End of Summer, Start of Autumn

It’s a lovely warm sunny day in Cardiff today, but it is nevertheless the end of summer. The autumnal equinox came and went today (22nd September) at 14.21 Universal Time (that’s 15.21 British Summer Time), so from now on it’s all downhill (in that the Subsolar point has just crossed the equator on the southward journey it began at the Summer Solstice).

Many people adopt the autumnal equinox as the official start of autumn, but I go for an alternative criterion: summer is over when the County Championship is over. It turns out that, at least for Glamorgan, that coincided very closely to the equinox. Having bowled out Leicestershire for a paltry 96 at Grace Road in the first innings of their final Division 2 match, they went on to establish a handy first-innings lead of 103. They were then set a modest second-innings target of 181 to win. Unfortunately, their batting frailties were once again cruelly exposed and they collapsed from 144 for 4 to 154 all out and lost by 26 runs. That abject batting display sums up their season really.

Meanwhile, in Division 1 of the Championship, Middlesex are playing Yorkshire at Lord’s, a match whose outcome will determine who wins the Championship. Middlesex only need to draw to be champions, but as I write they’ve just lost an early wicket in their second innings, with Yorkshire having a first-innings lead of 120, so it’s by no means out of the question that Yorkshire might win and be champions again.

Another sign that summer is over is that the new cohort of students has arrived. This being “Freshers’ Week” there have been numerous events arranged to introduce them to various aspects of university life. Lectures proper being in Monday, when the Autumn Semester begins in earnest. I don’t have any teaching until the Spring.

This time of year always reminds me when I left home to go to University, as thousands of fledgling students have just done. I went through this rite of passage 34 years ago, getting on a train at Newcastle Central station with my bags of books and clothes. I said goodbye to my parents there. There was never any question of them taking me in the car all the way to Cambridge. It wasn’t practical and I wouldn’t have wanted them to do it anyway. After changing from the Inter City at Peterborough onto a local train, me and my luggage trundled through the flatness of East Anglia until it reached Cambridge.

I don’t remember much about the actual journey, but I must have felt a mixture of fear and excitement. Nobody in my family had ever been to University before, let alone to Cambridge. Come to think of it, nobody from my family has done so since either. I was a bit worried about whether the course I would take in Natural Sciences would turn out to be very difficult, but I think my main concern was how I would fit in generally.

I had been working between leaving school and starting my undergraduate course, so I had some money in the bank and I was also to receive a full grant. I wasn’t really worried about cash. But I hadn’t come from a posh family and didn’t really know the form. I didn’t have much experience of life outside the North East either. I’d been to London only once before going to Cambridge, and had never been abroad.

I didn’t have any posh clothes, a deficiency I thought would mark me as an outsider. I had always been grateful for having to wear a school uniform (which was bought with vouchers from the Council) because it meant that I dressed the same as the other kids at School, most of whom came from much wealthier families. But this turned out not to matter at all. Regardless of their family background, students were generally a mixture of shabby and fashionable, like they are today. Physics students in particular didn’t even bother with the fashionable bit. Although I didn’t have a proper dinner jacket for the Matriculation Dinner, held for all the new undergraduates, nobody said anything about my dark suit which I was told would be acceptable as long as it was a “lounge suit”. Whatever that is.

Taking a taxi from Cambridge station, I finally arrived at Magdalene College. I waited outside, a bundle of nerves, before entering the Porter’s Lodge and starting my life as a student. My name was found and ticked off and a key issued for my room in the Lutyens building. It turned out to be a large room, with a kind of screen that could be pulled across to divide the room into two, although I never actually used this contraption. There was a single bed and a kind of cupboard containing a sink and a mirror in the bit that could be hidden by the screen. The rest of the room contained a sofa, a table, a desk, and various chairs, all of them quite old but solidly made. Outside my  room, on the landing, was the gyp room, a kind of small kitchen, where I was to make countless cups of tea over the following months, although I never actually cooked anything there.

I struggled in with my bags and sat on the bed. It wasn’t at all like I had imagined. I realised that no amount of imagining would ever really have prepared me for what was going to happen at University.

I  stared at my luggage. I suddenly felt like I had landed on a strange island, and couldn’t remember why I had gone there or what I was supposed to be doing.

After 34 years you get used to that feeling…

 

17 Responses to “End of Summer, Start of Autumn”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Of Middlesex, Yorkshire and Somerset, who remain in contention for the championship going into the last day of the season, I prefer Somerset. They and Northants are the only two counties never to have won it to date. But I’m following the other two matches in Div1 more closely, as they decide if Lancashire stay up.

