Nov. 10th, 2015

lizwilliams: (big gothic)
Flying visit to Cambridge at the weekend, to go to one of Magdalene's NRM (non residential members) nights: I have dining rights at the college 3 times a year, and they recently realised that people weren't taking these up because they weren't sure if it was OK to just show up, etc. So now you get a tour of the library, drinks with the Fellows and dinner at High Table as a more formal event. Trevor has not been in the Pepys Library and enjoyed it: Pepys specified in his will that nothing could be detracted or added, so it's much as it was when it was in his house in London. And they had some diagrams of the Great Worme Engine, which he was, IIRC, involved with (it's an early fire engine pump).

Magdalene is not unlike a bit of Hogwarts, since it's full of passages and entrances behind paintings etc, and much of it, including the dining hall, has no electricity and is candlelit (speculation that this is so you can't see what you're eating is unfounded). Partners have to be separated throughout, rightly, so I talked to one of the Fellows, a very interesting woman, and my neighbour, who is the bursar of one of the Oxford schools. Looking down the ranks of undergrads, there is a noticeable change from the rugger buggers of yesterday, to young Asian women. To the surprise of absolutely no-one, allowing women (including me) into the college in 1988 has resulted in a meteoric rise up the academic charts.

We had terrine, salmon and then a choice: years ago, one of the scientific members deliberately poisoned himself with nerve gas (and his department - one of the Fellows remarked, rather wistfully, 'One can't do that these days' - however tempted, no doubt) in order to try to find a treatment for it. I think he may have been partially successful but ruined his digestion, and thus they had to serve bland food: rice pudding is still on the menu in his honour, so I had it.

Then we went upstairs, which was also candlit and had a log fire, for port.

In the morning, Ian Whates turned up with copies of the new short story collection and we did a big signing at Kari's house, before T and I headed into Mill Road to raid the Asian supermarkets for things we can't get in benighted Somerset, and lunch at the Kingston Arms. Great to see everyone, and a big thank you to Ian for producing the book and to Kari for writing the introduction.

We're now back and into the last stage of apple bagging for the local cider farm: I have not been nearly as experimental as some of the f-list in the matter of apples, but we're not doing too badly. We overcooked things socially this month, basically by thinking 'oh, it's November, nothing happens then' so have had racing, Samhain, the cinema, Bonfire Night, Cambridge, more racing, then the town carnival and Frost Fair, then a visit to London, and it turns out that the earliest I can arrange dinner with a friend is December 11th. But it's all good.

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