I moved back home again on Monday afternoon, which means a return to the messiest room in the world and a severe sparsity of friends. Will the relative lack of social life result in my working hard on the project and revision I have to do this holiday? Doubtful. I also have to do some job hunting, as I do not wish to repeat previous mistakes; those who have followed this blog from the beginning will know how unsuccessful my half-hearted job search was last year, and sorting things before the start of the summer will hopeful prevent this happening again. Before all that though, I’ll bring you up to speed on the life of Fyse…
I mentioned a project viva in the last post, and while the actual interview wasn’t as bad as I had feared, the mark I received was not good. One of these days I’m gonna have to get my act together and actually do projects properly. Then I might get decent marks for them. I have one piece of coursework left for this year (the one I mentioned last week), and I’ll have to ensure I really do well on that to drag my average up before the exams. My exam results were poor last year. This year I must work.
My last supervision of the term took place on Thursday in King’s College (next door to Catz). Afterwards, as we were about to leave, my supervisor said casually that he was taking a group up onto the chapel roof in 20 minutes if we fancied coming along. King’s College Chapel is arguably the most impressive building in Cambridge, and needless to say, we jumped at the chance. I even had time to pop back to my college and collect my camera. (Follow the links for impressive 360° panoramas and a photo taken by me a few weeks ago.)
Access to the roof of the chapel is via a doorway in the gift shop corner of the chapel, and the tightly winding staircase goes straight up into one of the spiky bits at the four corners of the roof. It was very long and very steep, but for a few short sections there was a (comically frayed) rope to hold on to, as well as plenty of people coming up behind me to provide a soft landing. Fortunately I don’t have too much of a problem with heights, no more than is just plain sensible, but there were a few people who struggled a bit. At irregular intervals there were small grilled windows, allowing you to monitor progress. Everyone made it to the top eventually, and a few of us even overshot a little, disappearing past the roof level and up into the tower.
Before going out onto the roof proper, we clambered the length of the chapel inside the roof void, actually walking on the top side of the vaulted ceiling. There were a few holes drilled the entire thickness of the rock, through which you could see directly to the stone flagging far below. Not only did this give a dizzying realisation of the potential drop (onto what must be one of the most unforgiving floors in the world), but also an idea of the thickness of the ceiling. Serious engineering, and built five hundred years ago!
Walking toward a glaring window at the far end of the roof void didn’t allow eyes to adjust, and I groped and stumbled the length of the chapel with my arms outstretched, feeling for the chin-height beams apparently designed specifically to catch out the unwary. There is very little give in a metre-square lump of oak, and stubbed fingers are certainly preferable to stoved-in skulls. Once we’d reached the far end, we made our way up the last stage inside another of the towers, and eventually stumbled into the sunlight once more. The chapel has a sloped roof, covered in every inch by thick sheets of lead. The weight must be ridiculous, and I’m glad I wasn’t the poor sod who carried it all up there when it was last renovated in the mid 19th century.
The view was quite absurdly good. The central colleges of Cambridge laid out below us, the Senate House, Great St Mary’s Church, the river, the University Library (a phallic structure if ever there was one) and beyond, the countryside. Legend has it that you can even see Ely Cathedral on a really clear day. There is an ornate wall skirting the roof, giving plenty of gaps to peer through as well as the reassuring knowledge that it would take a small tank to break through it. How immensely satisfying it was to peer down on the head of the swarming German tourists. Mere mortals never get onto the roof, as only fellows of King’s College and their guests have access. (A fellow is a member of the academic staff.) I don’t know how many students from other colleges ever get up there, but it can’t be many. What a fortunate chap I am.
Not that people are always limited by rules. The chapel roof has a sophisticated alarm system, and this is sorely needed when ambitiously unruly students are around. To some the chapel is like a red rag to a bull, and the chapel towers have spent time adorned by many assorted objects, including an artfully positioned toilet seat. The daddy of all pranks, however, was when a group of engineering students completely dismantled a Mini before carefully reassembling it on the roof. Legend does not record whether the car had a fully functioning engine, but full style points if it did. (The fellow that took us up was an undergraduate at the time, but insists he wasn’t involved.) The college authorities eventually had to lift it down by crane.
Well, having rambled on long enough already I’d better call it a day. There are many other things to talk about, including a nail-biting tied election, but that will have to wait. Till next time, faithful readers…