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Postcard from Cambridge

Marzena Puto from Radom was one of the winners of the British Studies web pages ĎIdentityí competition in 2001. Her prize was a course at the Studio Cambridge Language School.This is an article she wrote about an aspect of Cambridge which especially interested her.

Iím not a very sporty type of person. I donít know the rules of many British gamesÖ or maybe itís not about knowing but rather understanding. Because of that cricket or polo are not my favourite ones. But thereís definitely a discipline which I extremely enjoy. Itís punting. Itís not really a competitive sport. Itís done mainly for pleasure and in England there are two towns where you can try it yourself: Cambridge and Oxford. For those who hear about it for the first time I have to explain that according to the dictionary, Ďa puntí is a long narrow river-boat with a flat bottom and square ends, that is moved by pushing a long pole against the bottom of the river. So Ďpuntingí is simply an act of going out in a punt. ĎNot so difficultí, you may think. Read on.

When I heard about the opportunity of going punting, I was very excited. But the closer the day of it was, the more discouraged I became. To begin with, not everyone from the group of people Iíd already met got the ticket. Then, the weather changed so I thought they would cancel everything. I was wrong. For British people clouds, wind and rain arenít any obstacles. Moreover, we were to punt ourselves! Literally! I decided to be brave. After all, as my host said, Ďif itís not anything else, itíll be a new experience.í So I went and I certainly do not regret it.

Although the weather wasnít promising, when we came to the meeting point (Silver Street Bridge) the wind stopped and the sun came out of the clouds. My fears about not having a good time disappeared as soon as I met the girls sitting with me in the boat. We started our journey and as always having my camera ready, I admired the sights on both banks of the river Cam.

Astonishing in architecture, St Johnís College is also known as Ďthe wedding cakeí. Kingís College chapel or The Bridge of Sighs are only a few of many objects you can take pictures of. When punting in Cambridge you can see the colleges from a slightly different perspective than when walking along Kingís Parade or Trinity Street.

As a novice you have to know that there is a list of common errors in punting. With this list in my hand and my eyes wide open I found out that everything can happen if you donít have enough experience.

The pole creates the most difficulty. You can either lose it (it happened to my friend), or entangle with others doing their best to move the punt (it happens to everybody). The third possibility is when you poke somebody standing on one of many Cambridge bridges with the pole. In return, he or she can grab your essential pole and run away. Then, thereís no choice but to sit in the punt and shout for help. If you hold your pole too tightly, you can lose your boat (itís rather dangerous) or the last problem: you can end up in the water (not very enjoyable if itís cold).

As you can see, punting is an extremely exciting activity. You can socialize, get a new experience and sightsee a little. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to take some clothes to change (just in case), and hold on to the boat as tight as you can.


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