Missing the city
Moving from a big city to Cambridge can be a culture shock
My friend, Lis, likes to remind me frequently that Cambridge is the home of the country’s largest Wetherspoons.
Cambridge is also home to the country’s largest fan vault (whatever that may be) and some of its largest egos. Cambridge, however, seems to be ever so small, especially being from a big city.
Apparently, it became a city in 1951. I don’t know when Manchester became one, but I don’t have to Google to ask when it did – I just accept it as fact; it is an a priori assumption. Upon arriving in Cambridge, I found it overwhelmingly beautiful, as I still do: the beige stone, the red stone, the stained glass, the way the buildings frame the night sky. I did not, however, see it as a city; more a town, with extended parts that, for some reason, you never venture out to. In my first year, I started to miss the terrible beauty of cities: concrete, concrete with pebbles in, not seeing any stars at night, the smell of rain and booze.
I missed so many things about cities: the fact you can know its streets like the back of your hand, and still you’ll find new veins; the quiet buzz in the streets on Derby day; the characters – the spectacular, the beautiful, the bizarre. At home, when I walked around, I’d find something new in the landscape, in the design of the city, on every street corner. Of course; the predictable – I miss the nightlife. There is only so much anyone can take of the same club nights with the same songs with the same blue VK and the same brutal hangover the next day. I miss the sheer size of venues, the spectacle of an event, the music I’ve never heard before, the diversity in age and sexuality and gender and race. Cambridge is great fun, but sometimes you just want something more than that.
Cambridge is easy: I find most days, I walk the same one street, and all I need is located on it. This makes for an arguably perfectly formed shopping experience; but I find myself missing the stress. I feel safe here, yet I miss wanting to fight slow walkers and innocents for not moving at the city assigned speed; I miss fighting people for spots in queues.
I yearn for the stress in minor and insignificant activities. Cities are difficult, and that’s why they’re great; every day is a fight. You come home tired. Cambridge is less of an adventure; it feels like a home, or a relic, where memories are made and stay on each corner. It rarely changes: I see four hundred year old buildings, eight hundred year old buildings, I see the same people down the street. I like this now; I just have grown to understand the difference between them.
Sometimes, I lie awake and find the quiet strange. No ambulances, no police cars, no screaming into the night, no animals tearing at one another. It is peaceful. Sometimes, I feel like one of those twats in Jane Austen novels with a home in the city, and with a place in the country.
Cambridge is my country house.