The burst bubble beckons us back to Cambridge

Juliette Bretan 30 April 2017

The Cambridge Bubble is a shield which enshrouds the whole University; caging us in, suffocating us with supervision work, one networking event after another, and countless meetings, talks and deadlines. After its eight-or-so week life span, the bubble shatters, spraying shards of students across the country, across the globe; the bubble is no more.

Anyone who has ever escaped its walls, be it to visit home for a couple of days, to day trip, or even solely to make an impromptu visit to Addenbrooks, will feel as though they had taken a week’s holiday when they return; such is Cambridge’s perverse grasp of time. Indeed, the closest one would get to experiencing the wonders of the Tardis is by studying at our University; Cambridge warps time like nothing else. It’s as if the grasshopper, (or whatever mystical creature calls the Corpus Clock its home), sprints, shortening our minutes, our hours, our days; it’s as if someone had tipped an hourglass over, but with only a fraction of the standard sand quantity trickling down. Time races ahead, and we are caught in its slipstream. There’s always a match to attend to root for your college; an evensong to enjoy; a friend’s theatre performance to tickle your fancy- it’s easy to forget that you have a degree to work for. Before you know it, it’s 4am, your work is spewed across the floor and, armed with a pen in one hand and a packet of tissues in another, (tissues, not white surrender flags, you reassure yourself), you attempt to meet that 6pm deadline from the day before. Tears trickling down your face, you’re unaware if you’re sobbing from the fresh injury you acquired as you stumbled back home from Cindies, or from the shock at the sheer number of words you have left to reach the word count (1 998-ish, after you’ve just about written your name in your best ‘I-Am-Sober-No-Really-I-Am’ calligraphy). The lecture-library-supervision cycle starts again, and you feel like a hamster in a running wheel, or that grasshopper on the clock, constantly chasing those deadlines: when one is done, another one looms near.

It’s easy to take it all for granted when you’re under its spell: frolicking around in black and navy gowns; attending candlelit feasts in halls once home to great minds such as Newton, Keynes or Wordsworth; having drinks with the College Master, (taking a cheeky selfie with Mel from the Bake Off), or even attending a supervision and being taught by leaders in their field. But when the bubble pops, you realise just how magical its aura was, is, how privileged you were to be under its crystal roof. Suddenly, that 10 minute slog to Waitrose really was ‘a walk in the park(er’s piece)’.

So, as I sit here, in the absence of the view of time-bereft Cambridge students scurrying past, in the absence of my college husband, I think back fondly to the Cambridge bubble, and feel its magnetic force pulling me ever back. The next time you are refuelling on caffeine in the library, mid-essay crisis, maybe just pause, take a stroll, and admire Cambridge in all its Cambridge glory. Wander across Cambridge’s cobbled streets, appreciating the Hogwarts-esque architecture; listen to the familiar swoosh of the oars as you cycle along the Cam; take a jog across Clare Bridge, amusing yourself with the rather questionable ‘facts’ sprouting from the mouths of the punters, (who, as a friend recently informed me, heard one proclaim that the Wren library was built from the roof down, before Newton ‘invented’ gravity; the tourist nodding and gawping in awe). … Or, more realistically, continue with that essay- you’ve got an imminent deadline and you don’t need any more excuses to procrastinate!

The bubble is a magnetic shield, drawing you back in, pushing you to stay, and never leave, but when you finally break free from its wraths, and the bubble bursts for Easter break, the 12 000 students emerging, scurrying out, you do start to pine and yearn for it