CHRISTMAS AT CAMBRIDGE
My long looked forward to trip to Cambridge had its ups and downs.
The intention of visiting Cambridge for Christmas was to go to Kings College for the service of Nine Lessons and Carols which is broadcast every Christmas Eve and has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, with first the wireless playing as a child - do you remember those big glass batteries filled with acid, which the local hardware store collected and returned each week, then later having the TV turned on for the carol service whilst doing last minute preparations for Christmas house guests and getting the Christmas Eve meal ready. The strains of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ sung by the quavering solo voice of a young choirboy is certainly embedded in my psyche, if not the nations, and I thought it would be a wonderful experience to be there in the actual place on Christmas Eve, so now I was footloose and fancy free that was where I was headed.
Having got to the other side of the country I would need a place to stay over Christmas, and I didn’t want to find there was no room at the inn, and nowadays I am pretty certain they would turn the donkey away even if there was room for Mary, and Phoebe is certainly small donkey size - so a dog friendly hotel was called for. And we were lucky. There was a lovely looking hotel only one mile from Cambridge city (so within reach for the scooter) and they welcomed dogs.
Interestingly it was called Felix, and when I did get there and asked the owner why 'Felix', I sensed she had been asked the question a thousand times before. As she rightly said it was from the Latin for happy or fortunate, but of course for some reason the cartoon character of Felix the Cat first drawn in the 1920’s has taken over the name, and to the under educated, one wonders why a dog friendly hotel is named after a cat, though being in Cambridge I maybe should have put on my non-existent Latin scholars hat. But Phoebe and I were booked in for Christmas (AAA - access all areas, bar the restaurant for Phoebe)
Knowing that the days I spent at the hotel I would be without electric for Thebus, no problem there, but I needed to have the mobiltiy scooter fully charged as we had long days ahead of us, a mile into Cambridge and a mile back plus some driving around was quite a way, so I didn’t want to spent too many days before hand without an electric hookup. Worrying that a lot of campsites may be closed over the holidays, or if they were open they might be fully booked, and should I leave it to the last minute and just turn up on, I might possibly find there was ‘no room at the inn’ for Thebus either. So with all this in mind I decided it was best to book ahead and made an internet booking for the two nights prior to Christmas Eve. I had hoped to find a site within a short distance of Cambridge, but there was nowhere open at this time of year, so the choice was to either drive past Cambridge and on for about half an hour, or to stop on a site close to the road on the way up, but still a good hour or more from Cambridge, which seemed the most sensible of the two options.
This was all looking as though it would work out well - then the whole edifice began to crumble. Firstly the campsite I had chosen was somewhat less than helpful when I explained I needed to leave early on Christmas Eve morning. No - they didn’t open the gates till seven a.m. They did have a key access, but insisted on a deposit of twenty pounds which was fine, but then said it couldn’t be refunded unless there was someone there, which there wouldn’t be until seven o’clock, I did try to convince them I needed to leave earlier but the young manager was not really interested in listening so either I would have to forgo my deposit or loose one of the nights I had already paid for and have nowhere to stay.
Since starting my travels when things begin to go wrong I try to go with the flow rather than fight against it all, and thinking I could still make Cambridge by eight if I really pushed it I gave in. Eight in the morning is half an hour after they start queuing for the service by the way, and when I arrived it transpired that some folk had queued from the night before! Off we went and did make it to the hotel by eight, but of course I had to find reception, check Thebus was not in the way, unload the scooter, say goodbye to Phoebe, etc etc.
I set off towards Cambridge following the receptionist directions. Quite whether she had not got a grip of which was left and right or I misunderstood I am not sure, but after about half a mile or so I realised things were looking wrong, plus the scooter was going more and more slowly and the battery running down very quickly. By the time I made it back to the hotel I knew that we were unlikely to make it down to Kings College in time if at all. I phoned, but the very harassed college porter was not able to help either so that was it. All the way to Cambridge for nothing. Still - I decided these things are meant to be, and thought I would make the most of the stay at the hotel
The room was fine, and on the ground floor so that was good, Phoebe could look out through the windows and lie next to the heater, though the room was beautifully warm, and best of all there was an enormous deep bath.
Before I started my travels I had not been able to get in and out of the bath for quite a few years, and had to be content with a nice hot shower, and to be honest I didn’t know if I would manage to get out of this bath, but it was just too tempting. I filled it up nearly to the top with lovely hot water and in I got. I made sure there were plenty of towels nearby in case I needed them to help get me out of the bath, but foolishly didn’t think to put my phone within reach. Still - too late. I was in, and had the most delightful soak.
Now I expect you think I am going to tell you I got stuck, and I did wonder if that might be the case, and just thought I would have to stay there till room service came in the morning. Though what I would have done about Phoebe I am not sure. Fortunately she is not like my first Great Dane, who, if he ever managed to get into the bathroom whilst I was in the bath panicked and tried to drink all the water in order to save me from drowning (he hated water).
Anyway, everything was fine. The bath was very deep with good handles to help you out, and I managed fairly easily. And in fact it was so great to have a soak that in the two days I was there I had four baths - and enjoyed every one of them. Even writing this is making me want to book into a hotel again, or maybe find another Turkish Bath, - that was even better.
So I had a lovely meal on the Christmas Eve, luxurious breakfast in the conservatory where Phoebe could join me, and a super Christmas Day lunch, and there was a massive buffet in the evening if you could still find room. Phoebe of course enjoyed all the attention she got. Although there were a lot of other dogs there as people had taken advantage of the fact you could have them with you, I think Phoebe stole the show.
She was not keen on the tiled floors in many of the reception rooms so we took a big blanket for her, which she helpfully carried folded over her shoulders like a horse blanket. And on the last night, knowing that the bedding would be changed I spread a big blanket on the side of the bed and let her come up with me, just to make her Christmas extra special, though I know she would have still preferred to be ‘at home’ poor baby.
Staying in a hotel I had taken in the laptop, and when I went into dinner it seemed sensible to shut it down. I know I probably don’t close everything down as often as I should, but that was it. It refused to restart. Amazingly Apple help desk was open on Christmas Day, and though they tried they couldn’t fix it, so recommended a trip to the nearest store. Perhaps that was why I was drawn to spend Christmas in Cambridge, one of the few Apple stores in the country was just down in the town. So next day I took a taxi and they sorted things out for me. The actual distance to the town was exactly two miles, so even if the scooter was working well it would have been a push at four miles round trip plus some driving around. These things are meant to be. And perhaps I will make it to Kings College another Christmas Eve.