Posted by: boethe | November 24, 2008

The nightclimbers of Cambridge

I thought it was appropriate to give my inauguration in the scenery of a town that we have common recent memories on.

Me, I have always admired the aesthetic athleticism of “l’art du déplacement”, commonly known as Parkour. My personal trials in l’art quickly led to a near-broken shin (which, I can assure, is just as painful as a full-broken shin can possibly be), upon which I reasonably concluded that the lifestyle of a traceur did not at all fit in with the prudent life of an alpha-university-student, and that though I certainly had the skills, it was a stupid idea.

This great display of rationalization has now for me been shattered when I read of a group of 1930s-Cambridge-students. As Uni failed to deliver excitement through academic achievements, they sought their excitement in nightly climbs to the highest roofs and tallest towers of King’s College, St. John’s College, and the city of Cambridge. In 1937 the group anonymously published a book full of great stories, pictures, and most importantly climbing routes which are still in high demand today. The book itself is very rare, but fortunately for Cambridge students and unfortunate for my previously described rationalization, it has recently been made available online:

One autumn day some years ago we were slowly walking through Cambridge, in despair at our utter inefficiency. There was no taste in anything. Nothing was so easy but was too difficult, the lightest task was too much effort. We had just missed a supervision because it had seemed too much trouble to walk across the court. Life had sunk to a stage of sitting vacantly and waiting for the next meal. A complete and permanent tack of interest had set in. Something drastic was needed.

Summoning the last vestiges of mental energy, we vowed to do the hardest thing we could think of. lnstead of failing, through lack of interest, in the multitude of things that had grown so tiresome, we would come back to life, not quietly, but with a gigantic achievement as a kick-off. It was the only hope. With something like this behind us, the effort of living would become easier, and the successful effort would embody itself in our character. But what was there that we could possibly find to serve the purpose? It was the darkest hour.

At this moment we looked up and saw the spires of King’s Chapel. Here was the answer. Though we had known the fascination, we had always felt a strong fear of heights. We had no qualification, mental or physical, for the job, except a strong desire not to jellify into permanent unconsciousness. If we could do it, we should recover. Thus we started night climbing.

I have now just put on my old footy-shin-guards and I suggest that our next visit to Cambridge entails a nightly excursion full of aesthetic athletic achievements.

Link to the Book (via Nerdcore)


  1. Good idea!
    Hope they keep Tobi excited otherwise there are sufficient university buildings in Maastricht to climb or what about churches, buildings sites and flats.

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