We’re spending a month working from Cambridge. Similar to last year’s month long working visit to Copenhagen. In March we mused where to spend a month this year, and early April we accepted Johnnie Moore’s kind offer to come to Cambridge and stay at his place.

The general approach to this year’s ‘living a month in another city’ was slightly more laid back, compared to last time. Both because of learning last time that having detailed plans, or even general ones, does not make a lot of sense, as well as because of returning from four weeks easy-going camping and vacationing in sunny France right beforehand. We returned from camping, washed our clothes, packed our bags again, grabbed our guitars and enjoyed the high speed rail trip that brought us to London St. Pancras in a handful of hours. There we acquired Network Rail Cards (for cheaper off peak travel), and continued on to Cambridge, 90 km north of London, by commuter train. Johnnie picked us and our gear up at the station.

P1050376 Cambridge
Punting on the Cam, and Trumpington Street

Our first full day in Cambridge (CBG), Thursday 8 August, was one of settling in. Johnnie had arranged for bicycles, while we brought some sturdy Dutch bike locks for them, and he took us on a cycling exploration of CBG. The city is mostly well arranged for cyclists, but driving on the left hand side of the road takes a bit of getting used to. A good coffee spot, also to do a bit of work, Hot Numbers, was the first stop, and we have returned a few times already since. The evening was spent BBQ-ing with Tony Quinlan and Meg Odling-Smee who came over. We’ve known them for years and it was a great pleasure to see them again (and to get a taste of the same awesome brownies they also brought to our Unconference Birthday party)

I am aiming for a rhythm where I do work in the morning, and other things in the afternoon. Friday morning saw me doing some Skype calls around speaking gigs later this fall, for which Johnnie’s spacious home provides this nice chaise longue. Otherwise I spent most of the early mornings working in the garden, as it catches the first rays of sun.

The weekend we gave ourselves over to joining the many tourists in town, walking around CBG, seeing the old university colleges as well as the ancient Norman church. At the art and crafts market we visited it became clear laser cutters and other making machines are rapidly becoming mainstream. One artisan felt compelled to put up signs that his intricate wooden puzzles were hand-made and not laser cut.

Not Laser Cut!

Norman church
11th Century Norman church.

Upon my first Foursquare check-in in Cambridge, Richard Hare, part of the Cognitive Edge network, pinged me ‘I live right across the road!’, and we met up for lunch on Monday. Richard chose the very nice sea food restaurant Loch Fyne, and over oysters, shrimp, and lemon sole we talked about technology and making sense of complexity. In the evening, together with Johnnie we soaked up some ‘kulcha’, visiting the open air Shakespeare play Richard III, in the gardens of St. John’s College. A lot of fun, even if the mulled wine was unsuccessful in keeping away the increasing cold later at night.

Shakespeare Festival
A Game of Thrones, 16th century style: Shakespeare’s Richard III, with the audience pick-nicking in front of the stage.

After a morning of work, and an afternoon of further exploring CBG (including seeing a guitar player playing inside a waste bin, although he certainly wasn’t rubbish), we visited the local maker space, MakeSpace on Tuesday. A beautiful (big and light) space, tucked away in the court yard of one of the university buildings, with a good selection of tools. They started this spring and have some 130 members now. We met two Spanish tourists there as well, who were interested in starting a similar effort in Logrono (Rioja). So I connected them to Thomas Diez of the Barcelona FabLabs, to make good use of their experience in doing so.

Add another day of phone calls and work, and that made up the first week! Cambridge is a relatively small provincial city, and it’s nice to use its slower pace and rhythm as a back drop for working. We also noticed a need to balance it with the faster paced and more urban environment of nearby London. So in the coming weeks we’ll make sure of that as well.