Chiara and I stopped off in Cambridge on our East Anglian trip, and took the time to dally where I spent most time there as an undergraduate, not in my own college (Jesus college) – I first wrote ‘(Jesus)’ before I realized this read like an abusive aside about my college, where I was proud to be able to say I played football for Jesus, as I did, but spent most of my leisure time in Kings where the majority of my pals were quartered. And Kings sports the amazing college chapel with its sublime fan vaulting, glimpsed in the photo above. Plus the ‘backs,’ the backs of the colleges that verge on the Cam river, where undergrads and visitors punt their way up and downriver, poling narrow flat-bottomed craft along, and where I used to stand in midstream cooling off, arms folded, naked to the waist, hoping I looked like a youthful river god. Here on the bank I often sat with the soon-to-be eminent Clive James, my contemporary, a fine poet always generous to me; he would challenge me to improvise sonnets antiphonally, a line each, with him. I couldn’t keep up. He forgave me, and praised my later writings when few others did. Blessings on you, dear loyal friend. Here my friends Brian, Bernard, Simon, and the late Mark Lushington had rooms, where the sublime E.M.Forster could be seen in old age, making his slow way around the quad; and where I met with Professor Jaffé to ask if I might switch to Art History; who told me I would have to spend two years with the Baroque, and shouldn’t be choosy. I was and still am choosy about the Baroque. I stuck with Eng.Lit.
We left East Anglia behind, with its solitary churchiness (“silly Suffolk” derived from “selig,” holy), once all sheep and marshes, now simply fields and folk; and a Protestant God installed on top of the old Catholics and the Old Religion before them; a Protestant God – God’s face only, if you meet him. No intercessionary figures, such as throng the West where we were headed… the West with its trilithons and its magic precincts still sacred to the old gods. To Stonehenge and to Glastonbury we went; Glastonbury of innumerable myths, of Arthurian legend, Glastonbury a pinnacle among what were once the Somerset Levels, marshes navigated by knowing the curving walkways built just beneath the water (strangers will fall in and drown), leading to marshland villages on stilts; Glastonbury one pinnacle, and not far away the other pinnacle of Cadbury Castle, where Camelot once stood. Glastonbury with older magic than this, supposed recipient of the Grail when Joseph of Arimethea brought it: brought Jesus himself a quarter century before, when Jesus was a boy, Jesus whose feet Blake sang, on England’s pastures green. Glastonbury Tor of the septenary ring: you can still see it, barely, the furrows that took pilgrims spiralling around and up, seven rings; long ago I took one of my baby girls, strapped to my chest, around and around, widdershins, anti-clockwise (the holy way) up to the top. Now, I thought, such heroics were beyond my aging bones. No, Chiara exclaimed, we’re going to climb the Tor. We did; we got lost when I sent Chiara ahead (I was too slow) and on the far side of the Tor she got lost in a wood! But emerged. And I climbed – picture it in the ‘The Climb,’ my photo above – on my hands and knees. Literally! On hands and knees, aboriginal pilgrim. And made it to the top! Where Chiara posed in the door of the church. What a day! What a deed!