Yesterday i was invited to a lunch for benefactors at my old Cambridge college, Magdalene. I have been an irregular visitor since I left in 1975 . The sad passing of my best friend there in January would inevitably tinge any such visit wth sadness but it was not a reunion as the benefactors were mainly older than me and I recognised none.
Nonetheless the emotion I felt was sadness as I strolled around the college courts and saw the entrances of the rooms I once occupied. The emergence of female students from their rooms reflected the one big change as it was the last male Canbridge college to admit women. Aside from this little had changed though at the lunch I learned of the building of a £20m library in the Fellows Garden.
The college had moved up the academic ladder too at one stage achieving second in the league table of Degree
Achievements. In my day it was in the relegation berths. It was also a poor college but they had now profited from the redevelopment of the Quayside on the other side of Magdalene Bridge.
Rowan Williams the former Archbishop of Canterbury is Master now. The great thing for me was it had lost little of its charm and friendliness. I explained to the alumna who has matriculated last year and joined the Development Office that because of its smaller size compared to the big beasts like Trinity friendships could be easily formed that in my case are still vibrantly active sone 47 years on. Although my visits are few and far between I still feel a huge affection for the place more than for any of my schools.
We were blessed with the hottest day of the year and the Japanese tourists with selfie sticks were out in force. The Backs were awash with punts. It was a beautiful sight.
Drinks were served in the Master’s Garden and lunch in the main hall which still has no electricity. I have eaten better but that was not the point. In the absence of the Master and the First Lady President a mediaevalist who reassuringly for the College’ s drinking traditions was a whisky expert. I did recognise one tutor from my day who with a quick calculation must be in his 90s and rather resembled Fyfe Robertson with his Moses style white beard.
After lunch a visit was arranged to Kettle’s Yard the former home of Jim Ede once curator of the Tate. In his retirement he sought a more domestic setting for his fine art collection mainly from the St Ives group , Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis and Christopher Wood. This has expanded to acconadate exhibitions and the inevitable Gift Shop but the integrity of the actual house has not been lost.
As proof of enduring friendships my friend with whom I shared tutorials for all my three years at Magdalene invited me to stay Saturday night in his nearby family home. My godson applied for Caius as he was advised that his uncle, father and godfather attending the College would if anything hinder his chances.