Cambridge by night

Image credit: Peter McGlasham

We are surrounded by rules continually throughout the day. Although we might ignore some – that library fine, that ‘keep off the grass’ sign, that red light you sped through on your bike – most of us remain law-abiding, rule obeying citizens. But, as Pitch Perfect 2 star Anna Kendrick once uttered in an enigmatic TV interview: ‘I love rules and I love following them... unless the rule is stupid.’ For a more highbrow citation here c.f. Chris Rea’s 2005 hit single ‘Only a fool plays by the rules’.

It is with this sentiment in mind that I find myself straddled across the fence of the University’s Botanical Garden at 11pm on a Monday night.  I took my tall and calm friend Mick* and my Dutch ‘I don’t give a fuck’ friend Tina*. We took with us some snacks and a warming tipple – taking advantage of a rather excellent samosa and whiskey deal on offer. 

Once in, we started exploring. Things looked a little eerie at first. The heating lamps in the greenhouses stay on through the night, transmitting an orange glow across parts of the garden. The trees and hedges took on a spooky quality. A particularly tall thicket became reminiscent of the Tri-Wizard maze that saw the end of Robert Pattinson. Undeterred, we ventured deeper into the garden and found magically moonlit benches and clearings where the grass twinkled with frost. Here we set up camp, breaking out the snacks and blankets and having a deep chat. Mick gave a postmodern critique of the Sidgwick site’s architecture. Tina described her sexual awakening in Magaluf. It was refreshing to break out of the monotony of the work-eat-sleep-prescribed fun-repeat routine of Cambridge life.

I am not advocating needless civil disobedience, but simply suggesting that sometimes transgression is good for us. Rules set limits; we can only push limits if we break rules. Nothing new happens if we follow the rules. Nothing new happens if you break into a botanic garden, but sometimes things are symbolic. I’ll leave you, then, with a more extended passage from Chris Rea’s 21st studio album: ‘Stick with me baby/ Try to look cool/ Cos only a fool plays by the rules.’

*Some names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved. 

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