Voices

Letter to my hometown: Cambridge for Dummies

Standard Issue writers are penning a letter to their hometown. Christine Robertson would like Cambridge to know who she is.

Christine hitchhikingHello Cambridge,

You probably don’t remember me but I was born, lived, studied and worked in you for more than 25 years. If I’m unfamiliar, that’s possibly because you’ve been distracted by the roll call of amazing scientists, writers, economists, performers and other folk far cleverer than me (or is it I?) who graduated from you and made your name synonymous with turbo brain smarts.

I enjoy telling people I studied at Cambridge just to see the flicker of ‘really?’ in their eyes before I clarify it was the polytechnic across town. The only Footlights I knew of was that underwhelming restaurant by the Grafton Centre and the only Boat Race I cared about was the pub on East Road where I watched the likes of Alice Donut, Jacob’s Mouse and Voorhees scream their way into my heart.

Are you still heaving with cyclists? I still think about my shonky bike and its slack chain that prompted my only road rage incident to date. How many people do you think saw me haul it off the road to kick the crap out of it during rush hour exactly? I met a guy I really fancied in Route 66 a few weeks later who said, “I saw you kicking the shit out of a bike on Cherry Hinton Road the other week.” We did not make it to first base.

How’s the Folk Festival doing these days? Lol, not interested.

Ooh, something I’ve been meaning to ask you: did I really accidentally pour a tray of hot chicken juice onto an old woman’s lap when doing silver service at a King’s College dinner? I only ask because her reaction was so surreal I’ve started to wonder if it happened at all. She didn’t howl in discomfort, she didn’t kick off and demand I was fired; she just sat and looked at me blankly. I mean, she was *so* old that maybe she just thought she’d wet herself. I was never asked back – maybe that’s my clue. Anyway, please confirm.

Hey, you still owe me 20 quid from that Manic Street Preachers gig at the Corn Exchange btw. You were probably too hungover to have seen me return the next day to naively ask if anyone had handed in a £20 note to lost property, and watch everyone stifle their giggles and pity while they ‘checked’. I don’t keep my money in a crusty drawstring pouch round my neck anymore; it’s in a bank and I will send you my deets for a BACS transfer.

Cambridge puntingI might get some fishnets for my Halloween costume this year. I think I’m finally ready to wear them again after that mortifying moment when I met Dad’s colleagues dressed as a teen slut. I was accompanying him on a work outing to see The Rocky Horror Show after Mum dropped out due to flu.

My school mates convinced me to go in fancy dress – apparently it was tradition. Bafflingly, my parents seemed cool with it. But when I arrived with my dad to board the minibus at Parker’s Piece, it was clear his colleagues had not signed up for this particular tradition. Everyone was dressed smartly for a night in London’s West End. I had come as Magenta, the castle maid.

Corpus Christi college entrance“THIS IS MY DAUGHTER. SHE’S IN FANCY DRESS,” my dad announced to the group, his tone loaded with damage control. I sensed he was mortified too. The group nodded politely and we took our seats on the minibus. I didn’t take my coat off all night.

I appreciate how hard you tried with me, Cambridge, but growing up in a city renowned for white academia when you’re brown and not especially academic, well… I kinda felt like a dummy. It’s OK though, the city I live in now has a more comfortable ratio of brainbox to dunce and white to POC; I feel more at home here and less like an idiot when I visit you. Keep an eye out for me when I visit next month; I’ll be swinging by Fagito’s on Mill Road for a kebab – unless it’s an artisan cupcake parlour now?

Talk soon, Christine x

@xtine_robbo

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Written by Christine Robertson

Christine is an award-winning comedy writer who thinks Winona Ryder picked the wrong guy in Reality Bites.