February 24, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

                                                         IT'S JUST LIKE YOUR COLLEGE, ONLY HUNDREDS OF YEARS OLDER : FINAL VERSION

This week I would like to take you all on a trip to Cambridge and East Anglia in England. This journey is courtesy of my scanner, which has again allowed me to explore my disorganized archives and rescue some images from oblivion. These images were taken on a trip in 1990, when a "young professional" couple was foolish enough to take their 2 1/2-year old overseas. The photographer is now a pensioner, and the toddler is now a college professor, but it feels like yesterday. The scanner allows me to take slides which I can now only view by putting them up to a light bulb, and return them to the present day. The most important part of this process is that these new digital images can now be improved and transformed far beyond their artifact origins, as if they were captured yesterday instead of 33 years ago.

                                                       CAMBRIDGE SKYLINE : FINAL VERSION

A word to the wise when dealing with people like Fran and me - never invite us on a ridiculous overseas adventure. Our friends Doug and Joanne were going off to Cambridge on a six-month sabbatical and casually mentioned that we could visit them, probably never actually  believing that we would follow through. A few months later we landed in Cambridge, and crammed into their apartment, which they had rented from Stephen Hawking. Cambridge is that kind of place. We had the experience of actually living in Cambridge for a brief time, which feels very different from just visiting. We decamped for ten days in the middle of our three-week stay to tool around East Anglia, the quiet and mostly rural part of England that contains Cambridge.

                                                          MEDIEVAL STONEWORK : FINAL VERSION

Many of you might be familiar with Oxford, England's other incredible university town where Inspector Lewis solved multiple murders for decades. Oxford is absolutely wonderful, but is instantly put to shame when you arrive in Cambridge. The difference is that Oxford is a real small city, while Cambridge is a village masquerading as a small town. The University is composed of a multitude of "colleges" that date back many hundreds of years. These images show some of the characteristic "porter's gates" that divide town from gown. Most of the collegescomprise small districts of their own, and customarily back onto the River Cam. "The Backs" is where students actually do cavort on small boats in the midst of academic paradise. Minus the problem of us actually going to college, you can see why the atmosphere was idyllic.

                                      POLYCHROMATIC MASONRY, OLD SCHOOL : FINAL VERSION

Stone detailing embellishes a brick facade, including actual stripes. And how about that weather vane!

                                                          LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY MASONRY HOMAGE : FINAL VERSION

The second image above is a small addition to one of the colleges designed by one of my architectural heroes of the time, James Stirling. Sometimes derided as a dreaded and feared "Post Modernist", I felt that Stirling's best work actually was just trying to loosen up things by making an attempt to fit in, especially needed in such a historic environment as Cambridge. I think you can see the masonry traditions that tried to make this small building part of a larger architectural tradition..

The surrounding area of East Anglia is beyond the attentions of most visitors to England. It is mostly rural, very agricultural, and contains no spectacular national parks. It's kind of like England's Kansas. The topography is so flat that the sky holds most of the landscape's charm. And most of the shoreline is on the North Sea, not very conducive to a seaside holiday in early Spring. We had a wonderful time, being young and stupid, dragging a kid around with no idea where we would spend the night, much less reservations. We even weathered a minor hurricane when we actually got to the coast, facing the only winds I have ever had to make an effort to stay upright. On the beach, the sight of a surf that really couldn't make it to shore, and the gulls which could only fly backwards, only confirmed our foolishness through our amazed laughter.

                                       NOT YOUR TRADITIONAL PARISH CHURCH : FINAL VERSION

Every parish church, no matter how grand, deserves a graveyard, which build up its own grandeur over time.

                                                        CHURCHYARD : FINAL VERSION

Benjamin of course doesn't remember a thing, but he also had a great time. He melted the heart of everyone he met, and "would the young man like some more chips?" ensured that none of us would ever go hungry in every pub we stopped at. East Anglia was once one of the richest parts of England due to the wool trade, and now trifling market towns are centered around churches that are really miniature cathedrals.



A lot of the housing stock is hundreds of years old, and no longer is based on the right angle. The particular characteristic half-timber construction of of large timbers supplemented by infill of stone or stucco lends itself to "settling" into a very casual relationship with gravity. We got used to the idea that we couldn't expect floors, walls, or ceilings (sometimes all three) to be "straight" - it was like being drunk without having had a drink.

                                                       IT'S OLD AND YELLOW AND A LITTLE OUT OF KILTER : FINAL VERSION

I hope you've enjoyed these images. I assure you that they have just a passing resemblance to the original slides, which suffered from the usual amateur's limited understanding of how to "nail" an exposure. Their new digital existence allows this old goat to correct the composition and exposure errors of his youth and finally revealing what caught my eye so long ago.