Tag Archives: moving

Settling in, some notes

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Not much time to type up my thoughts lately, so here’s some scattershot points to fill in the time. On family:

  • Mum: we’re settling in fine and enjoying the place, I’ll call as soon as I have a working landline again. That’s up to 3 weeks away 🙁
  • (And don’t forget to sort out your passport.)
  • Yaël: Would love to come to The Windsor, bit far away though 😉
  • Kat’s family, if they read this: Kat will call as per the timeline above – BT/etc here are worse than Telstra!

On the new place:

  • We met the landlady, very pleasant Indian woman. Her and her husband have owned the place for about 20 years by the sound of it! She’s a teacher in London, her Husband is a Software Engineer in Sydney/Canberra (got sick of the English climate, picked up sticks and left.)
  • Landlady is happy for us to fit curtains/etc and will pay for any permanent fittings we put in. We picked up some decent stuff from B&Q this weekend, starting to look better already. And now I own a drill again! I am complete! Heh. What’s a dude without a power tool, eh?
  • Musty smells and tired airs seem mostly flushed after a week of open windows and heating, much nicer.
  • Made decent progress in the little garden, weeded the entire larger bed (it’s only about 5m by 2m.)
  • As soon as some weeding was done the bloody cats next door started shitting on the garden. Boy do I hate cats. It turns out that it is probably illegal for me to set rabbit traps for them, or otherwise end their miserable lives. So I have created a fence and draped netting over it, I’m not happy about this. Have plans to rig up a sprinkler with a solenoid tied into a motion detector – that should keep cats out without annoying fences/netting. No time right now though, plus it turns out that the place has no outdoor tap!
  • Took the bike out for a spin today, it’s been far too long – living on the 2nd floor and not commuting meant my bike became a dust collector. It takes me 15 minutes to ride to the Cannons gym in the neighbouring town, Letchworth, I should be able to get that to 10 mins pretty quickly.
  • Cannons is the closest “free” gym, I inspected the place and the free-weights are kind of minimal but they told me they had more stuff coming in. At least they do seem to have have squat-rack that isn’t quite a smith-machine. I’ve booked an appointment on Wednesday to go over the equipment I’m less familiar with. Gym membership should give me the incentive to get back with my program, if I get in there for 3 days a week it is free under my current health insurance.
  • Booked my bike in for servicing next Friday, the local bike shop seems to be very busy – Friday 23rd was the soonest they could do!
  • Finally put the BBQ together and had a couple of BBQed meals this weekend! I bought the thing for 30 quid at the end of our first summer here (half price, then with a friend’s employee-30%-discount on top of that, very good deal) but it sat in its box because we weren’t allowed to use it on our balcony. It takes an Australian to lug a 15kg gas bottle for 1.2km in order to have a BBQ.
  • The markets are great, three market days with a lot to choose from. Good local butchers and fruit and veg, both in the market and shops.
  • We visited the little Hitchin history museum on Saturday, the townsite has been inhabited for a very long time. We also met the local history officer, they were having a publication party for a little “Brief history of Hitchin” booklet he’d written – his partner took the photos for the booklet.
  • On Sunday we caught the train into Stevenage (one stop away) and went to the huge B&Q hardware store (aforementioned curtains, drill, and other tools and bits.) That’s a fairly doable trip, about a 15 minute walk at the B&Q end and we’re obviously limited in how much we can lug but we can lug quite a lot! I decided I’d order some of the larger items I want online, only to find out that most of them aren’t available online! Meh! Stupid B&Q, also stupid Homebase it turns out. I assume they have some logistical reason for not offering a lot of their produces for sale via their website.
  • I will try to make time to post some photos during the week, but probably won’t have any more time to write about things. Work, and further unpacking, will be keeping us busy.

