Getting To Grips

Finding my feet in Cambridge has proved a far more faltering and unsure course than I predicted. Somehow I expected I'd arrive and hit the ground running but this hasn't been the case at all. So bear with me.

The centuries-old open-air market in the center
of Cambridge runs 7 days a week. 

I thought I'd remember every nook and cranny of this town only to find that — despite much of it being ancient and thus unchanging — it's hugely changed. More prosperous-looking now, its hugger-mugger shops are upmarket and shiny and clearly cater to a more sophisticated clientele than when I was first here.

Trinity Street, across from Trinity College. Lots of
charming little one-off shops.

Yes, I see many more chain-store premises (frankly now a pretty ubiquitous first-world problem);

This mall....err...arcade wasn't here 30 years ago
 and is full of chain stores.

but there are also plenty of much more interesting stand-alones.

And in thirty years there's been a tech boom running alongside the business of the university which has changed the face of the area. Collectively this cluster of start-up companies concentrating on biotechnology, software and electronics is called the Silicon Fen and its businesses operate in a number of purpose-built 'science parks' sprinkled in and around. Very like Silicon Valley, the success of the Silicon Fen has affected the housing market and sent prices through the roof. There's still plenty of new luxury building going on around town — with the really prosperous boffins commuting from fancy piles in the surrounding countryside. And with all this new focus, getting back and forth to London has become a dream — a 50-or-so-minute dash versus the bad old days of slow, stopping trains that could take two hours. But the result of all this development is that London aside, I read that Cambridge is now the most expensive place in the UK in which to live. I find the price of everything here shocking; but then I'm trying to slide along on a modest budget. 

During a recent cab-ride my driver was eager to talk to me about the interesting work in which these Cambridge technology companies were engaged. "My brother-in-law was explaining it to me," he said; "They're working on drones the size of flies over there. Can you believe it? Drones the size of flies!" I must tell you I've really been mulling that one and intend to make enquiries.

By the way, still no sign of Prince William.


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