Madingley Rise, April 10th, 2006

The first thing I notice is the trees. I walk past trees like these every day, but with a camera in my hand their gnarled bark suddenly stands out like carved gargoyles on a college roof.

The approach to the Astronomy buildings is like the driveway to a stately home. I cycle up this path pretty much every day; it's a slight incline, so I have time to marvel at the pseudo-Classical splendour...

...and to look at the path which branches off to the right, half-hidden in the hedge, marked only by a short span of rusty railing. It's the path I don't take; it's all the times when I don't just sit down on the stairs instead of going into the office. I always wondered where that path went.

Soon the woodland track turns into a cycle path, edged in stark white against the browns and greens and greys, like a child's drawing of the trees and tracks around it, but coloured in with the wrong paint.

The whole site is covered in flowers at this time of year; even without a camera I can't help noticing them. Besides, flowers never look as good on camera. They're all designed to be seen close-up and far-away at the same time.


That's the sort of impossibility that only the brain can convince itself is achievable. The camera's eye relentlessly collapses the colours into one thing or the other, a detail or a design.

Suddenly, around the corner, there's a building in the distance, all blocks and sharp angles. It seems further away than it is, in space and meaning; it looks as if it landed in this clearing, hoping its arrival had been shielded by the woods.

Between me and the building are (a crowd, a host) a million daffodils.

I stand in the midst of the daffodils, taking photos, feeling like a spy. Nobody sees me; at least, I don't see anybody see me.

I turn the corner and realise where I am: back on the path by which I used to come into work.

There's another path that I don't take.

The crazy drunken path leads towards a building (purpose unknown) covered in pipes. Buildings grow their own branches, put forth their own peculiar fruit.

The path leads me back round to the back door, an entrance as unwelcoming as it is familiar.

I ensure that it closes behind me. As if there could be any doubt.