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Inbox 87

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Mira Katbamna

Editor’s letter

Welcome to the Easter edition of CAM. According to HMRC, tax doesn’t have to be taxing. But should it be life-enhancing? Fun, even? From customs duties to tax havens, in this issue we discover that while tax policy might not be sexy, it could well determine the character of a nation.

Dungeons and Dragons. Live-action roleplay. Cosplay. Whatever you call it, play – in person and often in full costume – has never been more on-trend. In this issue, we find out why games for grown-ups are undergoing a renaissance.

Think single-cell organisms are simple? Think again. Dr Ross Waller explains that finding out more about these complex, beautiful structures is essential – not least because, at the moment, we know so little.

Finally, we would like to pay tribute to CAM’s crossword setter, John Harrington – better known in these pages as Schadenfreude – who died earlier this year. Over the past 10 years, his wit and imagination confounded, infuriated and delighted readers. You can find the solution to his last CAM puzzle in this issue.

On all these topics – along with anything else Cambridge-related – we look forward to your contribution to the debate, whether by post, email or on social media.

Mira Katbamna (Caius 1995)




Professor Sharman’s exposure (CAM 86) of the collaboration of rich western countries with corrupt leaders of developing countries reveals how the failure to enforce available legislation has made the provision of secure homes a distant dream for millions of UK citizens.
Henry Pryor (Trinity 1954)

Another great issue. Just one thing: kleptocracy doesn’t, or shouldn’t, mean rule by thieves, but power/might/strength/grip of (by/for) thieves. The difference is key: this useful term (coined perhaps in the early 1960s?) is potentially of universal application and, as is the case today, most of the thieves don’t hold formal, let alone elected, political power.
Paul Cartledge (Emeritus AG Leventis Professor of Greek Culture; Fellow of Clare College)


What a shock to read that Schadenfreude, your crossword setter, had died. He has given so much cerebral ‘pain and pleasure’ over the years and will be sorely missed.
Neil Curwen (St Catharine’s 1959)

The instructions could be off-puttingly complicated (and they did once get him into Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner), but it was worth persevering. I hope that you find a halfway worthy successor. PS: I have come back to him, after a lazy gap, by tackling 86, which is brilliant indeed.
Charles Barr (King’s 1958)

Schadenfreude will be sorely missed by thousands of solvers of advanced crosswords everywhere. I do hope you will continue this excellent seriesof puzzles! They have been some of the very best published.
Tim King (Trinity 1980)

Fifteen years ago, my goal was to get a place at Cambridge. For the last 10 years it’s been to solve just one clue in the alumni magazine #cryptic crossword. Sometimes I wonder if the puzzle is gibberish, printed to remind us we’re not as smart as we think.
Hannah Whiteoak (Newnham 2005)

Mill Road

CAM is a very stylish and beautifully laid-out journal; in CAM 86 I particularly liked Niall McDiarmid’s thoughtful photographs [of Mill Road].
Chris Storey (Trinity 1958)

In 1968, I lived in Mill Road (at number 203) with my friend, Ceri White (St Catharine’s 1964). The rent was £2-10-0 a week and I don’t recall being very radical, but I do remember it as bustling, thriving and a fun place to live. Our house was certainly in need of attention, and the bathroom facilities were very basic. I had a lot of friends who frequented the Locomotive pub and there was an excellent wholefood shop called Arjuna (which I am delighted to see is still there).
Peter Baker (Magdalene 1964)

Your piece on Mill Road reminded me of the Midland (now Devonshire) where I spent much of my third year. Punk nights on Wednesdays and reggae at the weekends. I helped to set up a gig there for the legendary St John’s band, Roger and the Bannisters, who sang: “Cambridge girls, Cambridge girls/ Leave me out of your social whirl/ Cambridge girls, Cambridge girls / You wouldn’t last a minute in the real world”. The bitterness of the lyric was possibly influenced by the scarcity of those girls at the time.
Mike Eagles (St John’s 1977)

Killer plants

Regarding your piece on plant blindness (CAM 86): if you show a picture of a plant in a field of chickens, does dietary preference affect who sees it.
Steve Parfitt (Jesus 1969)

University Matters

In CAM 86 you sought feedback. I put CAM in the same category as The Economist: a magazine which is often more interesting in areas in which one has little knowledge, rather than the areas where one has natural interest. That is meant to be a great compliment. I always look forward to CAM arriving and I always find it worth reading – it serves a sustaining educational purpose. You may not get many responses, but I think many, many people enjoy reading CAM.
John Mair (Caius 1982)


Professor Catherine Barnard says: “For Cambridge, the best future immigration policy is one as close as possible to what we’ve got at the moment”. As chair of a university spin-out company, I want to attract the most able staff in the world, not just Europe. An immigration policy that supported migration on an equal basis of the world’s most able people, wherever they were based, would surely also support the University’s international role and status.
Andrew Mackintosh (Darwin 1978)

The 12,922,659 eligible people who did not vote in 2016 can be categorised into two broad groups: those who did not care, and those who did not think that it was worth voting. If Brexit is reversed there will be another 17,410,742 people with enough concrete evidence to sympathise with that latter group. This would place 65 per cent of the electorate into the essentially disenfranchised don’t care/don’t have faith category. No democracy can survive that kind of statistic for long.
Victor Launert (Sidney Sussex 1985)

My Room, Your Room

Rowan Williams says the biggest change to his room is the absence of the gas cooking ring. Back in my third year, I had an identical room to his: maybe my memory’s playing tricks on me but I’m pretty sure we had uncarpeted wooden floors. That feels like a pretty big change to me. Marina Hardwick [see below] was on our floor, too, but had the luxury apartment at the end of the corridor, where I expect she didn’t just have carpet but also chandeliers, mini bar, trouser press and colour TV.
Steve Mill (Christ’s 1982)

No carpet! But for a while I shared with a stray kitten I’d found. It lived in a cardboard box and it was a struggle to keep the bedder out until I gave it to the Blue Cross.
Marina Hardwick (Christ’s 1982)

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