6. Cambridge 1957-62
I was 20 by the time I went up to Queens' College, Cambridge in October 1957.
The college arranged 'digs' for me, a big front room in Eltisley Avenue with the head gardener of Queens' whose name was appropriately Mr Twigg. I had the use of bathroom and loo. The bath was heated by a huge gas geyser, and a shilling was added to my termly bill every time I used it. It was quite a frightening-looking geyser, and hot water in college was free. So after a single brush with the geyser I took all my baths in college.
The Twigg family were four, Mr, Mrs, Master and Miss. Master had some mental handicap, and Mrs confided in me that Miss took advantage of his problem to blame him for her own mistakes or mischief. They were Plymouth Brethren, Christians of the narrowest kind - but their personal life was much better than their creed. I had only two experiences of Mrs Twigg's constrained life-style, the first the afternoon I arrived. She saw me into this lovely bright room - they let out the best room in the house, I'm sure - and then brought me tea on a tray. I asked her to have a cup with me, but she politely refused, and afterwards I realised that Brethren of that sort do not eat or drink with non-Brethren - of that sort. The other clue was when I went home for Easter, and left my 21st birthday present radio in the room, and offered it to the Twiggs to use during the vac. Mrs Twigg gently told me that they didn't listen to the radio.
In those days colleges were open to all to wander around in. These days of mass tourism have made them into fortresses. But there used to be a curfew. I have a feeling that the big gate was closed at 10 pm and maybe the small gate at 11. After midnight you had to climb illegally in.
My day began with breakfast in Hall. You could be in and out in three or four minutes, if need be. I took all my meals in Hall, signing out for special occasons when I was invited out or was entertaining in my room. The grant in those days was perfectly adequate for all normal living expenses, and there were no tuition fees. It was while Rowena and Trevor were at Cambridge that the money grew tight. Rowena, with good housekeeping I'm sure, made her grant suffice; Trevor was one of the first unlucky generation who were forced to graduate with a substantial debt.
Anyway, I had no money worries, but I wasn't a pub or bar habitue, and that helped. Besides, I had my extra £40 a year from my Exhibition.
I was reading Classics for the first two years, and there was no Classics don in Queens' to be my Director of Studies, so we were put under the care of an eminent man from Cats, who saw us once and then took no notice of us at all. As a result I floundered badly, and spent the first term on a self-appointed task of reading the Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius. Anything less relevant to getting a degree I can't imagine. It's a late Greek epic that nobody reads, except for little excerpts to compare with Roman writers.
We did have supervisors, recent graduates doing research and turning an honest penny by taking classes in Greek and Latin prose and verse writing. None of these young men stands out in my mind. Competent rather than inspiring. So I suppose our week must have been punctuated by supervisions.
We went to lectures, too. To be fair, the Director of Studies must (surely) have recommended which ones we attended. He knew the set texts and subjects, though I never consulted a list of them. Anyway, I remember hearing Professor Page on Pindar - which I found difficult. I don't know why, because now, with the aid of a parallel text, Pindar makes very good sense. I don't think I ever got down to the text, but relied on what I picked up from the lectures. Another set text was a selection of Cicero letters. Here I know for a fact that I never read them, because I didn't have a copy of them. I bought volume two of the selection, the notes, but never the text. So I must have gone into the exam treating the letters as unseen translation - which I was good at, admittedly. What folly! No wonder the lectures, full of exciting facts about riots in Rome and Caesar's murder, were yet another confused blur to me. A week, or even a day, of quiet guidance on study at the beginning of my first term would have transformed my life.
Mr Camps lectured on Vergil. He was the best. His lectures were clear and on our level. He spoke to us, and not to the ceiling like some of the lecturers. He later wrote two small books, one on Vergil and the other on Homer, which I would recommend to anyone.
The lectures took place in a building quite near Queens', handy to get to after breakfast. I can't remember what kind of a base I had in the college. Perhaps there was none. The system of those days, that you started out in digs and then had the privilege of moving into college, is now reversed, and I think today's method is better. You get established in college and make friends, and then you rent a place of your own.
I joined three groups, the CICCU, the college chapel choir, and the Ichthyan Singers.
