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Monday, November 20, 2017

Braving the Evils of Cambridge with Doctor Who: Part 2

Outside Emmanuel college, some students ambushed us with their soppy hard luck stories about how taking a ride in the River Cam could help them pay for their education. I couldn't help if but wonder at the veracity of their claims. I mean, tuition at one of England's top two university towns can't be all that expensive, right? 

There's a debate going on regarding education these days. Some authorities maintain that all students are evil. The rest maintain that most, while not villains, are nonetheless capable of blending facts and lies to their advantage. However one may categorize the students at Cambridge, they convinced us to take their tour with their "cheap" prices. Then they led us astray, or at least down to Garret Hostel Bridge. There we joined a group of other gullible tourists from exotic locales like Spain and India. 

While we waited to board our vessel, a gentleman from a nearby pub hawked his "authorized" (and more expensive) tours. He also informed us that, by consorting with "unregistered" students, we were technically breaking the law. Leave it to a pub owner to dispense the truth about the evil students'  activities with such kindness. Still, aside from assaulting us with his honesty, he left us to our wicked ways. Soon we boarded our simple wooden vessel, and the students launched us out onto the Cam.

Bridges spanning the River Cam range from functional to stunning. Many boast a fascinating history. One of our tour guide's anecdotes, regarding Clare Bridge, proved especially memorable.

The student, who supposedly finished his undergraduate degree at Brighton University, told us that builders had left one of the ornamental stone balls along the rails chipped. This subterfuge left the bridge unfinished in the eyes of the law, which helped the then bridge owners pay less than their fair share of taxes to the crown. That's the problem with consorting with students. Pretty soon, you're falling prey to their evil, cheating ways.

Doctor Who fans will find another anecdote about Clare Bridge equally interesting. As the Doctor and his companion Romana punted along the Cam in the story "Shada", they were unexpectedly whisked off to Gallifrey (and the story interrupted by another story, "The Five Doctors") by the evil Lord President. Once the Doctor (in all five incarnations) defeated the Lord President of Gallifrey, the Timelords returned him and Romana to their wooden boat on the Cam. They did this so expertly that we see no visual sign of their re-emergence in time in "Shada." Having said all that, we do see the Doctor, a centuries old Timelord who has amassed unimaginable knowledge on every conceivable subject, and mastered countless skills, suddenly lose his grip on his pole, and nearly fall into the water as he passes beneath Clare Bridge. So even the Doctor can get unsettled by unexpected trips through time, especially when directed by evil Timelords.

Of course, I've heard the rumor that actor Tom Baker refused to take punting lessons the day before filming his boating scenes for "Shada", figuring he could operate a punt without training. Personally, I have no time for rumors these days, especially ones that defame any actor who played in Doctor Who. Rumormongering is evil, and the virtuous man has nothing to do with them.

Dragon Dave

Monday, November 13, 2017

Braving the Evils of Cambridge with Doctor Who: Part 1

From Grantchester, the home town of investigative vicar Sidney Chambers, we wandered through Grantchester Meadows. There people swam and boated in the river, walked their dogs, or just relaxed in the fields. Amid such pastoral splendor, we wondered where the villain Skagra parked his spaceship in the Doctor Who story "Shada." We even wondered if the spaceship was still there, as it was invisible in the story.

It's been forty years since the events in "Shada" recorded by fearless British author Douglas Adams, took place. Still, had K-9 been with us, I'm sure he could have identified the landing site. After all, what good is a robot dog, if it can't even remember where the villain parked his invisible spaceship?

Near the Old Vicarage, the home of politician and bestselling English author Jeffrey Archer, we stopped to observe a pair of swans and their newly hatched children. There we chatted with a gentleman who had studied their nesting spot for the past few weeks. It would seem that, if Skagra was still lurking nearby, or hiding in his invisible spaceship, the villain didn't seem to be bothering the swans.  

A (not so) short walk took us to Emmanuel College. There the Doctor and his companion Romana visited Professor Chronotis in his office. The good professor was a retired Timelord who had summoned the Doctor to return a powerful book to Gallifrey, the Doctor's home planet. Unfortunately, the villain Skagra stole the book, and used it to try and take over the universe. But then, that's what villains do, isn't it? They recognize essential facts, like the fact that books hold a certain power, and wield that power to their evil ends. 

But then, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to play with their smartphones all day.

Dragon Dave

Monday, November 6, 2017

Walking To Cambridge With Sidney Chambers

As any viewer of the TV show "Grantchester" will realize, investigative priest Sidney Chambers spends little of his time in the Grantchester vicarage. In the first series (or season, as they say in the United States), he looks forward to strolling along the River Cam, and picnicking with his friend Amanda on Grantchester Common.

He and his Detective friend Geordie Keating have spent their fair share of time walking along the river, and even pursued the occasional criminal through the Grantchester Commons. 

Whether he walks or rides his bike, Sidney Chambers will probably use a bridge when he visits his friend Geordie at the Cambridge police station. In one episode, I believe the two even investigated a murder on Clare Bridge.

