Cambridge’s Final Best

Hello and welcome to the final instalment of a series you’ve probably never read before. If you have read it, you may be thinking, “What another one? Surely this guy must have graduated by now.” And indeed, I have returned from beyond the graduation grave to pass onto you one final article.

(To clarify, I’m not just desperately clinging onto my youthful student days. I wrote this article last term but amidst the strange lockdown times it was never published – that is, until now! This year’s editors have kindly given me the chance to put the series to rest.)

For those who haven’t followed Cambridge’s Best religiously since its inception in 2017 – I know, I know, but let’s just imagine there are some – allow me to fill you in. I started the series back in my first term and this is the eleventh edition. Eleventh. You’d have thought I might have come up with a few more ideas over three and a bit years. Turns out I didn’t.

Normally I review things in or around Cambridge (hence the fairly straightforward name) but, due to lockdown, I wrote this article not in Cambridge but in the Scottish metropolis of Perth – yes, the Fair City of the North, indeed, the Celtic cultural capital. And while I could have told you about Scotland’s largest and most comprehensive collection of heathers, or the 500,000 objects in our local museum, that’s not what we’re here for. No, we’re here for an arbitrary and often nonsensical review of Cambridge things.

And as this is the final article of the series, I’ve decided to go out in style and review each of my own reviews. Yes, this is what I thought would make a good article. Yes, lockdown probably impaired my judgement. I originally thought about calling it ‘Cambridge’s Best Cambridge’s Best’, but that sounded like some weird chant. And obviously, we like to keep things normal around here.

(I am also now realising if you haven’t read all, or any of, these articles, then the titles are going to sound mad altogether. Ah well.)

So, for one last time, buckle in for even more self-indulgence than you’d expect.

11. First up, Cambridge’s Final Best. To place this article any higher in my list would be too strange and meta even for me. Plus, at this stage of writing I have no idea how it’ll turn out – so it’s difficult to maintain my signature objectivity. I do realise that reading an article which ranks itself at the bottom of a list of other articles may not make you particularly keen to continue reading that article. But let me reassure you, we’re talking about a high-calibre, top-tier list of articles here, so really I don’t think there are any losers. (But if there were, it would be this one).

10. Next, a second-year review: Cambridge’s Best Street Names. Yeah, this was a bit of a strange one. I chose this topic because I could do it remotely and I think you can feel that slight note of desperation in the writing – or, as my lecturers loved to describe it, in the texture of the prose. Do I know what that means? No, not really. Have I used it in essays anyway? Of course. Still, Peas Hill is a fun street name.

9. Cambridge’s Best Bookshelves is next. Another second-year review here and hardly a dedicated one I’m afraid. I mean, I only reviewed three bookshelves. And they’re ones I had to go to anyway. Come on, Andrew, you had like nothing on in second year. But, I do have to say, ‘paperbacks on tracks’ was a pretty inspired quip.

8. Cambridge’s Best Doors was the third review I wrote and, at the time, I thought it would be my last – ah, how naïve I was back then. Some nice puns but none of the doors were particularly exciting. I don’t necessarily know what an exciting door looks like, but I don’t think I found it.

7. Cambridge’s Best Mottos. There weren’t as many exciting mottos as I had thought there would be, instead lots of Latin I remember. I know, you wouldn’t have thought it from Cambridge. I still don’t know if Pembroke has an official motto and until that happens I can’t help but feel there’s something missing in my life.

6. Onto Cambridge’s Best Grotesques now. A third-year review which I felt was a nice return to my roots – my roots being wandering around nearby colleges and looking for strange features. Cal and I were, however, surprised by the dearth of gargoyles and grotesques in Cambridge. If I ever do find employment after this English degree, and then somehow earn a lot of money, and then think “you know who could do with some of this money? Yeah, one of those really wealthy Cambridge colleges”, then I think I’d ask them to spend a small chunk on a decent gargoyle. Also, I remember it was a Monday afternoon and there was some big march going on while we were pottering around, reading Gargoyle Girl’s account of some top gargoyles. Yeah, it’s those sorts of moments that make you question what you’re doing with your spare time.

5. A second-year review next: Cambridge’s Best Gowns. It was always a dream of mine to be able to identify the college based on the gown. I didn’t manage to fulfil that particular dream but, to be honest with you, it’s not one of my bigger regrets. A fun review overall and I still love the fact that Cambridge’s website compares the gown to “a wizard’s robe”.

4. Cambridge’s Best Crest. I have to admit, I mainly like this one because of the rhyme in the title.

3. Cambridge’s Best Clocks. A first-year review now and the second one I wrote. I enjoy this one – mainly because I do like a nice clockface. However, I was walking past the Corpus Clock last term and I heard someone referring to the beastie on top as a clockroach. Amazing. I’m ashamed I never thought of this pun over my three years here. I do stand by my criticism of Queens’ frankly mad clock situation though. You shouldn’t need a website to read a clock. Also, I had to physically sign into Queens’ twice for these reviews – it was not worth the bother.

2. Cambridge’s Best Spaces. Yes, my previous review earns the number two spot. Mainly because the spaces in question were just places I had a connection with and I could indulge in some nostalgia as I neared my end. Also, I’m hoping that if I just repeat “the goldfish bowl of Foundress” enough times it might catch on as a phrase.

1. And the best Cambridge’s Best? Well, it has to be Cambridge’s Best Bridges. Where it all began – and, some might argue, where it should all have ended. Cal also accompanied me for this one, Queens’ also didn’t fare well and there was unnecessary detail about things you don’t really care about – basically, the quintessential Cambridge’s Best. Fun fact: I originally wanted to call the series ‘Hitting the Street’, because you know Pembroke “Street”. The editors had other ideas. I don’t blame them.

And there we are. I know this has maybe been more a ranking than a review. You’d have thought I’d at least have my terminology down by now. But anyway, I hope you enjoyed it and if you’d like to actually read some of these articles, you can find an archive of past Pembroke Street editions somewhere online, or alternatively I can hold a public reading of all my work whenever I’m next in Cambridge.

But whether you’ve read all these weird articles or just this one, I thank you. I’ll miss writing them and I’ll miss Pembroke. I feel I may be getting unnecessarily emotional about a review series, but then I’m just a sentimental old graduate. I hope you enjoy the year ahead, even if it is a strange one, and I’m confident Pembroke Street will continue to flourish – even if it is down one strange article series.

So, dear Pembroke Street reader, thank you again and farewell for now.