Monday, 31 October 2011

Cambridge: higher level beings and devouring to protect

One of the advantages of having visitors from abroad, in this case from France, is that we find ourselves spurred out of our indolence to do things we might not otherwise have done and which prove a refreshing change from just quietly vegetating at home. 

Yesterday, we travelled to Cambridge. Going there always makes me feel as though I was being bestowed some kind of honour. Like Oxford, Cambridge doesn’t so much pretend to be a cut above anywhere else in the kingdom as know that it is. I’m glad, however, to discover that it’s no more above a bit of marketing skulduggery than anywhere else: we went principally to visit an exhibition entitled ‘Vermeer’s Women’ at the Fitzwilliam Museum, which actually contained just four Vermeers (out of about 40 paintings). I suppose a title such as ‘wonderful paintings of women by Vermeer’s contemporaries and compatriots, with a smattering of canvasses by the master himself to act as a hook to get you in’ would probably not have been quite as seductive. As well as being less easy to say.

The Lacemaker: one of only four Vermeers,
but a great show anyway
In any case, it was a great exhibition which introduced me to some other painters I barely knew, and it was free, something I suppose we should take advantage of: one of these days our government will wake up with a shock to the fact that we still have free museums and slap charges on them. 

There was a wonderful notice in the cafĂ© of the museum, calling on us not to try to reserve tables while we were at the counter buying our drinks. This, it told us, was because of the ‘high level’ of visitors. Like I said, this was Cambridge and it was an honour for mere mortals just to be there: it had raised us to a higher level, which is so much more flattering than merely being counted among some high numbers. 
In Cambridge one moves among higher beings
If I had to take issue with anything in the sign, it was with its final thought: ‘I apologise for any inconvenience caused.’ OK, inconvenience to those of us who weren’t reserving tables, but surely much greater convenience for those who would find a table available as a result. The apology should have been coupled with a note of gratitude – ‘I apologise for the inconvenience caused but thank you for the convenience generated for others.’ 

In any case, we decided that we were a French group and celebrated Gallic tradition by ignoring the injunction. 

Later on, we crossed the road and had dinner in a fish restaurant. As we emerged I saw another sign, proclaiming the restaurant’s commitment to protecting ‘all forms of marine life.’ 

If that's protection, who needs predators?
What the heck? They’d just served us various bits of marine life. Cooked to perfection. And we’d eaten them. 

If that’s what they call protection, I certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of their aggression.

No comments: