Thank God it's Friday;Features amp; Arts

10th December 1999 at 00:00
MONDAY I've got used to singing builders, the 6am dustcart, a street cleaning machine, security alarms and a cafe owner dragging chairs across the cobbles at 7.30 each morning. This morning pneumatic drills add a new dimension to the cacophony. Semi-conscious, I make my escape to Sidney library. Who said Cambridge life was tranquil?

TUESDAY The gardeners have ripped out all the powder-red geraniums in the master's garden - by lunchtime, rows of winter pansies have taken their place. That reminds me of yet another job I should have done back home. A quick call about heavy frosts might do the trick.

WEDNESDAY I officially exist on the stairwell. A man in blue overalls arrives with two door labels. I persuade him to cut the "r" out of Mrs. During mid-morning coffee with library staff, I admire Cromwell's death mask. They'll be glad when this year is over- Cromwell's quatercentenary has been hectic for them. After lunch I wander sightless along Sidney Street for 30 minutes while an optician fixes my glasses. All this intense reading is taking its toll.

THURSDAY I'm feeling pleased about Chelsea's European win last night - although rugby and the boat club remain more likely topics of sporting conversation here. I visit Anglia University to see how the other half learns, and listen to an excellent lecture by Clive Wilmer on writing poetry. The students agree it was "better than that metaphor stuff we had last week". I visit Homerton to talk about teaching poetry with Morag Styles. After dining at Corpus Christi my head is full of new people, ideas and books I must follow up urgently. What delicious pressure.

FRIDAY The university is on alert for the Chinese president's visit. Some of the Tibetan flags and placards are shrouded from view, but the chanting makes some of the Chinese delegation turn and stare. I spend much of the day wading through periodicals and waiting for a fetcher to bring me the next pieces of my research jigsaw. I feel privileged to work in this library; it will spoil me for research elsewhere.

The week ends with a tour of the wine cellars. We learn that port is no longer in vogue, and gather round a case of 65-year-old cognac. The wine steward tells us the college would need to find a good excuse for it to see the light of day. A challenge for the weekend.

Sue Dymoke is researching poetry teaching in secondary schools and is the schoolteacher fellow commoner at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge

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