Buddha’s Word: The Life of Books in Tibet and Beyond (Review)

What's On Cambridge

Li Ka Shing Gallery | Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Centuries before the Gutenberg Press revolutionised the spread of Christian and secular thought across Europe, the words of another great religious leader were being expertly printed all across South-East Asia.

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Cambridge Invader (Review)

Review published in Varsity Newspaper, 8th March 2009. Cambridge Invader was a weekly feature covering a selection of the city’s (and university’s) lesser-known pubs, bars and secret societies.

Cambridge Invader: Girton College Bar


Our college bar closed on Tuesday. The new one is opening today, and it’s bigger and shinier and hopefully better, but nonetheless Tuesday night was seen very much as The End,  as swathes of current and ex- students poured in to the very limited space for a final nostalgic (and doomed) attempt to secure a lock-in, and to drunkenly sing College songs with misty-eyed enthusiasm and little in the way of coherent melody. Think the Pogues if half of them were actually English Public School veterans. Oh, wait, yeah. Think the Pogues.


As the final closure approached, panic set in. What would we do for two whole days without a cheap bar at stumbling distance? We were fairly sure this constituted a civil rights infringement. Fortunately I had a suggestion. “I know of a place,” I said. “A bar far, far away, where few students have ever ventured before.” The others raised a sceptical eyebrow. “’Tis called Girton” I said. There was a hushed silence. A few of the elders shook their wizened heads. One leaned in conspiratorially, whispering over his ale like an ancient sailor. “Have ye heard the tale,” he hissed, “of the Girton Threesome?” No. I hadn’t. And I didn’t believe it. But now I was more determined than ever to pursue the seldom trodden path to this remote Mecca of mythological debauchery.


The taxi pulled up outside what appeared to be a stately home. J and I hovered, feeling suddenly very isolated and vulnerable. I was reminded of the orgy scene in Eyes Wide Shut and wondered if I should have brought a mask.


We made our way through labyrinthine hallways and down a staircase into an underground bar which faintly resembled an S & M dungeon – all red uplighting, tucked away booths and exposed brick archways. We were the only people there. The bar lady surveyed us wordlessly with a look which said, “you’re not from these parts” and, fearing that our hacked up bodies might one day be discovered under the charmingly unlevelled flooring, we took our bottle of wine (£5.60 and certainly quaffable) and retreated to a corner.


An hour passed. I began to hallucinate tumbleweed. A few people turned up, but all seemed rather docile. Research revealed that the master’s efforts to prevent any Ents being organised has led to a general disillusionment with college socialising, and many Girtonians tend to eschew the bar for local pubs. I later discovered from an ex-member of my college that he’d been banned from the premises after announcing that the Mistress was a “fit little tart” during a formal dinner, which may or may not have had something to do with it. Regardless, I felt let down.


We finished our wine and called a taxi to take us to Cindies. As we made to leave, however, there was a sudden influx of people, establishing a highly satisfactory male-female ratio. Perhaps we were making a mistake? Just then, two previously unclocked FOLs blocked our path. “You can’t leave now!” they cried “THE SHOW’S JUST BEGINNING!” … and proceeded to strip, rapidly, to their boxer shorts. This was more like it. The bar lady nodded at the trousers around their ankles and snapped, “pull them up or take them out” with an unsurprised irritation which suggested the scene was commonplace. J and I began to reconsider our decision. Cindies, however, beckoned, and unable to persuade the men in question to accompany us, and unwilling to pass up our taxi to pay homage to the site of the – apparently real – threesome, we reluctantly departed. But we will be back. There’s untapped talent up there, girls, and the numbers are in our favour.