Crossing the river into Durham was one of those geographic transitions that seemed to be full of extraordinary significance – like crossing the Tamar into Cornwall, or passing through the checkpoint in the Tatra mountains between Poland and Slovakia. After a steep descent and a sharp bend to the bridge, the road narrows as it crosses the Wear; then a careful drive over the old cobbles, through the entrance in the wall and onto the bailey, the peninsula of historic Durham where the college lies. (Hence the college street address of South Bailey; there is a myth that in the geographic centre of the peninsula lies a plinth called the mark bailey). Normally the drive in is much less scenic: but the road past the multi-storey car-park was being repaired, so the Prebend’s Bridge, as it is called, was temporarily opened.
We’ve just completed the induction week; plenty of formalities, such as acquiring an official student card and struggling to get an old PC onto the network. Somehow I have acquired an enormous room, which to my delight has a south-facing bow window, which will suit the cacti I squirreled into the luggage. My next-door neighbour, Tom, is a giant, and the more people ask him how tall he is, the more he staunchly refuses to get accurately measured (though he allows that he’s probably about 6ft8). Another student is Andrew Stobart, which prompted what, at the time, I feared might be my dummest question of the week: “are you, ahem, er, related to the truck company?” – to which he replied “yes, Eddie Stobart is my uncle!”. Anecdotes aside, I do feel hugely privileged to be able to share the next two years with this group of people.
Although we won’t be getting into serious theology until next week, we have started the daily round of official morning and evening prayer. For someone who comes from a tradition that prefers prayer to be more spontaneous and free-flowing, this is an educational experience!