"Here, over earthy cups of foam, I have felt relationships accrue layers with time, like the flaky skin of an almond croissant."Bex Walton/Flickr

Life in Cambridge is full of rituals. Though the acts of mass inherited spectacle – long queues for a short dance, a mass of shiny snapshots in a kebab shop – often alienated me, I took immense pleasure in the smaller habits that this city instilled within me: noticing the moor hens that nest around Queen’s Backs; the cold light that hangs over Jesus Green in the morning; the peach light that seeps out of King’s chapel in the sun.

Love Letters to Cambridge

These are tough and uncertain times for us all, and a lot of us are left with little closure. Varsity are launching this series to give a platform to students reflecting on the parts of Cambridge they'll miss the most, and to gain some closure through writing. Just email our Features team with a 150-word pitch with your idea!

My deepest and fondest ritual, though, is Hot Numbers (forever present tense).

Hot Numbers (verb)

to revive, to hide, to moan, to giggle

We art historians welcome this leafy church as our neighbour, just over the road from our department and visible from the library. Branded keep-cup in hand, you have been my sister of solace – religiously, four times a week, eight-weeks a term, three terms a year – for three joyfully caffeinated years.

Just like a bumbling Prufrock, I have measured out my life here in six-ounce coffee cups. Some two hundred and fifty odd, I should say. Though Google Maps assures me that the department is a twenty minute walk from my house, I will forever leave a roomy thirty five to account for a coffee stop.

I cross your threshold. Sometimes my glasses will steam up, or my fringe will be soaked with rain. It’s mid-morning, or early afternoon. The queue is healthy, snaking towards the door. It moves languorously – I am always thankful for this. Stood in line, my day slows to a gentle pause and I allow my mind to wander into cloudy jazz. More often than not, I will see someone I know, as if we’re in a tiny village. If it is a Sunday, I will buy a sourdough.

“Facing the department, we would wave to friends as they entered the library, squinting into sunlight and gales.”

I’ve learnt faces and names, and seen them change. There was the sexy freckled man with the septum piercing (if you’re reading this, call me 07738497007 xx); lovely Roxanna, the American illustrator with the buttery smile; the stoner guy who, to the detriment of my pride, would forget my name literally every single day.

Toasties filled with manchego and spinach pesto; goats cheese and beetroot chutney; garlicky mushrooms, pulpy tomatoes. Avocado toast topped with black mustard seeds and papery circles of pale pink radish. In moments of caprice, I’ve been known to cheat on my beloved oat flat white with the batch brew. From time to time, I am similarly seduced by the pour over, served in a tiny glass carafe on a tiny wooden tray.

My memory is encrusted in corners and worn into the wooden floor. Crumbling in the front bay window, I wept over the end of my two-year relationship on a grey October day. I broke a slice of orange polenta cake with a fork, and, in that moment, felt my wretchedness ease. Half way down the communal bench, I photographed my grandfather beside a girthy green aloe vera potted in ceramic as we drank coffee together and he talked about his dog. I have learnt of friends falling in and out of love from a table in the gravel garden, or sat on a stool in the back by the door.

"I photographed my grandfather beside a girthy green aloe vera potted in ceramic as we drank coffee together and he talked about his dog."Ashley Saville

Here, over earthy cups of foam, I have felt relationships accrue layers with time, like the flaky skin of an almond croissant. Perched on the red metal furniture facing Trumpington Street, I met my friend Will every Tuesday for three years. We would sit on the table to the left of the door: remarkably always free when we wanted it. A perennial suntrap, we stretched out in the light and talked about movies for an hour. Will would smoke many cigarettes and drink very large cups of strong black. Facing the department, we would wave to friends as they entered the library, squinting into sunlight and gales.


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Mountain View

A love letter to the Architecture Department

In March, I left Cambridge abruptly and half-heartedly. I did not then think it necessary to bid farewells of any sort. I took with me what I could – my clothes, my plants, some books. I did not dare permit a single sentimental drop.

Now, faced with the truth of our estrangement, dear neighbour, my heart is sad. Thank you for marking my life, from my nineteenth year on earth to my twenty first. Thank you for letting me cry in your queue so many times, and for putting a roof over countless moments of sparkling friendship. Consider this a postcard from a holiday gone wrong – see you soon.

Love, Ashley x

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