Some years ago, while I was out in my car exploring the roads that lead away from my hometown of Chelmsford in Essex, I happened upon the famous and historic University town of Cambridge. I had just recently past my driving test and hadn’t yet grasped the geography of my rapidly expanding world, it’s territories made more accessible by the very fact I now had 4 wheels on which to explore them.

My discovery of Cambridge was liberating. Despite not being far from home I felt like I had travelled a great distance. The narrow streets and the grandiose colleges engulfed me, and as inane as it might seem the discovery of Cambridge marked an important milestone in my life as I realized for the first time my own freedom.

Since then I’ve always held Cambridge in special regard. My frequent visits have led to the city often becoming the backdrop for a tale repeated, and a story retold. From the heady dashes there with my old friend Anne-marie O’Conner, to the quintessential relaxing ride along the river in a punt on a beautiful sunny day last year with Posh and Jerry.

I was once more in Cambridge this last weekend, meeting up with a blogging buddy from Texas who is over here on vacation. Heather and I know each other from the Xanga blogging community and I met her at last years Xangbang in Texas. She’s over here staying with her friend Mark who has just graduated from Cambridge University.

The weather was doing its best to dampen the high spirits of ‘May week’ (a University thing), but the rain held off as a group of us wandered into town to watch The Bumps, a rowing race where different colleges chase one another along the river and try to bump into one another. (See the movie at the bottom of this post.)

Standing beside the river cheering the boats as they passed felt wonderfully English. Mark did his best to explain exactly what was going on, but really it didn’t matter. With a drink in hand we bellowed at the tops of our voices as ‘our boat’ from Downing College went by. Just having the opportunity to be a part of such an event was fun enough, and standing with Mark’s friends from Downing College made me feel a part of it.

In the evening we all headed out for dinner then on to Downing College Boat Club for a few drinks. Those who were involved in the boat race were wearing the traditional blazers and some were clearly already well on their way to a Sunday morning hangover.

The second part of my weekend was spent in Essex celebrating my parents ruby wedding anniversary (40 years).

Loads of people were already there when I arrived. As I scanned around the faces of the guest gathered in the garden I recognized a few, but had no idea who a great many of them were.

Dad made a speech as he and Mom cut their cake together. As he spoke a formation of military planes flew past. Dad joked that no expense had been spared which raised a laugh. In truth the flypast was for a celebration in London of Britain’s victory in the Falklands war 25 years ago.

It was also Fathers day and so I had a gift for Dad, a good one too I thought. Dad is a keen gardener so I bought two small banana plants and a Datura Variegata then asked Dad to choose one of each. After he had made his choice I told him that the gift was also going to be a competition between us to see which one of us could grow the most impressive plants.

All in all what with the visit to Cambridge then the garden party at my folks house it felt like a very English weekend indeed.

[Video] Mark on why big cox are bad
[Video] Another good video of The Bumps
Cambridge University Combined Boat Clubs
Downing College Boat Club
Downing College, Cambridge University