CICCU stood for Cambridge InterCollegiate Christian Union and was perhaps the most committed of the Christian organisations. Others were SCM, which Mark Santer joined, and the Pastorate, based on Holy Trinity Chuch, which Jill belonged to. Mark later founda friend and guide in Father Barnabas and the Franciscans, but I seldom strayed from my little routine:
Sunday morning at 8 I went to the church nearest Eltisley Avenue, St Luke's. Mr Camps was also a communicant there.
Later on Sunday morning I attended Holy Trinity. Other churches ere more exciting from time to time, and hadbigger stars as preachers, but for some reason I stuck to HT. I think it was comfortingly like St John's Blackheath in many ways.
In the evening I was back in HT for the CICCU sermon, a weely evangelistic sermon usually preached by the man (always a man in those days) who had given the Bible Reading the previous evening in the Cambridge Union debating chamber. I was a regular at those Bible Readings, too, and got a lot out of them.
The college choir in those days was good, but not exceptional. David and Dorothy (Evans) have recently been to Queens' and report great things of it now. Everything was lower key then. We sang evensong, after a rehearsal I don't know when. There were the big events like carol service, and once we had the sad duty of singing at the funeral of a very fine man who drowned in the Cam. He was a theology student, and I had had a brief argument on worship with him once, which Mark commented that he won!
There was also a college chorus, with imported women. I was invited to conduct the Nelson Mass of Haydn, but was not confident enough about orchestras to take it on. I regret that now. In fact I never quite got on the college musical ladder, because new talent was spotted in the first week or two of one's first term, at the Freshers' Concert. I had prepared to play the Ravel Sonatine, and had gone round to my old school piano partner Malcolm Drummond in King's to run it past him, but I was ill the evening of the concert, so no one heard it. Mark Santer conducted sometimes. I remember the concert when they included Britten's Hymn to St Cecelia which includes the words "Fair Aphrodite rose up quite naked" and during the reearsals the women had always giggled at that. They did it in the concert. Ow!
The third group I joined was the Ichthyan Singers. They had been started not long before by David Wills, a choral scholar at John's. He was a light English tenor, and was ordained and served as my father's curate in Northwood. He found that singing church music in John's choir as a Christian was very hard. The choir were on the whole not Christian at all, and David wanted to be able to sing the glorious music with people who knew what they were singing and meant it. So the Ichthyans were formed. We did sing highbrow music most of the time, and built up a repertoire which we took round to churches locally, making a service out of the pieces we knew, the whole thing put together by one of our members. It was only when the Ichthyan Singers came to Beccles and did a service in St Luke's Church Centre, that I realised what an impact a group of young Christians made. We took it for granted.
I began as a bass, graduated to the organ stool, and eventually conducted the choir for two or even three years. We used to fix up a tour at Easter, staying in a parish and singing Holy Week and Easter services. Mostly these went very well, but were exhausting. We visited Lingfield and Northampton and Maidstone and Northwood - oh and Blackheath, here we sang Haydn's Seven Last Words from the Cross during the Three Hours' Good Friday service - and I can't remember where else. The services mostly had an evangelistic edge. I don't know whether the highbrow music was the best vehicle for that, but for the time it was probably a unique experiment. As time went on we widened our repertoire, and Brian Hardisty, a scientist and good musician, wrote Spiritual arrangements including a glorious Deep River for men's voices and solo; Our best voice was Fred Partington, who could have been a professional singer. He and I gave at least one recital, including Erlkoenig, with its fiendishly demanding piano part. I composed some pieces for the choir too. There was a setting of Richard of Chichester's Prayer which was popular, and an elaboration of some CSSM choruses. My setting of 'Out there amongst the hills' was effective, simple; I also did one on 'I cannot tell how Christ my Lord should rise' in which I used counterpoint and made the whole thing seem much more grown-up. I wonder if the score is around still.
The Ichthyans were a source of good friends. Paddy Vaughan was a Hebrew scholar who tried to encourage me to build Aramaic onto my shaky elementary Hebrew - a lost cause. One or two of the girls thought I was attracted to them, but there was only one that I fell for, not knowing that she had a steady boyfriend at home. I took her out once, to a harpsichord recital in King's, and exchanged a few letters. It was at the end of my third year that someone kindly told me of the boyfriend and I smashed up my piano to get over it! It saw her briefly in Liverpool while we were living in Ormskirk. There was a Girton girl who invited me up to Girton 'to watch the cows trying to mate' or something. I ran scared from that invitation. But I remember jolly parties of a fairly child-like kind,pancake parties and Pooh parties, and I hosted a tiddlywinks party in my room above the main gate.