In this 800 year old university town, the streets are lined with tall buildings. Sidney and Geordie spend their fair share trekking through these narrow byways, whether they are pursuing suspects or traveling to a murder scene. In series two, Amanda even skulks through these, when she grows bored with marriage to her rich husband, and pilfers items from shops.

But most of all in Cambridge, it's King's Parade that we associate Sidney with. In the first episode, we see him cycling among this popular street, past shops, restaurants, and the city's architectural gem, King's College.

Have Sidney and Geordie investigated a murder in King's College yet? If not, I suspect it's only a matter of time. After all, they've questioned suspects in dorms and offices in other colleges. So if you decide to visit Cambridge, keep a watchful eye out. You might spot Geordie or Sidney hurrying past to investigate a crime, or ponder a fascinating mystery.

Dragon Dave

Monday, October 30, 2017

Visiting Sidney Chambers' Church in Grantchester

Even from the outskirts of Grantchester, the Anglican Church of St. Anthony and Mary appeals. It resides within this sleepy English village, and keeps watch over it, just as its famous vicar Sidney Chambers shepherds its inhabitants. 

Upon arriving, it's easy to imagine Mrs. Maguire hanging out the laundry, or cleaning the vicarage. While the black labrador Dickens plays by her feet, curate Leonard Finch studies his books of religious scholarship. As the one in charge of Grantchester Church, vicar Sidney Chambers should be composing Sunday's sermon, with a glass of whisky at hand, while jazz plays on the gramophone. But most likely, he's out with his friend Detective Inspector Geordie Keating, solving a murder in Grantchester or nearby Cambridge.

In the churchyard, a curious memorial rises above nearby headstones. It's a testament to one family's longing to reside in that glorious mansion that awaits us when this life is over. 

Inside, an alcove beside the choir entrances with its architecture and history. It reminds us of this church's centuries of serving the community, and how it still comforts and guides its congregants today.

But most of all, it's special to just sit in a pew, and gaze up at the podium, beside which Sidney Chambers so often addresses his congregation. His messages of God's unfailing love, acceptance, and forgiveness remind me of Christianity's best aspects. Just as in the TV series based on James Runcie's stories, I feel welcome, included, and inspired. 

Dragon Dave

Monday, October 16, 2017

The High Cost of Development

Growing up in Los Angeles, I was used to living in the city. The city was all around me. I might cross an imaginary line here or there, and suddenly I was in a city with a different name. But no matter what they called it, every city was really L.A. It was all L.A. And I loved it.

Then I moved to San Diego, and I saw how much easier it was to get around. I saw how beautiful it was, with hills and land that had not yet been developed. Great swaths of land separated areas, and many of the towns in San Diego had discernible borders, separated by more of that green space again. 

Ah yes, green space. Undeveloped land. Land in which plants and trees can grow unimpeded. The separation necessary to give communities an individual look and feel. Yeah, I remember that. I suppose there's a little of it around, here and there, but so much of that is gone these days. Especially where I live. Houses have been converted into apartment blocks. Schools have been razed and the land devoted to condominium communities. A historic military base has been converted into a brand new master-planned neighborhood, with a shopping, restaurants, businesses, museums, and a megachurch/private school to meet the residents needs. Traffic clogs the streets, and at certain times a day, it's impossible to get on or off the freeway, and travel a handful of miles in less than a 30 to 45 minutes. 

I always knew that San Diego was a nice place to live. Apparently, a lot of other people agree with me. When I chose to live here, one million people resided in the city, and two-and-a-half million in the county. Now it's the eighth largest city in the United States, with 1.4 million residents, and over three million in the county. Officials estimate that population numbers will climb to 1.5 million in 2020, with 3.5 million in the county. And it won't slow down from there. By 2040, 1.8 million people will live in the city, and over 4 million in the county. By 2050, nearly 2 million people will reside in the city, with 4.3 million filling the county.

Even with all the development, San Diego is still a nice place to live. And as I gaze into my personal future, I know I will be able to minimize the time spent in traffic by traveling at different times of the day. But all those new residents will demand more housing, hospitals, car dealerships, shopping centers, industrial parks, and all the other development that accompanies an increase in population. The more they develop, the more they make San Diego an attraction, the more people will travel here to see the sights, and some of them will opt to remain. 

Amid all the development that population growth will bring, some areas of the city that are difficult to navigate now, such as the downtown district, will grow even more difficult. Some of the communities in the county will lose their quaintness as they are redeveloped into high-rise housing, shopping centers, restaurants, coffee houses, bars, and nightclubs. Inevitably, all that green space I fell in love with will disappear, and all the boundaries between communities will blur, until San Diego becomes one large, homogenous city, just like Los Angeles.

I may have traded the second-largest city in the United States for the eighth largest, but it's beginning to feel like I didn't. And I'm beginning to wonder if that's what I want for my future, and if not, what my options are. That's the problem with numbers. They point out that the present isn't the past, and the future definitely won't be.

Change means growth. Some aspects of any development will benefit you, others less so. Choosing what kind of change you want to embrace--either to accept the inevitable, or trade it in for something entirely new--can be difficult. Still, planning, and looking at projections, gives you the opportunity to make decisions about your future, instead of allowing others to make those decisions for you. 

That's always a good thing.

Dragon Dave