On tech/work:

  • Straight back into work last Tuesday, with added fun of having to deal with a bug report while all my equipment was packed up and I had no reliable ‘net connection. Yay.
  • Lots of time spent sitting in the Hitchin Caffé Nero using a very flaky BTOpenZone connection, it sent me insane!
  • Gave in and got a 20-quid-per-month mobile-broadband account from O2. For an 18 month contract I get 3GB per month using an included USB dongle (that does everything from GPRS to HPUDA, crazy.) Also get totally free unlimited use of “The Cloud” hotspots, and can reach one of them from the Starsucks in town.
  • The 3G mobile broadband is excellent, and 20 quid per month for 3GB isn’t too bad – for cellphone networks ‘net that is, still very expensive compared to DSL. The connection is more reliable than the bloody OpenZone connection I had in the café. I get 3G almost everywhere here, though to get it at home I have to dangle the dongle out the window on a pair of 2m USB extensions, works fine.
  • The dongle apparently works fine under Ubuntu with just a little fiddling. For the sake of ease though I’m running it on my laptop under windows and using the lappy as a gateway with my Ubuntu desktop connected via it. This configuration works out fine.
  • The configuration has also prompted me to try our synergy – it is an excellent utility. I now use the mouse and keyboard attached to my laptop to seamlessly work with both the Linux and Windows machines. (Configuring the Windows version as a server is somewhat less simple than using quicksynergy on Linux though, the interface it a little obscure.)
  • Kat has “earlies” this week, which means waking up at 05:00. It’s actually a nice time of day to wake up. I walked Kat to her 05:58 train, then wandered home and hunted down all my bike bits before getting the bike in working order and cycling up to Canons. Signed up at the gym, back in town for coffee at 08:00, back home at 08:30 – so much done, think I might try to make it a habit! (Normally we wake up at 06:00 anyway, and this isn’t any different from back in Ricky, so it isn’t much of a leap to go to 05:00.)

There’s more, but that’s all I have time for right now.

Hello from Hitchin

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

I find myself in the Hitchin presence of the dubiously Italianesque coffee chain Caffé Nero. Maybe there’s better coffee in town, we don’t yet know, but Nero has BT wifi access and is open on Sunday.

So… we have access to our new place in Hitchin and are well along the path to moving in. Half our stuff is still in storage, we’ll grab all of that on Monday (tomorrow.) I failed to restrain myself and have already cleared 75% of the larger garden bed of weeds. We took a trip up to a large garden centre half way between Hitchin and Letchworth, worth doing while we have the convenience of the van. I obtained bags of manure, compost, and seed raising mix. As well as seeds, seedlings, pots of herbs, and various tools. It’s been so long since I’ve wielded a fork in anger, anger against the tyranny of weeds. Anyway, more on that another time.

Driving the van has been fun, it’s a box with wheels and an engine. Reverse parking is a nightmare! Thanks to Kat stepping out and guiding me it is possible, otherwise I’m sure I’d be running over the small cars I’m trying to park between. Still, I do actually enjoy driving the thing, you get a lot more respect on the road than you do in a bloody Ford Focus, for example. It reminds me of the days when I owned an old Ford F-100 ambulance, good times. Despite the ever rising cost of fuel I’m ever tempted to get a car, maybe, maybe.

We popped into Ricky yesterday, had a final lunch at Cinnamon Square, picked up a 2nd hand couch from 9 Lives, then gave the Ricky keys back to the letting agents. Over. The cleaners, who were painfully expensive, did a damn good job – worth it in the end I’m beginning to think.

On the cleanliness side the new place left a lot to be desired. We went over it with the friendly Inventory Clark as arranged by the Letting Agents. She was generally scathing of the owner’s efforts to clean the place and the overall condition of the house. Downside: we have to do some cleaning, especially the kitchen. Upside: we certainly don’t have to worry about cleaning when we move out! (Though we’ll probably maintain it in a better state than we took it in.) There are several rough edges, the wallpaper is peeling here and there, and has been very badly painted over in some areas, in fact it has been rather unprofessionally applied in several places. With fittings clearly just punched through the paper. The bathroom has a shower, it has a power shower! This is a device that runs on mains power and pumps the water to achieve a powerful showering experience. The fittings in the bathroom are new, but not well installed. The Inventory Clark said of the flooring: “they told me the vinyl was newly fitted, but whoever did it must have needed a guide dog.”