The Ichthyan Singers continued long after my time, with occasional grand reunions of old members. Dorothy and Robert both took their parts, and I was hoping that perhaps Rowena might join as a second generation, but about that time the choir folded and anyway Rowena's interests lay elsewhere.
A little later on I joined the Cambridge University Music Society (CUMS) chorus, and took part in some marvellous works, including Elgar's Dream of Gerontius, Beethoven's Choral Symphony (I couldn't sing in the concert, but enjoyed the rehearsals), a Gabrielli Magnificat and the Tallis 40-part motet Spem in alium, performed in King's College chapel, and, on the minus side, a Shoenberg setting of Psalm 130. My last concert, the day before I left to be ordained, was the St Matthew Passion, which I felt at the time was the highest point of all. That, too was in King's chapel.
Well, haphazardly as I have explained, Classics study went on, and at the end of the first year I got a 2:1. That was in prelims, so didn't count in the degree. Some time during my second year, when I had moved into college, sharing a room in the curved building beyond the Cam with John Howard, a Monktonian, one of my supervisors, one I didn't much care for, told me that if I worked hrd I might get a 2:1. This incensed me, and I worked hard and got a first. The other inspiration, curiously, was a light frothy film I saw about a German youth who spent a year in Cambridge and did everything from editing Varsity, the university newspaper, to getting the girl - and a first. For some reason that got me going.
As a result of the first I was made a Foundation Scholar of the college, which meant that when the Patroness, the Queen Mother, came to lunch in Hall I was privileged to be there. I also was awarded a travel grant to visit Italy or Greece.
I chose Italy, and spent weeks there by myself. I got the train to Milan and hitch-hiked from there on. In Milan I discovered Italian art, which I have loved ever since. I saw the Last Supper of Leonardo. The Brera gallery was the main one, I think. I hitched to Pisa, choosing the old road. All the traffic went by a new motorway, so I had several short lifts with elderly people and it took most of the day. I stayed in Youth Hostels. I had joined the Societa Dante Allighieri to get free entry into museums. The next day, after seeing, but not going up, the leaning tower and other attractions of Pisa, I hitched again, and this time got a fast car that took me all the way down to Naples. Wow, what a difference! The driver spoke English and it was a good run. When I was worried we would arrive at the Youth Hostel after closing time, he just said he would knock them up. Just what a nervous young man needed in the way of common sense.
I visited Pompeii, naturally, but since we were not brought up in those days on the Cambridge Latin Course I didn't know much about it, and missed many of the finer details. Still, I've been back several times and caught up.
I spent the last part of the trip going across northern Italy, Verona and places. Never saw the famous mosaics of Ravenna, alas. Having lived in Youth Hostels all the time, I treated myself to a small hotel room one night in Verona, say, and felt the vast relief of being able to close the door on my own space. It had been more of a strain and lonelier than I'd realised, though I did join up with other people from Youth Hostels for most days.
I grew my first beard in Italy.
Next summer with Mark Santer I went to Greece.
Etched on my memory, certain things about this trip. First, the return train fare to Athens was £18. We had a reserved compartment, and stayed in the one compartment the whole journey, night and day. The carriage was full - a trip organised by some enterprising Cambridge man - and for sleeping there were two on the luggage racks above - uncomfortable - two on each seat, bottom to bottom - could be awkward - and two on the floor - the most comfortable, surprisingly. We took turns to sleep in these different ways. We ate ryvita and processed cheese, which was what the organiser recommended. Bread and butter went stale and rancid. Until Yugoslavia, that is. There we were told that we could afford a train meal. And so we did. But we also had an adventure there.
The train had run on time through Belgium, Germany and Austria, but as soon as we got to Yogoslavia it slowed down and was more than an hour behind time by Belgrade. We had been looking forward to a nice long stop in Belgrade, to stretch our legs. Can't remember how long, but an hour or so. In fact the train arrived after it was due to leave. We got out anyway, and saw the train without any sound very slowly shift along the platform. Just adjusting, we thought. But it was away, and we were left behind.
