Winter in Cambridge is a little underwhelming. It doesn’t seem to drop below freezing at all during the day, and only very rarely at night. It rains less than in the Bay Area, and certainly less than in northern California, and it hasn’t snowed yet (although weather.com is promising some flurries in the Hope Valley in the Peak District around the time I’ll be there later this week).
The most difficult thing is the darkness...it comes very early, and remains late into the morning. It’s particularly gloomy around College, which is almost entirely deserted. Undergraduates have been kicked out, and all but a few grad students have better things to do this time of year. While I don’t think I’m suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the darkness has made me push back my wake-up time by a good 15 minutes, and poses a serious hazard at the University Library, where they don’t seem to believe in lighting the stairwells. If they did without in the 14th century, they can deal with it today! appears to be the general sentiment. Or the stacks. Well, the stacks are lit by little timers at the end of each aisle that you have to twist. I’ve been told that one poor soul, unaware of these lights, was seen hovering around the shelves with a lighter, trying to read call numbers! If the librarians had caught him he would have been put on the rack. But at least it appears to be heated. Unlike the Zoological Society library in London, where thanks to malfunctioning ventilation, it was actually colder inside than outside last week.
In light of its general moderateness, I make few sartorial concessions to the weather in Britain. But this means that people often comment upon my garb (people here change into winter-wear as much for style as for necessity, I suspect)...sometimes the same people, every single day, like the perpetually-jolly guy who runs events out of the office by the buttery who inevitably comments at breakfast, “Still wearing shorts and sandals, eh?”
Today I was walking to the library in the early afternoon after an excellent lunch at which the server sneaked me a double-portion of the vegetarian dish. I was waiting for a light to change to cross the street when I noticed a group of Chinese tourists who appeared to be dressed for an Everest ascent, lining up not-so-surreptitiously to take pictures of my sandals! I did a double-take, sure that I was imagining things, but no... So I glared, but they didn’t stop. “Hey!” I squawked, “You can’t do that!” But they were undeterred by my outrage, and I was forced to beat a hasty retreat across the street.
Somewhere out there, in someone's family albums or facebook profiles, there will be pictures of my sandal-wearing feet in Cambridge...