OK, I’ll stop with the whinging now. We do like the place, well I do, Kat says she does … I’ll just have to believe her. It is large, insanely large for two people. Getting from our chosen bedroom to the kitchen is an epic quest.

Overall it fulfils three major requirements, the very things that led to our decision to leave the Ricky place:

  • Quiet (at least, so it seems thus far – even Saturday night was good.)
  • Spacious Kitchen (like huge, maybe four times the size of the cubby-hole kitchen in Ricky.)
  • Outdoor Space (not a lot of garden bed, but enough considering my generally busy schedule, and loads of space for a BBQ.)

There are additional obvious pluses too:

  • Seemingly a great pub around the corner, The Nightingale has 5 real ales on tap!
  • Lower rent, a 3br house for less than a 2br apartment!
  • Allotments around the back, possible future gardening expansion?
  • Larger town, more shops, open on Sunday (but it’s further away.)

Anyway, must get on with the day.

Van get!

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Nice beaten up one too, less to worry about at least. Runs fine, though hill starts are a total bitch. I wonder how often they replace the clutches in these things, given that amateurs like me are probably the usual drivers. Drive from Hitchin (where van rental is, 5 minute walk from the new place) to Ricky was uneventful, too uneventful! It took 2 hours, rather than 45 minutes! The M1 was broken, lorry collision, I took back roads but it was slow (at least it was moving though.) Lots of lorries colliding and tipping over today according to the road reports, apparently it is the rain (you’d think the damn Poms would be used to it by now!) FYI, “lorry” is Pommie for “truck.” It bucketed down overnight, a lot of water on the road, it’s been swinging between light and heavy rain most of today.

I’ve loaded half our stuff into the van now, a lot of the heaviest stuff. Though I’m holding back on a couple of items so that Kat can help me not bash holes in walls. I got the largest and heaviest thing we have (a solid oak coffee table) up here by myself, so I ought to be able to get everything down myself. Right now I’m happy I’ve been doing a lot of squats and deadlifts in the last year! (Though I’ve been slack on it for almost two months now, got to get back on track after the move.)

Getting there, slowly but surely.

I had 5 double espressos today, getting back to old Sydney habits. Probably won’t be possible in Hitchin though, might even have to go cold turkey (well, there’s always tea of course.)

Made a great risotto with that chicken stock on Monday night, vaguely planning to write up a risotto recipe – I don’t think it’ll happen though, too busy. Looks like it’ll be king prawns and pasta for dinner tonight, got a bag of frozen prawns in the freezer I should use.

Anyway, got to get back to it.

Cutting it close

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

[Update 2008-04-29 (3): Now I’ve booked storage as well, at least that is less than 100 quid. There should be less stress now:

  • pick up van tomorrow
  • have all of Thursday to move stuff into storage
  • cleaners come in on Friday
  • meanwhile we sign documents and check-in to new place then move in essentials
  • on Saturday we take final meter readings and give keys to agents
  • for rest of Sat/Sun we move stuff from storage to new place
  • on Monday we rest
  • on Tuesday I do check-out inspection of old place
  • and back to work!

We end up paying about 400 quid more than planned, though save maybe 150 on rent-overlap. Given I’m putting a week of leave into it too I guess we’ll just call it a “holiday” and put other holiday plans back to later in the year.

