are leaving Cambridge and moving back to Yorkshire, only this time a little further Sought, to Sheffield. I am, and this is true, positively looking forward to it, as I desperately miss the hills ad the wild nature, but it is also true that had Cambridge not grown so cold to me we probably wouldn’t have moved. But I am bitter, and I will say why
What makes it cold. well. First of all, look up Cambridge UK, anywhere, and its only merits are linked to the “Prestigious University” (say that in as pompous a voice you can).
When we first came to Cambridge to visit, we immediately fell in love: everything was so incredibly pretty. Not only that: compared to Oxford, which I knew pretty well as I used to have a boyfriend who studied there (yes the source of most of my knowledge, ex byfriends: sue me.), the colleges here seemed open: you could see inside, often even walk inside them. In Oxford, on the other hand, as well portrayed by dear Thomas Hardy in his heartily depressing “Jude the Obscure”, the colleges make a point of clarifying to you that “See these walls? They ain’t for the likes of you!”. Cambridge had a sort of Salamanca feel to it(Salamanca, by the way, is gorgeous). Salamanca is also a university town, but you feel part of it, it absorbs you into its warm bosom, and you feel you can be part of it, learn in it, be in it. Salamanca is a stunning, serious and solemn yet warm and welcoming city and one I would love to study and live in. Anyhow. I loved Cambridge, perhaps because of that Salamanca feel, perhaps because it was Spring and Cambridge is indecently pretty in the Spring, perhaps because a good friend was the one we were visiting. But how wrong I was about Cambridge.
The truth about Cambridge is, it exists solely and exclusively for the University. As a Cambridge taxi-driver once pointed out: there are no clubs and not much of anything really going on in Cambridge: they want their students not to be distracted, they want them to study or engage in University approved sports and “recreation”. Oxford has a “rest of the city” to it. The town and gown, you say. It produced Thom Yorke, for example. The town, in Oxford, is thriving. The market’s awesome, the walk around cool, it’s a like a little London. If you want to live in Oxford and just not give a toss about the University and its pumped up students, you can. Stuff is happening. But Cambridge? everything belongs to one College or the other, and they make sure they point it out. You are walking these streets, you are here, through our goodwill. You are the peasants and the merchants and the rabble that we need in order to keep our students happy and productive That is what you are in Cambridge, if you’re not of the University.
And what if you are? If you are a successful University student, you are abroad, doing something exciting in an a exciting place, or in politics, being a
tosser a productive member of the ruling classes. If you are a now retired successful University student, you will have travelled and lived all over the world and now come back to teach, or just be self-important and cool within the arms of the University. If you are a University graduate and you work in Cambridge, you are a failure well not much. You have not exploited the University’s ability to take privileged or extremely clever students who prefer ambition over happiness and turn them into well oiled money and ambition fulfilling machines. Nor have you been able to exploit the University’s supposed better offering to the students: if what you want is a better education, you have to be extremely strong and resilient to get it here: you risk being emotionally and psychologically crushed by the constant competitiveness, even to just study, say, philosophy. But if you survive that, you get the hell out at the end of it, and go and live and work in more interesting places. There is a whole group of ex Cambridge students who is broken: being a Cambridge student is all they ever had that mde them fel special, and the University makes sure it drives out any