Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Déjà vu

Many years ago, when I first came to Cambridge for a conference, the organizer, Morag Styles, put me up for a night with some friends. I flew from California into Gatwick, endured a three-hour bus journey to Cambridge and was dead meat. My hostess met me at the bus station and drove me to the most charming country house I had seen, with a magnificent garden. I made a mental note of it being an all-time dream house. I was horrendously jet-lagged, but dragged myself to the dinner table with the hosts and and some friends of theirs. The conversation was extremely stimulating, so I was sorry I had to withdraw quite soon. In the morning, when I woke at five, as you di with jetlag,I took a walk by the river. In the little house at the bottom of the garden where I slept there was a remarkable collection of egg cups. I made a mental note to send the hostess an egg cup if I happened to find an unusual one. Then the hostess drove me to Homerton College where I stayed at the dorms for the rest of the conference. I exchanged a couple of Christmas cards with my hosts, and then we lost touch.

During my recent visits to Cambridge I had been trying to find out who these wonderful people were. Morag had no memory of them (I don't blame her, she was busy with the conference). My only clue was "by the river". She wondered whether it was a B&B, but I told her the people had treated me as a friend and colleague. She wondered whether they were old or young, and I couldn't remember.

Yesterday we went to a business meeting, called enigmatically Awayday (away from what?), at the house of a colleague, John Gray, one of those many who had interviewed me earlier this spring. I had heard that he lived in an nearby village, the famous Grantchester, with The Rupert Brooks pub I have mentioned.

The moment I entered the garden, I recognized it immegiately: the lush garden, the gravel path, the sun deck, the sliding glass doors, and the little house at the bottom of the garden.

During lunch, I told John that I had stayed with him many years ago. "No, you didn't", he said confidently. "You had a collection of egg cups", I ventured. He gave me a weird look. "You couldn't possibly know about the egg cups unless you have indeed stayed in this house", he admitted.

And yes, the river Granta, which is River Cam's proper name, was just around the corner

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