Liz Hoggard: Say no to campus life out of season

If you want culture from the inside, a B&Bat Cambridge might not offer it

Share
Related Topics

When news broke this weekend that Cambridge is to open its doors as a B&B establishment – to raise money – the people cheered. For the first time in Cambridge's 800-year-history, holidaymakers will be able to stay the night in Corpus Christi College, Clare, Downing, et al. Until now only conference delegates and guests of college members could book accommodation. But from Easter, it was reported, anyone will be able to sample Cambridge University life from £60 a night.

Imagine waking up to ancient courts and quiet cloisters once occupied by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Oliver Cromwell, William Wordsworth, Stephen Hawking and Stephen Fry, runs the romantic blurb. Are they kidding?

As a teenager I spent all my summer holidays staying on university campuses. York, Exeter, Stirling, I've seen them all. Blame my cash-strapped French teacher parents, who jumped at the chance to stay somewhere inexpensive. Plus they argued it would be a marvellous way to experience culture from the inside.

So every summer we would roll up in our battered Renault, full of sleeping bags and tins of beans, and stay in modest local accomodation (yes the bloody halls of residence) at 1960s redbrick universities. Many were built like a Swedish women's open prisons, with queues for the wash blocks, and depressing refectories.

I'm sure one day they'll make a C4 film about my family. At breakfast we'd sit around the kitchen table like a parody of University Challenge (National Health glasses, bad 1970s haircuts) as my parents tried to raise our spirits with promises of improving day trips, theatre outings, and cheese and wine evenings with the local acdemics. Dream on.

The only people on campus at that time of year are janitors, depressed foreign students, and the Open University. The OU, God bless them , work incredibly hard all year long, studying on top of day jobs. So given two weeks to become a hedonistic student, they literally throw off their wedding rings, and start living it up. Very puzzling for 13-year-old girls.

A univeristy campus in August is the equivalent of Hastings in winter. Day trips tended to involve three buses (campuses are by definition miles from the centre of town). There's only so much one can can do on Dartmoor or the Yorkshire Moors. Watching one desperate farce – Dandy Dick at Exeter's campus theatre – we were the sole audience. In Stirling it rained every day. "This is the actual castle where they filmed Colditz," encouraged my father in a cagoule. You don't say.

I think my parents hoped we were getting an education in thrift. Don't believe it. These days I fritter money on five-star hotels with crisp linen and spas and valet parking. I never want to see a bunk bed again. Forget the Dreaming Spires. Or bed and breakfast with the dons. Send your kids to Eurodisney instead. They might just learn some French.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform