Five years in the noding, I present:

A Cambridge Nodermeet

21st June 2008

Picnicing, punting and pubbing in the ivory towers

The place

Cambridge is best known for its university (founded in 1209 by scholars fleeing from rival Oxford), which has produced any number of eminent figures, and important discoveries. It's also one of the prettiest towns in England, and one of the nicest places to spend a summer's day. It's also been my home for the last four years. Sadly, I'm shortly moving to the Big Smoke, but before I left I thought I'd invite all you noders over for a chilled-out weekend indulging in a few typically Cambridge pursuits.

The plan

The plan is simple: From 11am I shall be sitting in the Eagle pub in the centre of Cambridge. It's probably Cambridge's best known pub, and supposedly where the structure of DNA was first scribbled on the back of a napkin, so it seems like a good place to start. Once noders are gathered, we will head out, via the shops, and enjoy a picnic by the River Cam (bonus points for anyone who brings anything homemade). When we're all sufficiently fortified, we shall charter punts and go punting, which, for those unfamiliar with the term, is an excellent way to waste an afternoon by chartering a boat and trying to go somewhere by the most inefficient method possible, while drinking Pimm's and eating strawberries, and doubtless making wise and interesting comments on the issues of the day. It's worth remembering that people do occasionally fall in while punting, so don't wear anything that can't withstand a dousing with cold water.

To finish up the day, we will explore many of Cambridge's fine drinking establishments, in a meander through a variety of pubs (with an emphasis on decent beer, history and a lack of loud music), picking up dinner at one of the better ones.

The practicalities

Cambridge is reasonably well connected with the rest of the country by the usual selection of rail, road and coach. The station is (apocryphally) some distance out of town to prevent too many students succumbing to the hedonistic temptations of London, but fifteen minutes walk takes you straight to the centre of Cambridge. Those coming by car are reccommended to use the park and ride areas that surround Cambridge, as parking in town is scarce and expensive. Of course, if you're coming, msg me for my number in case of any problems.

Secondly, I am unfortunately still a penniless student, so accommodation with me is limited: my floor is large enough to accommodate several noders, but it's in a shared house, so facilities are somewhat limited: msg me if you need crash space, but I can't guarantee it, I'm afraid. For those on a tight budget, there's a not-hugely extortionate youth hostel, details of which can be found here, alternatively, there are numerous hotels in the Cambridge area.


Unfortunately, the weather forecast is not good: the weather for the last few days has been distinctly variable, so it could be anything from blazing sunshine to heavy rain: pack accordingly. We do have an alternative plan for rain: we'll take a wander round Cambridge's museums, and probably start the pub crawl a bit earlier.

Secondly, The Debutante has kindly offered to cook a roast for noders still around on Sunday: she's based in Newmarket, which is a short train/bus ride away from Cambridge. Msg her if you're interested.

The people

As if the prospect of a weekend in one of England's prettiest towns isn't enough to tempt you, there will also be the company of many of the finest Britnoders:




PS. Anyone who fleshes out the punting node so that it doesn't appear to be an obscure sexual fetish will receive my eternal gratitude (real value: 1 pint).

A Gin Socked Nodermeet

A nodermeet revolving primarily around a specific student noder's taste in pubs? What better idea could there be?


I breezed into the Eagle opposite Corpus Christi College fifth; BaronWR, The Debutante, Deb's brother Josh and Wntrmute were already there, as were cakes, delicious cakes. After a while La petite mort and StrawberryFrog arrived and later still Andrew Aguecheek, finding his way to the pub relatively inerrantly, having been provided, if I remember correctly, with an actual map to follow. And then a tall gentleman with glasses walked in, looked at us suspiciously, and wandered away into the depths of the Eagle pub.

As if responding to a noder ping, the topic turned to "how to recognise a fellow noder in the wild". Wntrmute confessed that once he had actually asked a possible stranger, in public, whether she knew about lesbians, monkeys and soy. As a method, this was deemed effective, if risky. A subtler secret handshake might be necessary. Still, talking about such odd topics at a relatively elevated volume caused the tall guy to wander back and hesitantly introduce himself as krimson, which was a good thing: it meant the meet wasn't going to turn out to be just a gathering of the Britnodermeet Usual Suspects.

Krimson kindly offered to arrange for us to be allowed into King's College chapel for a toddle around, and some photography, which was nice, as despite my years in Cambridge I had never been inside most of the major tourist attractions. You don't think to photograph the Bridge of Sighs when it's just your morning walk to lectures, right?

It was threatening rain - as it did all day - when we left King's. Lunch was bought from M&S and consisting mainly of dip and things to dip into the dip, but a picnic and punting seemed impractical when the clouds could burst at any time. Instead, we went to BaronWR's college JCR, which was crammed to the gills with the posessions of the many, many students leaving college on account of the meet falling precisely on the end of term.

StrawberryFrog produced a sock protecting half a bottle of Old Raj gin. La petite mort produced several bottles of tonic. This was to prove a running theme of the meet.

Krimson left us at this point and we took in as much of the Fitzwilliam Museum as we could in the hour we had before it closed. Frankly, an entire day could have been spent in there, especially with highly educated history graduates doing the talking.

Then began the pub crawl. Our first port of call was a low, dark, vaguely post-apocalyptic bar, you know the kind: think black-clad roving motorcycle gangs with heavy black spiky armour throwing each other through windows and fifty miles of desert to the nearest fresh water source. Despite appearances I quite enjoyed this pub on account of the excellent Iron Maiden/Metallica-based music playlist. Beer was consumed. We moved on.

The second pub was pleasant and supposedly good for food except in that they ran out of potatoes. All potatoes and potato products. This is quite impressive in a food-serving establishment. Several of us plumped for sausage sandwiches, and these proved to be really quite impressive constructions, testing the limits of the conventional definition of the "sandwich" with slices of bread thicker than they were wide.

Noung arrived. This made his first nodermeet (although he has met Deb and BaronWR on occasions). What's to say about that? If you know Noung from the catbox you know Noung in reality, effectively. The boy is cool.

Lpm insisted everybody move around after the food, to let different people talk to each other; this represented an interesting combinatoric problem which I shall formalise mathematically at some point.

We visited the Reality Checkpoint, which is a lamppost in the centre of Parker's Piece, which is a huge square area of grassland in the middle of Cambridge. The Checkpoint stands at the crossroads of two paths which cross the grass diagonally. Reasons for its name are unclear, but the prevailing theory is that the Reality Checkpoint marks the boundary between the domain of Cambridge University, which lies to its west, and the real world, east.

We checked reality. We pondered why the Checkpoint had a padlock on it, and what could possibly be stored within. Machinery for maintaining the Cambridge University reality distortion field, perchance? Wntrmute departed at this point.

We moseyed to a final pub, which I believe was called The Elm Tree and was, refreshingly, stocked entirely with real ales (rather than just two, as usually found elsewhere, one of them invariably being Greene King IPA) and, better yet, staffed by a guy who knew what he was talking about. We stayed here until closing time, drinking excellent beer and discussing (as occasionally happens on nodermeets) noding. Naturally, this came to a consensus just as easily as catbox discussions do.

Lastly we went back to BaronWR's amusing, Escher-esque student lodgings (apparently the house is sinking and/or falling apart and/or suffering water damage; every "flat" surface in the building lies at a different angle), where white wine and more G&Ts were drunk and, despite the erudite and learnéd conversation continuing around me, I began to fall asleep.

Deb, Noung, StrawberryFrog and La petite mort all went their various ways around 1am, leaving BaronWR, Andrew Aguecheek and myself to finish the wine and sleep on bed, couch and floor respectively.


We woke up chipper; what I shall describe as "BaconWR sandwiches" were served. Noung didn't make it to day two of the meet, because he had to work, but krimson reappeared while we were waiting at the bus station.

Come to think of it, we never saw him and krimson in the same place over the whole weekend. Hmm.

It turns out that, on a Sunday, there are four buses from Cambridge to Newmarket. Altogether. Still, we made it to Deb's (new!) house in time for tonic, gin and lunch. Annoyingly, Sunday was absolutely beautiful by comparison with Saturday. We actually got slightly dappled by sun.

A house rule where I live is "winner tidies up"; this applies to board games but also to meals, where the "winner" is whoever didn't cook. "Winner" is actually an excellent description of anybody who gets to eat any of The Debutante and La petite mort's food, which is invariably so delicious as to be intimidating. I had been vaguely considering hosting a nodermeet myself this summer, but all I can do is make meat hot, so, frankly, it'd just be an embarrassment. Since you ask, the food was chicken (one entire chicken), followed by this. "This chicken needs eating" is one of the English language's most beautiful sentences.

More wine was served. The genetic makeup of certain favoured cartoon characters was discussed at length and in depth. The Guardian crossword was solved. A minor topological brainteaser in the form of a tangled string puppet was solved, and the puppet, a two-legged camel, danced.

I'll probably truncate the tale there because the trip home afterwards is always the worst part of any nodermeet, not only because noders are such uniformly illuminating and wonderful characters but because, in my case, the UK rail network is usually involved.


BaronWR deserves credit as the focal point of this outing. The cooks have already been credited above. And, obviously, a nodermeet is nothing without noders to meet. Until next time!



La petite mort:

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