[Update 2008-04-29 (2): Hrmph, “because it was professionally cleaned before you moved in you must have it professionally cleaned before you check out.” Now, I know I can clean the place to a better condition than it was in before I moved in myself, especially since the condition report specifically states there was dust on everything! Anyway, it isn’t worth arguing … so there goes 210 quid. sigh Of course, this really pushes on the time pressure. Now I have to have everything out by Friday morning, so I guess I’ll try to get everything but the bed into the van on Thursday and hope that everything will fit in one van. We may end up disposing of some of our old 2nd hand chairs, no great loss, just lucky we own no sofas/etc I guess.]
[Update 2008-04-29: Finally have confirmation and Friday it will be. Though the check-in can’t be earlier than Friday midday. This gives us Friday evening and Saturday to move – not enough time. So my plan to hire a man+van is quashed. Instead I’ve hired a van for a week, from tomorrow through to Tuesday, and we’ll be able to store some larger items in it to make space for proper cleaning of the apartment. Having the van will make things somewhat more flexible at least. On the bright side, having only 2 days of lease overlap means we save about as much in overlapped rent as we’ll spend hiring a van (compared to having the 7 day overlap I’d originally hoped for.) Plus, hiring the van for 6 days is only a little more expensive than the man+van for 5 hours. The drawback is that I’ll have to do all the heavy lifting on my own – we’re two flights of stairs up from the car-park and there’s no lift.]

So, I was told the place we’re moving to was available “right away.” Here we are, 5 days before kick-out date, and we still can’t have access to it! It’s two weeks since it was supposed to be available “right away” too. At a pinch they think they might be able to give us access to it on Friday (we’re in the current place until Saturday) – so long as we’re OK to have the place cleaned up around us in the coming weeks.

Here I studiously avoid typing a long string of expletives, the effort makes my brow sweat.

Love this, such fun, I should move more often.

Looks like it might get expensive or difficult. At worst case it’ll be hiring self-storage and booking a hotel – fingers crossed it won’t be that bad.

And I was planning to move on Wednesday… ho ho ho.

On the bright side, on Sunday I made a chicken stock good enough that it set like jelly. Tonight I’ll make a mushroom (standard agaricus) and porcini (dried) risotto. That’ll be the last real meal I make here, from then onwards it’ll be reheated soups and take-outs (given potential costs I think we’ll rein in on the eat-outs.)

And the winner is… Hitchin

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

After saying we’re going to stick with Letchworth we’ve gone and put a deposit down on a place in Hitchin. I saw it today and put our claim in for it right away. Given our past experience with losing out on places if we delay at all and the ever-nearer final day of our current tenancy it seemed most prudent.

The place is a lot better than the place we chose to take in Letchworth but missed out on. It’s also half the distance to the station (5 min walk), twice the size, and in better condition (just.) It’s also only 50 quid more per month, so that works out OK.

The size of the place is the headline feature, it is really rather huge. Three large double-size bedrooms, a kitchen I can swing a cat in (just), and three “receptions,” also large. I don’t quite know what this English “reception” concept encompasses, based on what we’ve seen in our hunting it is any room that isn’t a bedroom. The place is two story and each story has about the same floorspace as our apartment.

The rent is pretty good for the area and the size, it’s also 150 less per month than we’ve been paying. Though we don’t save anything, the extra cost of the train travel demolishes that difference. The annual Hitchin to London ticket price is £2880, and that doesn’t include tube travel! To add tube travel the price goes to £3840! (Try not to think of those numbers in Australian $… oops, too late, ouch!) That’s 74 quid per week, and that’s with the 30% discount you can only get if you buy an annual ticket. (You’d be crazy not to, even if you didn’t have the cash handy the pain on a personal loan over a year doesn’t nullify the 30% saving. But better yet, get a 12-month 0% CC deal and let your 3840 sit in a high interest savings account earning you a bit before flushing it into the CC. Just don’t forget to settle the CC before the 12 months is up!)

