It’s distinctly chilly on some mornings, though as yet no ice on the lake at Madingley (which thought was in my mind as I did my own version of a Monet ice floes image for this year’s greeting card), and yet unseasonably warm on others. As greetings come in from around the world, we’ve seen deep snow from Norway, and heard that temperatures are still high in Singapore, very close to the Equator.
On cold evenings after work, I’ve been in front of the television. Most recently, I’ve been transfixed by a UK television series about the building of Guedelon Castle in France, using only medieval building techniques. Huge numbers will now see what is taking place: a C13th-century building project to span just 25 years, of which 15 have already expired. Recent episodes have discussed ochre pigments, stone cutting and the making of gambesons (arming coats). Fascinating stuff.
I’m intrigued because I visited the site in 2007, and it seems that a huge amount has been achieved in that time, although there is still a staggering amount to do. One has to admire vision on that scale, and it is humbling – for those of us who plan perhaps 5 years in advance – to think of builders who start great projects which are unlikely to be completely finished in a generation’s time. (We have only to think of the chequered history of our own famous landmark – King’s College Chapel – to be reminded that long-term building projects are subject to change along the way. King’s is recognised worldwide, not least because of the broadcast on Christmas Eve of the service of lessons and carols. I hadn’t realised the broadcasting was begun in 1928, three generations ago.)
A great deal can happen in a generation: I spoke the other morning to a group of US undergraduates in Cambridge for a couple of days, hoping that some may be interested in participating in our programmes in the next few years, but was able to say with conviction that the Summer Schools will still be here if they cannot manage to get to us for another 20 or 25 years. Terry, who had brought the group over, noted that he and I first met over 19 years ago, when he first came to the programme. Time flies.
It does not seem long ago at all that we began to piece together the programme for 2015, and here we are, already with over 70 applications received, even before the site was ready for people to apply online.
If you look at the BBC website and are determined to visit Guedelon, then please ensure you preface that visit with participation in our Medieval Studies Summer School – perhaps taking the double course on Romanesque Europe, 1100-50: piety, power and patronage, or the one on pigments, or serfdom, or the medieval knight. If you have also been following the story of the discovery of the body of Richard III in what is now a car park in Leicester, you may also be interested in our Science Summer School course on Forensic archaeology and anthropology, or might to take a step back further in time with the course on Richard II (again, in Medieval Studies).
Over the holidays we shall no doubt have a re-run of seasonal films (Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will be on somewhere, no doubt, and the third Hobbit is already in the cinemas), or find time to relax with a few good books. I may just be tempted to dip into the novels suggested by our Literature Summer School courses: Little Dorrit, another read of Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, or maybe Spenser’s Faerie Queene? Or I may just spend the time painting more icy rivers, walking, visiting family and friends and re-charging batteries ready for the New Year.
As the International Programmes team takes a brief respite over the festive season, we hope you will consider courses and send in an application, to greet us on our return to the office early in the New Year. Applications will be accepted in order of receipt.
I let out a whoop of delight when I learned just a few minutes ago that 101 applications have already been received. That is splendid news, and I cannot wait to see the numbers when I return in January.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Sarah J Ormrod, 19 December 2014