A certain panic. Mark had a Dutch girlfriend at the time and had learned some Dutch. Outside the station we found a taxi driver who spoke German. He and Mark fixed up a price for the 70 km dash to beat the train to the next station. Actually Mark thought the price was a tenth of what it actually was, and I thought I heard different, but who was I to know? We stuffed the taxi with all who could fit - some were left stranded and had a hard time without passports which they had left in the train - and dashed off, chickens scattering before us. To pay the fare, one of the girls revealed a five pound note that her parents had caused her to sew into her underwear! The taxi driver made the remark, about the pounds, Gelt ist Gelt, und englishes Gelt is gut Geld. Just as well.
The next station was a halt in the middle of nowhere, part of that endless Yugslavian plain. I was not sure we had beaten the train, but no one else doubted. There were two or three old ladies in black waiting - well, in their black they looked old. Otherwise nothing. But the train did come, after quite a time. We piled back into the compartment, and were not welcomed. Thse who had stayed were looking forward to a more comfortable night.
The atmosphere in the train through Yugoslavia was oppressive. The guard and ticket inspectors were communist bullies. A little boy had come around ringing a tiny bell to let us know that our very long-awaited proper meal was ready in the dining car. Before we could go, the ticket inspectors arrived, and took their time. One of our number protested and tried to get to the dining car, but they took his passport, and kept it. When the inspection was finally over and we were free to go, the little boy appeared again with a grin and rang the bell. A nice touch.
Next morning we were over the border and in Greece. What a difference! On the first station platform there were smiling faces and people selling big bunches of grapes, which we gladly bought and enjoyed. That's when I first ate grapes in quantity, not as a rare luxury, and learned to eat pips, skins and all.
We had a fortnight in Greece. For the first week we joined up with two college acquaintances of Mark's who had driven a van all the way from England, and we had a grand tour in the van, sleeping rough or once or twice in a hotel. Our first night in Athens had been fixed up for us at the Rex Hotel. Mark and I had a roof room, very nice. We went for breakfast to a cafe opposite and had bread and butter and honey.
The next night we were with the other lads in the van, and I think we were in the village of Marathon. Anyway, we had bought pottery jugs to keep water in. Somehow the porous pottery keeps the water cool, an excellent arrangement. We found the only cafe, which served goat. Tough and stringy.
We visited all sorts of places with that van. I didn't know very well where we were on the map of Greece, but we included the remote temple of Apollo in the Peloponnese, the one with the first Corinthian column in it - I'll add the name later - and while there we got a local carpet merchant to allow us to sleep on his stock of carpets. Comfortable. I went to church the next morning in that village. I could hear the cantor from the other end of the village. I stayed just a bit. Orthodox services go on and on. My first one.
We visited Sparta, which I haven't seen since. Little to see. Also Mystra, an interesting place. We swam, and once I found myself in the middle of an effluent stream. Ugh!
One of our companions had done his national service in Cyprus during the trouble, and had learned pretty good modern Greek, so evenings in taverns were jolly, as he talked with local people. Once he had a chair-lifting competition with local youths, and I think upheld the honour of England. He did not let on where he learned his Greek, because although Cyprus was over, there was still resentment against the part Britain played against Makarios.
When the lads and the van left us, Mark and I went to Aegina with a Greek chap he had been recommended to, and had expensive seafood there. This was the chap who came to the Agora with us, and when he saw a notice saying that a statue had original paint, flicked some off with his fingernail.
Then we went down to Piraeus and got a boat to Crete. Old-fashioned boat, with Greek families making camp on deck. We stayed in a vast men's dormitory in Heraclion, and visited Knossos. Then by bus to the south of the island where we saw Hagia Trida, then open to all, and Phaistos Palace, also open. We stayed the night sleeping rough in the palace, my only overnight stay in a palace.
Can't remember the return journey to England, but all went well.
Another benefit of being a scholar was early choice of rooms for third year. I had told John Haward that I was willing to share again with him, but he didn't want Old Court, so when the chance of the gate tower, which had been Dad's room in his third year, was offered, and Donald Rimmington was in the waiting room, we agreed hurriedly to take it. I felt a great thrill to be there carrying on the tradition.