Anyway, in other crazy rent news, the landlord of our current place seems to have given up on selling it (buying demand is really low right now) and put it back on the rental market. Rental demand is very high at the moment and the place has been listed £200 higher than we’ve been paying! That’s about 3x inflation, but is actually about right for what we’ve seen in the area. Our original preference was to stay in the Ricky area, but moving into a house around here would cost a lot, at least £400 more than we’re paying now. That’s our primary motivation for dragging our butts somewhere else, thus Hitchin. We end up paying less rent for a huge place (the same sort of place here would be about £600 more than we’re paying now – approaching twice our Hitchin rent!)

Anyway, more on this another time. It’s one hell of a relief to have found a place, stress level can be downgraded to amber. Right after we’ve finished filling in the agent’s 5 pages of paperwork (and we’re not even close to a tenancy agreement yet, the bloody British and their love of forms. Must find my Brazil soundtrack and put on Harry Tuttle — “A Man Consumed by Paperwork”.)

Packing Nightmare

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Some things suck 100%, packing in one of those things. Yesterday I decided it was time to disassemble my work equipment, since I only need one machine for the foreseeable future. This involved taking everything out of a 6 ft rack (6 machines) and stripping the rack down to parts. I thought it’d be a couple of hours of my day – fool. One whole day later it was done. I managed to do it without putting any holes in the wall, but I managed to put one hole in myself. The underside of my right wrist, this makes using the mouse difficult since it turns out I typically rest my wrist on the desk as I hold the mouse.

We moved a lot of stuff to boxes this weekend. Now boxed is: all the books, half the kitchen equipment (the things I won’t need in the next month), all the gym stuff, many clothes, and most computer equipment (all except laptops, and Kat and my desktops.) Moving around the apartment is now a case of weaving a maze of boxes. Yet we’re less than half way there I’d say.

We have next weekend to pack everything else we don’t need immediately. We really need to be moving the weekend after, at latest during the subsequent week. May 3rd is our last day here, I’d rather spend that week cleaning than moving.

Still haven’t found a place though… all packed up with nowhere to go.

My work todo list is lagging and I lost the time this weekend I expected to use making up time lost last week. Time to knuckle down and get shit done.

(My personal todo list is undefined until May sometime.)

No Letchworth this Weekend

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Looks like the showerless place has been taken already. Guess someone was willing to forgo showering as a reasonable compromise for being damn close to the town centre and rail station. Given the low rent, location, and back-yard it isn’t unimaginable. It does have a bath of course, we could’ve probably fitted one of those shower heads that attaches to a tap, a bracket for it, and a shower-curtain. Maybe. Kat and I had decided it wasn’t an unlivable option and that we could fall back to it if the other place didn’t work out. No longer possible.

I’m still waiting on the “other place.” It was supposed to be ready for viewing this week but this has not turned out to be the case. The owner still has the builders in, or something. Time is running out, we need to have a place to move to on the weekend of the 26th/27th … only two weeks away. The paperwork and credit-checks take about a week we’re told, so we really only have a week.

I desperately hope we don’t have to fall back to an apartment. 🙁

*sigh* I hate this crap, stressful and distracting.

Letchworth, another one bites the dust

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Yesterday I took half a day off to inspect a place in Letchworth (it’s a 2 hour tube+train journey each way.) The place had much potential! Small but roomy enough for the two of us. In a bit a messy state, but that’d be professionally fixed before we got there. A smallish electric-top stove, but I found a gas connection behind it so we’d have the ability to put in something nice. A back yard to die for, seriously. Massive by UK standards, maybe 10m wide bu 30m deep, and in two parts with a dividing hedge. Clearly the back ⅔ was once the veggie garden but has been grassed over at some time. There’s a fruit tree in the middle of the rear section, probably apple, and blackberry vines throughout the hedging. The yard was a bit rough around the edges, but that’s exactly what I’m after – something I can play with without worrying about messing up manicured lawns.

The place would be dead quiet, set back far from the road (a cul-de-sac), seemingly surrounded by older folk, and with nothing but extensive gardens and greenery to the rear. Only a 590 metre walk from the station according to my GPS, walking through the central shopping district. The entire route open, well lit, and probably very safe.