    • I think the bonus point Yorkshire got by passing 350 means that Somerset can’t be champions…

    • Correction: I’m wrong. If it’s a draw a Lord’s then Somerset win the title. I had forgotten a draw is only 5 points. A tie is 8.

    • The bookies odds are interesting.
      The best I’ve found are:

      Yorkshire 2/1
      Somerset 7/2
      Middlesex 9/2

      They clearly think Yorkshire is more likely to beat Middlesex, while to me that match seems likely to be a draw..

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        What are the odds for who goes down with Notts?

      • I can’t find a market on that. Presumably not enough money being wagered.

      • At around 2pm on the final day, with Middlesex on 224 for 3, the odds have changed dramatically:

        Somerset 4/7
        Yorkshire 5/2
        Middlesex 9/2

      • At 14.45 with Middlesex declaring on 359/6 leaving Yorkshire 240 to win off 40 overs, the odds have swung again:

        Yorkshire 11/8
        Middlesex 7/4
        Somerset 9/4

      • Amazing. at 15.10, with Yorkshire on 17 for 0 it’s now:

        Yorkshire 1/10 (i.e. 10 to 1 ON).

      • At 16.10, with Yorkshire on 70 for 3, the odds are:

        Middlesex 6/5
        Somerset 7/5
        Yorkshire 14/5

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Yorkshire HAVE to go for it – a draw and a loss are equally useless to them, whereas a win secures them the championship. And that, of course, makes Middlesex more likely to bowl them out and win the match and the championship! But a draw means that Somerset get it for the first time in their history (and leave Northants alone as the only team never to have won it).

        More important to me as a Lancs supporter is that Durham do not lose to Hampshire, and thereby cause Lancs to be relegated in place of Hampshire…

      • Yes, a draw is no good for either team. Yorkshire might as well go down with all guns blazing. At 90-3 with only 20 overs left they have a lot to do, but it’s not impossible.

        It doesn’t look like Durham are going to lose – they’re 208-1, needing 88 off 16 overs. They have a chance of winning, but certainly don’t look like losing.

      • Well, that was quite exciting. Yorkshire bowled out for 178 and Middlesex win the Championship. The last three wickets fell in a hat-trick too!

        Durham beat Hampshire by 6 wickets so Lancashire stay up.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Correction – Gloucestershire have never won it either.

  2. “Although I didn’t have a proper dinner jacket for the Matriculation Dinner, held for all the new undergraduates, nobody said anything about my dark suit which I was told would be acceptable as long as it was a “lounge suit”. Whatever that is.”

    I’ve told this story before, perhaps in a comment in this very blog, but it is so good I’ll tell it again.

    Almost 20 years ago, I was at the Colston Symposium in Bristol. One of the few situations where, because of the high quality of the attendees, probably everyone felt inferior. 🙂 As usual, there was a conference dinner. Somewhat unusual, but not the only time I’ve experienced this, it was on a ship, the Great Britain, though she didn’t sail. The conference folder had a card for entry to the conference dinner, which said, with no further comment, “dinner jacket”. Not only did I not have one with me, I didn’t have one at all, and didn’t even know what one was. I briefly thought of buying one, but then realized it wouldn’t really jibe with my open-toed sandals (with or without socks) and jeans. I didn’t have enough money to buy an entire suit.

    I sensed that maybe a couple of other people were a bit nervous, but no-one wanted to say anything.

    After a few days, Michael Berry, the organizer (and one of the speakers), Sir Michael of course, apparently having got wind of the confusion, remarked that we could ignore this. For the organizers of the conference dinner, he said, “dinner jacket” is just what they print by default if it is not white tie. 😐 He said that we could wear what we want.

    I was quite relieved to see Sir Michael show up for the conference dinner in jeans and a knitted pullover sweater. 🙂

    I’m not surprised that Prince Charles has an employee whose sole occupation is to manage the Prince’s clothing.

    Fortunately, formal clothing is usually not necessary in an academic setting, barring the Nobel Prize ceremony, of course. There, however, a “national costume” is considered just as appropriate as formal evening dress, so keep that in mind if you ever have the occasion: not only will you adhere to protocol, but you will also stand out (to a greater or lesser degree, depending on what your national costume is).

    • Yes, I think you have told the story before here, and I think I replied by writing that I did not attend the dinner of the Colston Symposium because I too do not own a dinner jacket.

      I was a postdoc in the Astrophysics Group in Bristol at the time, so the conference was in my home department.

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