It's a little apartment, really. You climb the spiral stairs past what was the Muniments Room and branch off to a small door, all a bit claustrophobic, and come out into a room 20 feet by 12 feet. Dad had it to himself, and the table he used was still there. In the corner of this great room is a turret with steps, intriguing but useless. Half way along the far wall is another small door leading down steps to the bedroom and a passage to the right leading to a little kitchen, with gas ring and sink. There must have been a loo as well, I think, to the left. So, all in all a fine set of rooms.
I had them to myself for the Long Vac Term. This was an institution for people who, like me, were changing subjects. I began Hebrew. Henry Hart, the Dean, taught us, in his deliberately old-fashioned way. He acted older than he was. I found it very difficult to begin a completely different language after reaching such facility in Latin and Greek. Perhaps I should have taken the option of studying the Reformation. I haven't been good enough at the Hebrew for it to have made a real difference to my ministry.
Henry Hart ran a reading group. I wasn't part of it normally, but in the Long Vac Term I was invited to join. There were fewer people around, so everything was on a looser rein. I chose to read an essay by Chesterton one week, only to find that someone else had chosen to read, just before it, a brilliant parody by Max Beerbohm of - a Chesteron essay. I went ahead and read anyway, and Henry Hart said kindly that Max had parodied a bad example, whereas mine was a good example.
We rented a punt from the college for the Long Vac Term and enjoyed that. CICCU put on different kinds of activities. I felt quite privileged to be part of Cambridge in that quieter time.
In fact my third year was not my last. I had arranged to go to Ridley Hall for theological training, and that meant that I could spread the second, Theological part of my degree over two years, completing it and graduating from Ridley. So I took Part 2 rather than Part 1a. Looking back I think I might have done better to leave Cambridge and go somewhere else, but I was wrapped up in the Ichthyan Singers and wanted to stay.
Ridley life was completely different from the ordinary university. It was a community - community is a martyrdom of pin-pricks, someone said, though I didn't find it so - and morning noon and evening we went to chapel. There were hunger lunches which we were all encouraged to take part in. All meals were taken in the dining hall, and the evening meal at any rate was a proper one with grace to start with.
I had the same room for both years at Ridley. It was a double room, with the bedroom at the back. By the second year I was made college choirmaster and I think that helped me keep my space. Not as glamorous as mediaeval Queens', but fine.
At the end of my third year I managed a 2:2 but pulled up to a 2:1 for the finals. During the last year of Tripos exams there were quite a lot of Ridley activities to take up time, like helping to take services in local churches. We moved the Ichthyan Sunday afternoon practices to Ridley chapel from Queens', where they had been, but we had the use of Queens' for the end of year thanksgiving service, when we sang Stanford in C, a glorious work.
By this time Dorothy was up at Girton, and we saw something of each other, but not as much as we might have.
In our first year at Ridley we had sermon preparation classes. We read our sermons to a group and had comments, and then we delivered the sermon at a local church. In the second year we delivered the sermon first, and on Monday morning there was an inquest with a similar group. I remember one man reading a sermon with poetic bits about clouds. It was so unusual and gripping that the group just said 'Go ahead.'
The principal was Cyril Bowles, later Bishop of Derby, Robert's bishop. He was a judicious man, guided by Archbishop Temple and Thomas Aquinas. One of his wise words was "Most people are right in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny." It needs thinking about, but it's got a lot to it.
The other staff were a vice-principal, a chaplain and a tutor. Later, when I was in Beccles, I was invited to consider going to Ridley on the staff, but the accommodation they offered, the flat above the principal's house, was not suitable for our growing family. I don't know whether it would have been a good thing to have done. I wondered at the time whether being in a community would have helped Jill or not.
Possibly the most influential course we had while I was at Ridley was called Clinical Theology. Dr Frank Lake came himself to take us through his own system of psychology cum psychiatry. I later bought his big book, and the Lake view has shaped my thinking ever since.