Problem: No shower! Tiny little bathroom, but that’s OK. But no shower?! C’mon? Bloody English.

*sigh* So, good yet fatally flawed. It’d be an ideal purchase, a little work and you’d probably make up for any short-term value loss (unless things go really pear shaped.) In the long run it’d be a safe investment I’d say, thanks to the location. Not sure if it’d be freehold or leasehold, but if the latter it’d have about 900 years left as this is part of the original Garden City “demo village” built in the early 1900s. The building is certainly listed though, probably grade II, so there’s very little prospect of extension the place. It’s end-of-terrace so an end-side rear conservatory may be allowable (I think the place at the opposite end has an extension of the sort.) That’d provide for a better, more open, kitchen space I think. Also, maybe, a sympathetically designed far-rear-shed-cum-office could be possible. Gah, I shouldn’t be thinking about this stuff, depressing.

I’m trying to arrange to see another place this week. On paper it looks good. According to the agent I spoke with yesterday the area isn’t as nice, but should be safe. It’s twice as far from the station compared to the place I looked at on Monday, I timed the walk today: 10 minutes at a brisk pace (probably 15 for Kat.) Not too bad. In the evening I tried researching the street but could find no record of crime in the area and nothing else untoward. The main claims to Internet fame seem to be that a taxi driver is registered there and the Letchworth Buddhist centre was, until recently, located at one end. Being the location of a Buddhist temple is surely a good sign, right? Maybe we’ll find out.

I also tested out the commute to Kat’s work (The City) using the non-fast train since the direct LET-KGX trains only run during commuter hours. I went via train to Finsbury Park, then Victoria line to Kings Cross, then Northern to Bank. After walking from Bank to the vicinity of Kat’s office 1 hour and 10 minutes had passed. Not too much more than the current commute (barely over an hour.) However this was the slower-than-fast train, double-however the time was taken from Letchworth station and doesn’t account for walking from some other location in town. Overall it shouldn’t work out as too bad a commute though, not worse than the current arrangement anyway.

(As for Colchester, not possible for a couple of logistic reasons.)

Hitchin, Stevenage, & Cambourne

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Our goal on Friday was to explore a couple of towns on the train line between Cambridge and London. This we did, then we also had a look at a business park cum housing estate (or vice-versa?) outside Cambridge.

I failed to mention in my previous notes that I’ve forgotten the camera. We tossed around the idea of driving down to Ricky to pick it up but decided not to bother, it’d probably have been a 1.5 hour round trip from Stevenage. No photos! Quite liberating actually.


Hitchin, our first destination, won us over quickly. Old village architecture, a permanent market area, and an interesting collection of shops in the town centre. The market was quiet and had a collection of pretty dodgy stuff in the guise of “antiques”, however there were also decent looking fruit, vegetables, and meat. Given that it was Good Friday I guess, and hope, that it may have been quieter than usual. To bolster my hope far fewer stalls were occupied than not. But it may be possible that the market is past its heyday, which would be sad.

On walking the winding streets of Hitchin what stood out was the classic white-walled, black-beamed facades. These were even more remarkable since in many cases one end of the first floor was a foot or more higher than the other! I have to imagine that for modern use the core of the buildings has been rebuilt and only the extremely characterful shell of the original building remains. I’d not be surprised to find red brick out the back.

The town centre boasts all the usual High Street brands, ho hum. There is also a brilliant deli with an excellent selection of cheese and the butcher looked good (in addition to two butchers in the market area.) There’s also, surprisingly and amazingly, the best catering store I’ve ever seen in the UK!

