Monday, October 6, 2003

Of sundries and essentials

So, I now own a bicycle.

Sure, it’s a girl’s bike, and certainly nothing terribly new or fashionable, but:

(a) if you buy a new bike in this town you may as well pin a note to it saying “please steal at your earliest convenience”; and

(b) there are lots of men about on women’s bikes, so the lack of a manly cross-bar (or whatever it’s called) is no real issue.

Further, it only cost me £50 plus a bike lock, and you can’t get anything with two wheels for less that £45 in this town (there are even rumours abroad of a shortage of second hand bikes, but I think that’s just alarmist).

I have not yet, however, had either the courage or a helmet to ride it in traffic. In the seven odd hours I’ve had it, I did no more than take it for a “test spin” to see that I could still mount a bike, stay seated, push pedals and move in a straight line. That accomplished, I wheeled it home and chained it up behind our kitchen.

The local second hand bicycle shop was interesting: one guy, sole trader, with a yard full of second hand bikes out back. In his shop he does up about four a day, sells them on and deals with customers wanting minor repairs and accessories as he goes.

I walked in in the morning, looked about, and came back after an hour or two to claim “my” bike, at that time the last left on his “showroom floor”. In the course of making a few small adjustments and dealing with other customers, he had to turn bicycle-seekers away, saying he would have more tomorrow.

“Bit embarrassing,” he said sheepishly as I wheeled my red girly-girl bike out, “bike shop with no bikes to sell for the rest of the day. Only have one pair of hands though.”

I should also be able to pick up a second-hand computer tomorrow for under £500. I’d prefer a laptop, but need something that will be able to run the iPod. Still shouldn’t be too hard.

A lager problem looms on the horizon. I’ve a formal dinner on Wednesday requiring black tie and academic gown. Being an old wrinkly, ie over 24, I need to wear an MA gown, which has longer sleeves. The “Middle Combination Room”, however, ran out of MA gowns for hire (a mere £20 for the year, plus £40 refundable deposit) just as I arrived. They’re “looking into it” and may be able to scrounge up more.

The problem is size: length from shoulder to mid-calve, almost heel. I apparently thus need a 52” gown. They had nothing left in anything close to my length.

I may have to buy one second-hand, for a slightly galling £50. Harrumph. That or pretend to be a young, dynamic 24 year old and content myself with shorter sleeves.

However, there is a “gown proctor” who may bar you from your graduation ceremony if you’re improperly attired.

Also, on a previous post, it turns out that the University Motor Proctor, from whom one must seek permission to “keep” a car, was until three or four years ago still formally called the Horse Proctor.

And on yesterday’s post, with picture of King’s College: King’s chapel is apparently built on “our” land. It seems Henry VIII expropriated a chunk of Trinity Hall’s land to build it. The Hall has also had a poor history of real estate dealings and late-night poker with other colleges over the centuries and thus, instead of winding up spectacularly endowed, and owning nearly as much land as the Queen, is left with a cosy little sandwich of land between Kings, Clare and Trinity.

Still, it adds to the friendly, less institutional feel of the place that everyone has to kind of jumble in together and meet each other.

Right, off to a pub crawl. News of that later.

PS I am now posting my entries on “Cambridge time”, Lyn’s should still be “locally” dated.

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