I came across an article on the local news site this week – 13 annoying things about Cambridge.
Whilst I can agree with a few of them, things like punt touts have never bothered me – I moved to Cambridge from a city that is more obnoxious for it’s slew of charity chuggers. Which are far more irritating. The punt touts have never bothered me, since a short ‘Thanks, not today’ generally results in being left alone. Not so with charity chuggers. Really, until you’ve been practically chased down a high street by a monk shouting ‘Gurangha!’ at you, I’m not sure you can claim annoyance at punt touts. Then again, the southern end of this country does have a strange attitude in talking to strangers – as in, you do it rarely, if at all. Strangers are scary, or something. The north end of the country is much more likely to want to know your business and get in your face about it. Maybe that is the source of the irritation.
Many of the other problems are down to the local council. Whilst they get many things right, they are incredibly anti-vehicle. So it’s no surprise that parking becomes an issue. Take away the majority of free parking spaces, build housing allocated with 1 1/2 parking spaces (how do you get half a parking space? Seriously…), and poor public transport options, then you’re going to end up with overpriced parking, and people parking inconsiderately due to lack of options. Supply and demand, that has been artificially created by a council that seems to think that a bike is the answer to everything, without considering that people need to do things like carry shopping around, or deliver goods to the businesses in the area. Frustrating does not begin to cover it.
The other side of the problem is that Cambridge is actually a nice place to live, regardless of the problems. It’s close enough to London (whilst still being cheaper) that it is viable for commuting. Which of course means that the price of housing is incredibly high, and getting higher. That said, money is tight. More houses get built, but it’s not enough. The knock on effect of the extra housing is that more people live here – meaning the traffic gets worse. The infrastructure of the area is only now being considered (improvements to the A14 and updating a woefully inadequate train station). Of course, these things take time – but at least these kind of improvements are actually happening now. It’s frustrating, sure, but at least there is a light at the end of the tunnel. One day, the work will be completed.
In terms of things that are actually annoying about Cambridge for the average bod though? When I compare it to where I grew up, I find myself counting my blessings. It’s a vibrant area that does not get neglected in terms of government funding, and it shows. Try visiting some of the northern cities, and you’ll find a hotbed of supermarkets and call centres and little else – because their industry was closed down and sent abroad. The lack of investment up there means that first world problems such as pretty buildings is put on the back burner while they try to keep on top of such things as keeping the bare minimal public services running with minimal funding.
A lot of the annoyances listed in the linked article are annoying, yes – but it’s not all bad. At least the money is there to build the new houses, sort out the train station, and faff around with things like parking machines and ‘customer satisfaction’ surveys. As someone who grew up in a place that didn’t get this kind of investment, I struggle to get too irritated by these things. I guess it’s hard to appreciate just how good it is here if you haven’t seen the sheer ineptitude or lack of interest in other cities in this country. That is what irritates me.