I have also tried to explain the system to many other people, as well as using it in helping people with mental and emotional problems. It starts with a simple model of the babyhood of a well-adjusted person. This is a cycle with four parts, rather like a four-stroke petrol engine. The baby lies down with the mother's face in front of it, and they look at each other. In that state the baby is affirmed as a person and becomes sure of its own self-hood. And that assurance is the second side of the model. The third side is unconditional love, given by mother, and the fourth side is positive work, made possible by the unconditional love.
That is the very simple model, and the little diagram sits somewhere in all the other diagrams that Frank Lake devised to explain abnormal states like the depressive personality, the schizoid personality, the hysteric personality, the paranoid personality... Each one spreads out from a faulty version of the simple model. When the unconditional love side is lacking, and there is a judgemental, conditional love (I love you only when you are good) then the person is likely to suffer depression. If the very first side of the model, eye contact with mother, has gone wrong, then the hurt is much worse. The person can grow up 'knowing' that they are nothing at all. Cardinal Newman, for instance, once said he felt like a pane of glass. People can try to deal with this in different ways, like the schizoid way: the person splits off their real self, and tries to live instead in an ivory tower where they are all-powerful. This may lie at the back of some of the most brilliant academic careers. I think that AE Housman is one who suffered like this and over-corrected, by demolishing his rivals intellectually.
Well, that's enough explanation. The whole of Ridley was obviously sent into an introspective frame of mind as we all tried to locate ourselves and our personality type within this system. I eplained the schizoid personality (as far as I understood it) to a bass in the Ichthyans, and he said "No one has ever described me as well as that."
To fast-forward, I not only used the system in simple amateur counselling, particularly in Beccles, but while there in Beccles I went for a year with my rector to an etended follow-up course run by Revd Christopher Leffler, a fine clergyman with a large family, who helped try to save my marriage later. I did find out that understanding all this system helped in helping people in the parish, but in one's own relationships with nearest and dearest it went only a little way.
I was still singing with CUMS while at Ridley, although evening lectures at Ridley meant that I could not put in all the practices, and when the chorus sang in the Haymarket (was it?) and space was limited, I was barred from the performance. It was Beethoven's Choral Symphony, so that was a disappointment, but I sang in the final rehearsal with orchestra, a good runner-up award. I think Stravinsky's Les Noces was inthe same programme, with a new work by Derek Bourgeois, who may have been still a student at Cambridge then. Lush, I seem to remember. My very last concert with CUMS was in King's College Chapel, the St Matthew Passion. What a high point to end on! As we sang the final chorus in rehearsal with orchestra, I told myself that this was my Nunc Dimittis. I could imagine nothing to top it. The performance was being given twice, but I sang in the first one only; the next day I was on my way to Lancashire, and my ordination retreat with the lovely Bishop Clifford Martin of Liverpool.
My time in Ormskirk, Lancs, comes in the next chapter, but I want to write here that the one lasting lesson I took from the retreat was as a result of listening to Bishop Martin taking the services in his chapel. He quite obviously meant every word he said. I determined that that should be true of me, too. No congregation would ever have to put up with me going through the motions. Each service that I took would be a true act of worship. When the words were directed to God, that is where my thoughts would be. When they were meant for my fellow-worshippers, they would be my focus. Well, clearly I must have failed time and again, but I have never let go that aim. It has meant that I have to make sure that I understand all the liturgy before trying to use it. It also means that I am saddened when I take part in worship led by someone who has not done the homework. If the leader has done his or her best, that's fine, but when the Collect of the Day, for instance, takes the leader by surprise and is said without understanding, I find it hard not to be critical.
Perhaps I shall add here - on the threshold of my ordination - my conviction that our worship in the CHurch of England has become so word-rich that worship in action loses its power. Why do we talk about sharing broken bread in the Holy Communion and then dole out unbroken wafers? Why do we sing psalms about shouting and dancing, and then ban all shouting and dancing from church worship? Why do we sing Psalm 150 with its glorious list of brass and percussion, and then find the church choir will sing to nothing but an organ?
My ordination as deacon took place in a parish church and was taken by Laurence Brown, the suffregan bishop, someone we knew from Blackheath. I was the Gospeller, which I now realise was an honour, and marked me as the most academic of the deacons. Not that academic qualifications would get me very far in the nitty gritty of Lancashire parish life - in fact I had to learn to keep that side well under wraps.