Summer Schools in the making: Clocks, eagles and networks

Written by Sarah Ormrod Friday, 21 February 2014 15:17

Eagle 200px

What happened to January and most of February? The time has flown. The steady ticking of the clock over the weeks between now and April mark ‘a time of making’ for International Programmes, following on from brochure completion. Over 300 enrolments are in, with more pending. The next layers of preparation, running in parallel with the processing of these applications and responding to enquiries, involve the posting of completed course materials on the online resource centre for accepted students, the finalising of plenary lecture titles and dates, excursion-planning, and a host of process updates, so that the machinery we put in place runs like clockwork.

I bought a clock at the end of December, to hang in the place where my grandparents’ clock used to be, as that one has gone to my sister. It’s not identical to that ‘Vienna Regulator’, but very close, and it is pleasing to have the gentle ticking and strident strike at the heart of the house. I’m less happy that it is rather fussier in design that the original, but delighted that it has at the top a wood and plaster eagle, a feature which was lost from my grandparents’ clock years before it came to us. It’s not a particularly fine bit of carving – there’s more than a hint of parrot to that eagle – but for me, this particular eagle is precious as a symbol of something found, to recall something long lost. It’s an innocent thing, in that context.

A glance through the office window to a bird-table sends butterfly-flitting thoughts to eagles, in general. I’m familiar with them through zoo visits as a child, raptor centre visits and television documentaries. Since our part of the UK rarely sees any very large birds in the sky (red kites are slowly returning, and there are a few buzzards, and the occasional heron comes over, on its way to the lake at the front of Madingley Hall), seeing an eagle in the wild is a rare treat for me. I have fine recollections of a train journey between Vancouver and Seattle, 18 or more years ago, watching sea eagles swooping for prey along the shoreline, and seeing some 11 or 12 altogether (an extended family of juveniles and adults) in a field a few years later, when driving with my own extended (surrogate) US family.

Still with eagles, my mind bounces to the famous Eagle pub in Cambridge, opened a year after the Great Fire of London, in 1667, and originally called the ‘Eagle and Child’. (There’s a pub of that name in St Giles in Oxford, known as the ’Bird and Baby’, frequented by C S Lewis and Tolkien. C S Lewis distributed proofs for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe there in 1950.) Our own ‘Eagle’ hosted Watson and Crick in 1953 as they announced their proposal for ‘the structure of life’: the discovery of DNA, and also boasts a ceiling covered in graffiti by World War II airmen.

Speaking of war, eagles (single, or double-headed) and hawks have been used as symbols of power and strength for thousands of years, in Ancient and in modern Egypt, in Ancient Rome, the Holy Roman Empire, by Arab States, by Spain, Germany, France and the USA. They’ve also appeared in medieval heraldry, and were used for their seal by several Hanse wool-trading guilds.

All of this thinking, from glance at a clock on the wall: networks of thoughts which tie in – on so many levels – to the chart on my office wall of courses for 2014…courses on Egypt and on Rome in the Ancient Empires Summer School; courses on international relations, crises and war and empire in the History Summer School and the three Terms of the Interdisciplinary Summer School; a course on Tolkien in the Literature Summer School; sessions on trade and trading ports in the Hanseatic League and – as a result of an email exchange just this morning – a plenary on heraldic achievement as part of the Interdisciplinary Summer School series.

The very process of recording the way the mind flits from one topic to another, or the way thoughts and recollections are triggered brings me to the memory and networks courses in the Science programme, and last, but not least, to the Creative Writing option, which might one day help me be a little more erudite in my blog writing!

Sarah J Ormrod


More Articles...