Of museums and memories

Kings College chapel and cow
Kings College chapel and cow

Last week I had a business appointment in London on Monday to take part in a radio broadcast ( a first for me ) so I decided to go south on the Sunday and visit my daughter in Cambridge and buy her a nice dinner.

My running has been somewhat curtailed due to the unsolved leg issue and I have been wary of upping my mileage. I am in denial of course about the impending half marathon, and increasingly realise that this is why I will never enjoy running that distance and I just could not imagine taking part in a marathon.


My whole view on racing is ambivalent. I am really not a competitive person,when I used to play hockey at school I always felt knotted up before the start and most likely chose (or was given) my position on the wing to minimise my involvement in the game. My memories of playing hockey mostly revolve around me freezing ( this was the Highlands of Scotland c.1977) on the edge of the pitch, aimlessly observing the midfield action and  hoping my teammates would forget I was there. Then the terror of seeing the ball come towards me and having to chase it and try not to do anything stupid. I have no recollection of scoring a goal which does not mean I did not score any, but I do remember thinking that I had to get rid of the ball as soon as I could to someone who knew what they were doing – and hope for the best.

Still the trips in the team bus were fun, especially when I made it to the first X1 and we shared the bus with the football team. But that is a completely different story ;).

wine or running tee shirt

So when I sign up for a race I do have some of my failed sporting life come right back at me – even though we are talking more than 30 years ago now. The races I have taken part in have been fairly big events where its OK to be a slow coach although even us back of the pack runners live in dread of being overtaken by a piece of fruit or some other comedy vegetable – who to make matters worse is running in costume for a great cause.

But it is good to have a running goal, and it is true that whenever I have finished a race I have felt a great sense of achievement and euphoria, followed by the usual if only I had trained properly I could have a. got a PB or b. felt better at mile 4, 9 whatever.

It is 28 days until the Inverness Half , so I am sure I can get myself into a marginally better position before then – hey it’s ages away !

Sunday 10th I was taking a day off running – although I packed my kit just in case. Strange to miss running on Sunday as in my days of  daily challenges,I would have made sure to fit in a run regardless of where I was, but I have been convincing myself that resting is also good.

dirty shoes

When I visit Cambridge I stay with an old school friend, who is a writer and academic and when we see each other, as with all good friends we manage to effortlessly pick up where we left off, and perhaps because she is more of an intellectual we often have  these wide-ranging conversations covering our views on many diverse topics and ‘isms’. This time we covered a variety of themes from Sylvia Plath, through Scottish Independence to our shared views on the good citizens of Norfolk.

These conversations take me back to my own student days, when I had the time and indulgence to discuss and debate the ‘meaning of life’, hopes and dreams etc. Maybe being in a university city lends itself to considering conversations of wider range than day to day life usually allows, or maybe it is the change of scene that frees up my thinking.

Travel indeed broadens the mind

Fitzwilliam museum entrance
Fitzwilliam museum entrance

I had a few hours to spare before I met up with my daughter, and as the weather was quite unpleasant – fierce Siberian winds and sleety rain- I thought I would visit the Fitzwilliam Museum . My trips to Cambridge are usually centred around delivery or collection of my daughter and her belongings and boxes, leaving little time to properly explore.

Armed with two pieces of useful advice – look up at the ceiling on entrance and the cafe is good- I walked through the icy winds to join others sheltering from the storm.


By the time I got there I only had an hour, so decided to visit the art galleries. I studied History of Art for a couple of years when at Glasgow University and I have always enjoyed museums with their furniture polish aroma and squeaky flooring. The first room was devoted to English 20th century artists including Stanley Spencer – quite different in style to some of the Scottish Colourists – and an artist I know very little about.

I am not qualified to give a review of the Fitzwilliam, and an hour’s visit was barely enough time to get a proper impression, but being in Cambridge it has some fantastic and memorable paintings, many of them on loan from Colleges or private collections and lots of ceramics.

Pillars at dusk
Pillars at dusk

By the time I got to the Italian Renaissance room I was quite punch drunk with it all, and could barely handle any more famous artists, gold triptychs of Virgins, Annunciations and the like.

It was quite a relief to get to a modern room and see some white space – face to face with a Picasso then another blast from the past a Georges Braque still life. It is sometimes easy to not fully take in significant paintings when you see them ‘live’ given how we are bombarded with high definition images all the time. This painting was one I have seen many time before , as it comes from the time of the development of cubism, and I had written an essay on this and other paintings and their place in history, many years ago. Not that I can remember much about the essay, save that I got a good mark for it.

It is not a particularly loveable painting, but has an important place in Art History and is another reminder of a past life.

Large pebbles
Large pebbles

I did not have time to visit the recommended cafe, but I did purchase the essential museum memento – a naffy rubber – and one for my good friend by way of a thank you for my bed for the night.

Art belongs Everywhere
Art belongs Everywhere

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