"Without the tourists and bustle, it is a rather peaceful city..."SIMON LOCK, VARSITY STOCK PHOTOS

Amidst the 2020 madness, Christmas was a victim. This is a time to enjoy the company of family and friends – for many this year, however, the jolly season became a little less merry. We were faced with tough decisions about where to spend the break. This was difficult enough for domestic students, but even more so for the internationals. Would seeing your family be worth multiple weeks of quarantine? Would you rather face the festive season alone? I chose the latter.

This wasn’t my first time in Cambridge over the vacation, although it was my first Christmas Day in college. Oddly enough, several people independently asked if the experience would be like Hogwarts. They envisioned a magical celebration; a big meal shared between gown-clad students, sitting at a long table in spectacular dining room. This is not, actually, far off the typical Caius Bridgemas. Unfortunately, given the current circumstances, floating candles would have been more likely.

Christmas in Cambridge was everything you might expect, but nothing you might hope for. Santa did not visit – believe me, I was as shocked as you – and there was no invisibility cloak waiting for me downstairs. The sky made a pitiful attempt at snow, as tantalising but ultimately unrewarding as chips from Gardi’s. My longest interaction with a real human was a shop attendant, and it lasted almost a minute. Finally, there was the matter of Christmas dinner. Convection microwaves can be spectacular, but I questioned their ability to cope with a turkey.

Now, do not get the wrong impression. Staying in Cambridge over the break had its perks. There has been a change in pace; the end of term mutes the constant hum of students, normally replaced by locals enjoying time off work. Not this year. With the restrictions on shops, bars, and restaurants, most people out are Deliveroo drivers. A few walkers, joggers, and families brave the cold. The danger of being run over by cyclists has decreased by at least 90%. Incredibly, the line outside Pret has disappeared. Come to think of it, I cannot even remember the last time I heard that man who zooms around blasting heavy metal. Without the tourists and bustle, it is a rather peaceful city.

“Students are what makes College come alive, transforming a shell into a community.”

The other bonus, of course, is being home alone. There are undeniable benefits when you are the only remaining member of your household. The silent feuds over laundry room washing machines are no more. The shower is always free, and you can keep your shampoo in there without the niggling suspicion that someone else is using it. The kitchen is only as messy as you want it to be, and you finally have the space to buy that big bottle of milk. Best of all, no-one is around to shout at you for enjoying a little AC/DC at 3am.

Sadly, I discovered I lack immunity to chronic loneliness. It is one thing to hate the sounds of term – the doors slamming in your staircase, the drunken singing every night on Trinity Street. It is quite another thing when you start missing these sounds. Even though the time has recently been extended, I am counting down the days until my friends return. Students are what makes College come alive, transforming a shell into a community.


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Breaking with Tradition

I must admit this experience has instilled in me a sense of gratitude. I’m grateful to the Porters for their chat, albeit behind that glass screen. I’m grateful to modern technology for allowing me to pester family and friends. I’m grateful to Covid – hear me out – for bringing the post back into fashion; a surprising number of Christmas cards have turned up in my pidge.

There may be no Cindies trip to welcome everyone back, no unforgettable nights you wish you could remember. However, with any luck, 2021 will bring change. Perhaps the next Christmas will make up for the joy some forfeited last year. Let us hope, that, together, we can look back on this strange time and laugh. These are the good old days of tomorrow.

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