Every year my old college produces its Annual Record. As the name suggests, it’s a publication reviewing the previous twelve months of college life. The 2018 edition arrived in the post two days ago. I had been looking forward to it and couldn’t remember exactly what time of year it usually arrives. Like many items sent by mail these days, it comes in a clear plastic cover rather than a regular envelope. There is no postmark, so even if I’d kept last year’s packaging it wouldn’t have shown me the date when it was posted. Like many things on this Blog, the words that follow can serve as an extended diary entry and reminder for me, if for nobody else: the booklet (A5 size as usual) arrived on 10 December 2018.
In the 1980s and 90s the Annual Record was printed in black and white with very few pictures. At some point in the last 20 years it switched to full colour on glossy paper, and recent editions feature photographs on many of the pages. This year’s edition contains a total of 199 pages, so there’s plenty of reading in there. As usual, I turned first to the end of the book, to the “In Memoriam” section to see if any of my contemporaries have died since last year’s publication. You would do the same, right? It lists one person from my year. I met him in my first week at college, at one of those small gatherings where older students invite a dozen or so freshers to their room, to welcome them and introduce them to some of their peers. We spoke briefly. For about a month afterwards we acknowledged each other when we passed but never spoke again. We studied different subjects and had no mutual friends, and apart from college meals in hall we were never in the same room at the same time after that first week. I don’t recall seeing him at any of the Reunions but can picture exactly how he looked back in the 1980s. May he rest in peace.
The next section that I turned to in the Annual Record is titled “Addresses Wanted”. Until two years ago this listed hundreds of people for whom the college no longer has up-to-date contact details. Looking at the 2016 edition I see that 35 of my immediate peers were named, around 15% of the intake for our year. For the last two years there have been no lists, just a short paragraph thanking those who have enabled the college to update its records, and asking the rest of us, if we know of anyone who is not receiving information from the college, to suggest that they contact the Alumni Relations Office. When reading all those names in “Addresses Wanted” in previous years I often wondered how many of them might appear in the “In Memoriam” section the following year. None of them did, as far as I recall.
Towards the front of the booklet (starting on page 48 in this year’s edition) is a list of Alumni Achievements. It includes people who have been made QCs, awarded OBEs or elected as MPs. Back in the 1980s, the way I remember it, there seemed to be more notifications of Church of England appointments than there are these days. Some of these notifications were spread over three or four lines of text, along the lines of “Appointed to the position of Assistant Curate at the Church St Mary the Virgin and All Saints, in the Parish of Frimlingham-on-the-Wold, in the Diocese of Upper Washbrookstowe, Northumberland”. At some point in the 1980s, one such note appeared directly above a much shorter one: “Prime Minister of India”.
Until I sat down to draft this piece I hadn’t realized that today is the anniversary of my interview at the college. It was a cold, wet Friday. I took the train from Liverpool Street, at least an hour earlier than I needed to. After arriving in Cambridge I walked the 30 minutes or so from the station, wandered around the college’s three oldest courts, read all the notices posted outside hall, and still had nearly an hour to find my way to the building on Grange Road where I was interviewed. Two hours later I was back on the train to London, pretty sure that they wouldn’t offer me a place. But they did. I have over three decades’ worth of Annual Records to prove it.