liv: A woman with a long plait drinks a cup of tea (teapot)
[personal profile] liv
[personal profile] watersword asked about Cambridge-the-town. Basically I've considered myself "from" Cambridge from 1987 to today, though I've only actually lived there full time from 1995 to 1997. And I have only indirect connections with Cambridge-the-institution, I mean, quite a lot of indirect connections – just about everybody I've seriously dated (apart from [ profile] darcydodo) has been a Cambridge graduate – but I've basically spent my whole life clarifying, Cambridge-the-town, not Cambridge University.

I was not quite eight when I started commuting to a Cambridge day school. The commuting was kind of awful, I was leaving the house before 7 am and tagging along with older girls on the train who honestly I found more scary (they didn't bully me horribly but they weren't very nice to me either) than the nebulously understood threats they were supposed to protect me from. But I did like walking from the station to school. By the time I wasn't ridiculously younger than most of the other commuting pupils it was a chance to spend time with friends unsupervised by adults, but even when I was a bit of an excluded 8- or 9-year-old, it was a chance to experience what seemed to me like a huge and fascinating city on my own. I mean, I couldn't do very much, I didn't have any money and I didn't have a lot of spare time in which to get to school. I did sometimes linger and accepted getting in trouble for dawdling and lateness as the price of that precious half hour of freedom when I didn't have any adults telling me what to do, what to pay attention to. In those days they didn't really enforce payment to get in to the Botanic gardens, so I sometimes took a long-cut through the gardens to school, and that was inspiring in ways I didn't have vocabulary for at that age. I think it's probably then that I picked up a taste for just wandering around cities on foot, and for urban green spaces, both of which are things I love to this day.

As I grew up and started to have a parent-independent social life I got more and more frustrated about living so far away from my school and therefore most of my friends. I more and more longed for time in Cambridge in the evenings, not so much the city itself, but as a social nexus. And I got my wish in my mid-teens when my parents bought this lovely house in a small village just to the south of town. I mean, I was still a bit stuck because Cambridge public transport was even more terrible in the mid-90s than it is now, but at least I had options, like walking 6 miles home or getting a taxi, short of anything better. (I also got a lot of benefit from suddenly having an extra three hours in my day, but that's another story.)

I wasn't a very adventurous teenager at all, I never did anything like drink underage or stay out after my curfew. But in spite of that, I felt Cambridge to be too small, too limiting, and wanted to get away and spread my wings. I did some of the cultural stuff, of course, though a lot of that is more Cambridge-the-institution than Cambridge-the-town. But I certainly benefitted, even as a young person, from the availability of talks and events aimed at explaining science in an accessible way, and the good museums (more on that in a later prompt!) Plus the Jewish community there is really suited to me in many ways.

Cambridge and my parents' big lovely house remained my base while I was away half the year at university, and I still had a substantial social circle in the town, through the synagogue and those schoolfriends who stayed and also because I became friends with [personal profile] doseybat and through her started meeting students. And my parents have kept the house even though we've all long flown the nest, because it's just too lovely to give up even though it's a bit ridiculously huge for three retired adults. So they've always had space for me to come home, whether for a few months between jobs or just for a visit. In fact, this is the house I got married out of in 2012, which some of you will remember.

Indeed, this is probably the reason why I've ended up dating so many Cambridge people, regularly making Cambridge at least my social base even when I was living in Scotland or Sweden is certainly how I met [personal profile] jack. Getting to visit Cambridge occasionally as a treat rather than feeling stuck there, I appreciate much more than I did as a teenager how much there is going on culturally. And I just love getting off the train and stepping in to this almost fairy-tale reality where half the people out on the streets are wearing evening dress (yes, that's caused by the uni, but it contributes to the atmosphere of the town) and there are all these lovely old building and all the green space protected from development by the colleges. The other thing I love about Cambridge is the really strong geek culture there, the way it's really exceptionally accepting of all kinds of gender and relationship style variance, and it's trivially easy to find interesting, intelligent people to hang out with on any given evening or weekend.

I took up my permanent job in the Midlands just over 5 years ago, and continued spending most of my free time in Cambridge. When it's 4 hours away rather than a whole day's travel, that ends up being pretty much most weekends. Which is why this year I decided to buy a house with [personal profile] jack, so I am now officially a Cambridge resident again, even if only part time. In fact, I should look into getting some form of residents' ID that will let me get into stuff free.

Cambridge is being affected by a secondary housing bubble caused by the London one, since it's just about in commuting distance of the capital. So it's getting close to unaffordable (our house is considerably smaller and less nice than my parents' first married home, and I strongly doubt that in 15 years' time we'll be able to afford a 7-bedroom Victorian pile). And a knock-on effect of that is that a lot of the little quirky things I used to love are getting swallowed up by endless housing developments and clone shiny high-end chain shops. But not completely, there's still all kinds of odd and quintessentially Cambridge things like Mill Road, and the fact that the colleges own a lot of the land protects the town from the worst excesses of property developers. But anyway, that's a rant for another time, I am still extremely fond of Cambridge and maybe one day I'll even get a job locally so I can live there properly without any commuting.

[December Days masterpost]
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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