Friday, July 17, 2009

Punting on the Cam

Ken Poole, one of Keenan's professional colleagues, is a doctor/professor/researcher at Cambridge University and kindly offered to entertain us for a day there. We admired the incredible architecture of the many Cambridge colleges from the Cam River, in the classic "punting" experience. This involves standing on the back deck of the boat, pushing a long wooden pole into the muddy river bottom to propel and torquing the pole in the water at the rear of the boat to steer. Then hand over hand, the pole is lifted skyward and dropped again to repeat the process.

This photo is of Isaac Newton's bridge, designed to stay up just by force of gravity, without hard connections (evidently tested without success).

Here are my two geniuses in deep University inspired thought.

Lefty Joren was a natural, taking control for perhaps a total of half of our time on the river, gracefully ducking low under one of the bridges, releasing the punt when it stuck in mud rather than holding on while the boat surged ahead (a paddle got us back to the pole standing upright in the river), and even skillfully gliding us back to the dock as if he did this every day. Ah, the muscles of a strong fifteen year old!

Me? I just kept repeating to myself that if I can balance on one leg in yoga, surely I could stay on the back of that boat (wet and slippery, though!). The real issue was one of arm strength. I just couldn't lift that pole over and over repeatedly. Luckily, I had a 15 year old handy.

We nibbled fresh local strawberries with cream and sipped apple juice from local orchards while admiring the lush gardens and buildings. Perhaps Joren has new appreciation for his mowing and edging equipment after watching a gardener edging the lawn along the river with long-handled hand clippers!

Afterward, we joined Ken's lovely wife Tamsin and baby Grace for a tasty Scottish fish lunch and a tour of the Darwin exhibit at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Later on our own, we wandered through shops and bookstores (Cambridge University Press, anyone?) and ate a collection of small plates in the Vaults (well, my meat lover son had to add the ostrich burger to his compendium of critters consumed).

Cambridge was just so gorgeous and fun that I'm trying to persuade Keenan that he should instigate a corporate sabbatical program so that we can live over there for a year.