This week’s stopover on my short tour of locations is one which you will not find so easy to visit as the others. Well, you could do it, but the building in the photo, where you might start, is nowhere near any place where my novel will take you. If you think you recognise it you might be a little surprised when I tell you that it is Uncle Freddie’s college in Cambridge.
Radcliffe Court is a small theological college in Cambridge where Freddie Whitaker, now approaching retirement, has been principal for several years. Judith – sorry, Judy – will be spending some time there during the Easter vacation of her GCSE year. Now, I like to be able to visualise my locations as I work on the events which happen there, and I know Cambridge pretty well. But I don’t want to find that Radcliffe Court becomes tangled up in my head with the colleges that were important to me as a student there. It is different, very different.
And that is why I am lifting this place from its actual location and setting it down in some elusive spot which must be near Midsummer Common, but not on Jesus Lane – or on Huntingdon Road. (Okay, free Leaving Gilead to anyone who can tell me which two colleges I’m avoiding here.) The model for Radcliffe Court is in Hawarden in Flintshire – not very far in fact from my main locations. It is Gladstone’s Library, a really super residential library which is a perfect place to spend a few days away from distractions to get on with some writing.
Parents are crazy. Well, Judy’s are, at least her dad is. She still remembers, even though it’s forever ago (can you actually say that, forever ago?) when Uncle Freddie first became a minister. Her dad used to moan about it, at least have a dig now and again. Cause Freddie had let the side down. All the Whitakers were scientists, not mumbo-jumboists, and there was his big brother Freddie going off to be a parson in a long black frock. But then, when they made him Principal of Radfcliffe Court, he sort of mellowed as if he was even a little bit proud. Mind you, he never told anyone what kind of college it was. Let them think it was the same as King’s or Peterhouse or one of them. Sometimes Judy wanted to say, yes, Uncle Freddie teaches people to be vicars. But she never did. Because, really, she was a bit like her dad as well.