In a couple of weeks we’re going down south to visit my folks who live in Lakenheath, which is in Suffolk but close to the Norfolk and Cambrigdeshire borders. The presence of Americans from the nearby airbase makes it a rather bizarre place; elements of your quaint English countryside village, except with a tattoo and piercing place (called “Grin and Wear It), a nail bar, a Chinese herbalist and a tanning cubicle in the corner of the post office. Plus you get those horrid massive 4x4 vehicles with tinted glass and wheels the size of… very big round things. Like the Canyonero out of The Simpsons.
And then there’s the Americans themselves who are pretty gigantic. I mean, not in a floppily doppily way, but in a tall and chunky, slightly intimidating way. But they all address my mother “Ma’am” and she’s in heaven – ever since she turned fifty she turned into that character from Little Britain (the radio show, not sure if she appeared on the television series) who declares “Ooh, he’s gorgeous!” about every male under the age of thirty-five.
Then there’s the gospel churches. There may be thriving gospel churches in the cities, but there is something decidedly unBritish about that sort of worship. Imagine the Germans doing it. Exactly, it’s a similar principle. So when we overhear impassioned re-wordings of pop songs expressing adoration for Jesus in the centre of an East Anglian village, it makes us giggle. When the British are singing passionately in unison, clapping our hands in time, it is probably that song about the four and twenty virgins who went to Inverness.
Anyway, looking for places we might go and visit while we’re down there, I was checking out Cambridge and I found this rather interesting take on the city’s history at Visit Cambridge. Now, you have to take into account the fact that about half our Prime Ministers went to Cambridge University, then people like Gandhi, Francis Bacon, Betrand Russell, Lord Byron, Wittgenstein, Milton, Shelley etc, etc. But Visit Cambridge doesn’t mention these people. Instead it says;
“Even if you have never visited Cambridge, it has still touched your life as the place that inspired Darwin, Newton, AA Milne, Wordsworth, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Eric Idle and Stephen Hawking. Today it is inspiring thousands of Cambridge students and leads the way in new and emerging technology.”
Hmm, seven names. Two of them perhaps the most important two men ever to have lived on the planet, one of them probably the most renowned scientist of the modern age, one great poet and then there’s the three Monty Python boys and a chap who wrote books about a soft toys....