To Cambridge, where I heard a fine May Week concert at King’s College. (As Clive James pointed out in the title of a book of memoirs, May Week is in June.) It was great to hear that the tradition of excellent music-making continues, even though ‘performance’ is only a small part of the students’ degree course, and not part of their course at all if they are studying a subject other than music.
I spent a pleasant afternoon sitting by the river, watching punts go by. In my student days, most of the punters were students or tourists. Now most punts seem to be steered by professionals who give guided history tours as they glide along ‘The Backs’ of the colleges with their boatloads of foreign visitors. I was startled to hear some of the guides gaily dispensing misinformation. As they glided past, I heard them say that King’s was the only college where students do not have to take exams (untrue); that only students with top exam marks are allowed to live in the building nearest to the river (untrue); that the founder, Henry VI, was married to Anne Boleyn (untrue), that you can be expelled for walking on the lawn (untrue) and even that the famous Chapel was hewn out of a single piece of rock (untrue). The tourists took it all in, nodding solemnly. If they happened to catch my eye, I did my bit for counter-information by smiling and shaking my head meaningfully, but my companions told me to stop. ‘You can’t single-handedly stamp this out – it goes on day and night’, they said wearily.