Cambridge’s traditions should be embraced, not attacked

Kimberly Richards 13 November 2013

There are few things I would change about Cambridge. There, I’ve committed my words to print, nailed my colours to the mast and am prepared to go down with this ship. Many who know my background may find this opinion strange. A state school-educated girl, not of standard age (polite term for a mature student), with a wide experience of the world that is the antithesis of Cambridge’s dear traditions.

Coming from a school where the standard was learning how to restrain primary school children and duck flying furniture – whilst simultaneously protecting computers from suffering the same fate – it leaves little to the imagination that Cambridge presents a completely different landscape. Indeed, it is at times almost as though I’m walking through a dreamscape that is peppered with reality in small snatches. And those snatches are most certainly not to be seen in the children that exit and enter The King’s School.

Do I miss the reality that I have outside of ‘The Bubble’? I honestly think that Cambridge, in all its tradition and pomp, needs to be taken on balance. There are extremes everywhere in life. The gowns, formals, graces said in Latin, pennying, sitting opposite leading experts (if you’re lucky) week after week picking apart your work are all part of what makes this enclave feel so unique. Are there moments where I hesitate when walking through Trinity’s gates and appreciate the sheer grandiosity of it all? Naturally. But I don’t wish Cambridge would be more relaxed in certain things. I wouldn’t give up the feeling of warmth and pre-nostalgia I feel in my breast when I see a begowned figure riding hell-for-leather along King’s Parade clearly late for formal. Or the sense of majesty mixed with fond amusement for the fellows dressed in red for Founder’s Day.

For all its eccentricities and foibles, this is one person who embraces Cambridge for everything it is, and everything it could never really be.