25 March 2008


When I was in London last week, the front gardens of the houses near my hotel were sprouting forsythia.  This was the first time I've seen forsythia this year, and I was very happy to encounter it.  Forsythia is, weirdly, my favorite flower.  I think it's because it's the very first sign of spring, so it often appears when everything around it is still wintry, and it's so determinedly not wintry.  There's no wishy-washy forsythia, or pastel yellow forsythia:  it's always a bright, announcing yellow.  For this reason, it always says "happy" to me.  This was especially true in London, because the weather was largely cloudy and wet.  You really haven't appreciated the full marvellousness of forsythia until you've come upon a lone bush of it in someone's otherwise green or brown garden on an overcast day.  It's a sight to lift the spirit and fill it with confidence of and for the future. 

In addition to being in London (which in the end was not very pleasant, because I was in large part laying to rest some difficult personal stuff), I went up to Cambridge to select a room. Wolfson College turns out to be easy walking distance from the center of the town, and although it seemed a little cut off from the rest of the university, I can't really make any judgments based on Easter vacation.  I did manage to find a room, but only after quite a bit of irritation.  First of all, there is a certain amount of vagueness in advertising:  "double room" can mean "room with a double bed," but it can also mean "room with two single beds." In fact, that's what it mostly means.  All the rooms I saw, with one exception, had either two single beds or one single bed.  And those single beds are not big.  We're talking perhaps 2/3 the size of a usual single bed -- these are what the English call "twin" beds, because they go with another, equally narrow, bed, and when twinned the two make a decent double bed.  On its own, however, each makes a decent
 jail cell cot.  So I saw a number of rooms with beds like this:
and a number of rooms with two separate twin beds.  The kindly
porter said to me, "I tell married couples they can tie the legs of the beds together and turn the mattresses sideways, and then they have a double bed."  But I'm not paying £200 a week to lash my bedlegs together and sleep with an uncomfortable ridge across my stomach!  But the difficulty was, all the twin or two bed rooms had bathrooms in various stages of goodness, from the modest but beshelved:

to the absolutely luscious:
The one (that's right, one) room that did have a real double bed had a terrible bathroom.  They call it a "wet room," which means there's a water-absorbing floor and, although an oblique shower cubicle, no shower curtain:  the whole room is designed to get and be wet (hence the name).  I hated this bathroom:
I don't think it has a medicine cabinet, and it certainly doesn't have any shelves on which I can put my make-up, or even my toothbrush.  Plus, as my mother once said of me, I am a woman who likes her baths.  But then the bedroom looked like this (sorry, I can't figure out how to right the one of the bed):

And that was pretty hard to resist (I was partially seduced by the peach sheets).  So I signed up for this room.  I can buy a cabinet in which to put my make-up, and I think I can string up a makeshift shower curtain, so the whole "wet room" aspect is circumvented.  I even took it for the whole year, although if a better option shows up I'll try to switch.

But that leads to the second irritation.  It turns out that people book their rooms months or apparently even years in advance.  So when I came in there were very few rooms left.  I was lucky this one was available (and it's on the ground floor, so people could peer in, AND it has a crappy bathroom).  I really think this information should be included in the instructions for applicants my home university gives out:  "Please be aware that accommodation is hard to get in college, and even if you are only applying for this fellowship you should book a room NOW." On the other hand, I now have a room with a potentially supercomfy double bed, with some seriously welcoming sheets.  I can just see myself waking up there in the morning, sun streaming in and someone I love beside me, so I can snuggle up to him in the pouring light. Obviously this presupposes some sun and no one peeking into my room despite the open curtains, but I have been in Cambridge on sunny days, and I bet Wolfson students and staff aren't perverts, so there is hope!

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