The physical features of the town centre are a large square, used part-time for parking and otherwise for reasons unknown. The market area is elsewhere, down a passage from the main square. And on one side is the imposing edifice of the church, seeming much patched together and patched up over the centuries. The church is buffered by the usual graveyard an pleasant grassed grounds. Running to the east of the church is the tamed river Hiz, this bisects the town and runs under the market. I expect this river is actually a remnant, transformed to a channel (or drainage ditch) and now mostly subterranean. The name, Hiz, is pronounced Hitch – thus the name of the town. I’d expect it is better phrased as “pronounced Hitch in antiquity” since the modern phonetic pronunciation must surely be more common now.

We’ll probably pop along to Hitchin once more on the way home, to test out the accessibility by train.


The drive into Stevenage from Hitchin was short and we found ourselves on the main street of the Stevenage “Old Town” in less than 10 minutes. The street was OK but kind of devoid of life, it also seemed to not have any produce stores at all. We wandered the street but weren’t impressed.

We got back into the car and followed the signs to the Stevenage “town centre.” What a travesty of “new town” design, what a hideous beast they’ve built. This is a cold, dank, shell of a town center. A veritable zombie, no doubt actually consuming the brains of any unfortunate enough to inhabit the area.

We did note that Stevenage seems to have excellent provision for cycling. There is, what appears to be, a dedicated road network for cyclists (and walkers.) There’s also a large central parkland that is quite pleasant. However nothing we saw in Stevenage made up for the soulless horror of the so-called “town centre.”

It would seem that our interest in Stevenage is probably now damaged beyond repair.


Heading back to Cambridge we chose a route via an area named Cambourne, our interest in this being derived from the fact that it is supposed to be a hive of high-tech businesses. The actual business park in Cambourne seems small, but there is clearly room for it to expand, and massively (roads leading off into fields, and the like.) The buildings are all shiny, glassy, and new looking. The landscaping is elegant and involves a lot of water, always a points-winner in my book. In typical English “you are being watched” style there are CCTV cameras all over the place too, quite horrible in my opinion.

An interesting note is that along with the business park it seems a whole suburb has been built where I was expecting only business buildings. There seems to be far too great a capacity to serve just the small collection of commercial buildings in Cambourne so I wonder what area the population is supposed to serve. As far as the “town” goes, what we saw didn’t impress us, the place looked bleak. No character, no cafés, just a supermarket, a “fish and chicken” shop, an uninspiring pub, and a flock of real-estate vultures.

Cambourne is about a 20 minute drive from central Cambridge, and it took us 40 minutes to get up there from Hitchin. So the other thing about it is that it isn’t even really close to anywhere. The main road connections other than Cambridge seem to be St. Neot, and Royston, but both seem rather small so probably have little use for a population “overflow” town. There are bus services to Cambridge it seems, but there’s no train line in the area. Most interesting, for a high-tech business park, is that it must take 1.5 hours or more to get there from London. Maybe close access to Cambridge is enough though, I really don’t know.

The only think I can say for certain about Cambourne is that I wouldn’t want to live there… older, characterful, English towns are more my style. It does seem a pleasant working environment however.

I wrote the above paragraphs yesterday. I have two amusing notes to now add over lunch on Saturday. Last night we popped into an Indian place for dinner and by chance we overheard the two couples sitting next to us briefly discussing Cambourne. One of the men was a flight instructor and the other his pupil, the instructor was discussing the “mushrooming” of Cambourne with a note of certain horror in his voice. There was a clear agreement that the place seemed rather strange and difficult to understand, the only positive point voiced was “they have a Morrisons.” Morrisons is one of the smaller supermarket chains, not all that exciting I think.

The second note is that in one of this morning’s Cambridge newspapers there was an article on how these new housing estates are depressive. Cambourne was dubbed “Glumbourne” and the news was that they had to set up a specialist psych unit there to deal with the higher than average rates of depression. The theory, apparently a controversial one, is that these “new towns” are devoid of social structures and networks that many people are dependant on as an integral part of their happiness. In my opinion it could also be a case of the place looking terrible, being isolated, and having no cultural interest.