I only know that you may lie
Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,
And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,
Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,
Until the centuries blend and blur
In Grantchester, in Grantchester. . . .
(From Rupert Brooke’s “The Old Vicarage”)
The old church clock may no longer stand ten to three; Jeffrey and Mary Archer live in Rupert Brooke’s old vicarage; and swimming is no longer allowed in the all-around-fenced Byron’s pool. But there is always honey for tea in the Grantchester Orchard tea garden. Just like it was at the turn of the 20th century when a group of Cambridge students bothered the lady owning the orchard for tea so many times she opened a café (teaé perhaps, for here it’s all about the tea and scones) under the shade of her trees.
“And Cambridgeshire, of all England, the shire for Men who Understand”, wrote Rupert Brooke and longed for home while feeling stuck in Berlin. Under the shade of the fruit trees one could imagine the world a better place “and feel the Classics are not dead”, especially if one was in the company of Virginia Woolf, Rupert Brooke, Ludwig Wittgenstein, John Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell, and EM Forster.
And it was Brooke who created the legend of Lord Byron’s pool: “till in the dawnlit waters cool his ghostly Lordship swims his pool, and tries the strokes, essays the tricks, long learnt on Hellespont, or Styx.”
The best thing about Grantchester is that it is never sadness to leave, because the walk along the “yet unacademic stream” back to Cambridge is pure loveliness. And each time I am left wondering, why ever did I leave Cambridgeshire?
(Cambridge, United Kingdom; July 2016)