Summer Stories

Three Pembroke students detail their summer travels


Members of Pembroke Choir, plus friends from choirs including Leeds, Truro and Lincoln cathedrals, spent ten days on tour in Milan and Rome. The tour began with rehearsals and a concert in Pembroke Chapel with a varied programme, from Allegri's Miserere through Byrd, Rachmaninoff, and Elgar to The Bare Necessities.

While in Italy, we performed our concert programme, masses and evensongs in six beautiful cathedrals, with members of the choir spaced throughout the buildings. There were also some memorable impromptu concerts, including singing light music by the Tiber, on a rooftop terrace, and outside several gelaterias. We also performed Bruckner's Locus Iste (the unofficial tour anthem) in the incredible acoustic of a 4th century crypt in the Basilica San Clemente, a cathedral on three levels, which also had a stunning balcony from which the quartet for the Allegri sang.

We had plenty of time for sightseeing, and despite one of our number being on crutches, managed an average of 16 km walking a day, visiting parks, galleries and museums. We spent a fascinating afternoon with the British Ambassador to the Holy See, but, on the other end of the classiness spectrum, spent several evenings drinking wine in a park overlooking the Colosseum, as well as very nearly being arrested for swimming in a public fountain. In 30 degree heat, cooling off in the fountains of the Villa Borghese seemed like a good idea until the carabinieri began cruising around the fountain in their police car and ordering us to get out.

Other great trips included visits to the Vatican, Capitoline museum (accompanied by a knowledgeable classicist) and the ruins of Ostia.

- by Annie Mackley

Lundy Island

This summer I have been volunteering on Lundy Island in North Devon, mainly surveying seabirds. In my spare time, I’ve been trying to photograph and film the seabirds underwater.

Puffins are probably one of the most photographed birds in the world, yet almost all of the pictures are taken on land, despite them spending most of their lives at sea where they dive to catch small fish.

Swimming with puffins and guillemots at sunset (I did it at sunset because that's when the light is best) was literally the most incredible experience ever. The light alone was insane, as the low sun created golden rays in the water.

The birds were mind-bogglingly beautiful, using their short wings to “fly” far more gracefully underwater than through the air. Their feathers left trails of bubbles, lit up by the golden light. At times I was surrounded by guillemots (a relative of the puffin that nest on narrow cliff ledges) and a mess of their crisscrossed bubble trails.

Swimming with the birds was also awesome because you could see them silhouetted against the sunset as they bobbed up and down on the waves. Photographing this required a small raft made out of plastic bottles, so that the camera was right down at water level. I could then take photos of the sun going down over the horizon behind the puffins. Sometimes I also attached a cuddly toy puffin to my head as a disguise, although since the puffins were very curious anyway, I’m not sure it made much difference.

by Joshua Harris

Photograph by Joshua Harris

An Egyptian Welcome

Content notes: mention of abortion, intrusive touching

I arrived in Zamelek, a fashionable area of Cairo, near midnight. After a great deal of confusion I was escorted by the doorman, a sweet old man - who would later kiss me, (oddly less intrusive than the other doorman who lifted up my trousers to caress my calf) - to my Airbnb. My host, Maha, was in her mid-thirties and clearly distracted.

She welcomed me in and offered me the ritual Egyptian tea. After being shown to my room (hair in between the sheets but sleepable) I was invited to join her and her boyfriend.

Maha’s room reeked with cigarette smoke, and although the aircon and TV (showing sexy Arab music videos with women in clothing that if worn outside would result in a “very strong lesson”) vied for attention, the focus of the room was Maha’s iPhone.

It turned out they were waiting for test results to see if she was pregnant. The results were in English and I was asked to help interpret. I thought she was pregnant. I don’t think she wanted to believe me.

She went to the doctor’s the next day with her boyfriend and it turned out she was 6 weeks pregnant. How did she feel? She wanted to have the baby but was going to have it “taken care of” because, “in Egypt as an unmarried mother I have no rights.”

I saw a very simple solution, but some men just don’t want to settle down do they? She had an abortion two days later.

- Anonymous