Cambridge Chronicles #6 | September 2020

I was struggling to find words to describe the past few months, to piece together how life as we know it became life as we knew it.

And then, on an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? of all places, along came this quote:

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I could, so easily, write off this year. I’ve seen only a handful of friends in person this year; I’ve not seen my parents or sister since Christmas. I’m still living in Cambridge (which is picturesque and rather nice sans touristes, but not somewhere I’ve ever felt especially at home). I’ve not gone on a single hike.

Yes, it was the worst of times – but only sometimes, and time spent dwelling on those would do nothing but expend energy I simply don’t have.

It’s also been the best of times – and a wake-up call to realign my time with my interests. Here are just a few of the pretty darn good times from the past six months . . .

Highlights

Cycling to Norwich

If you’d told me a year ago I’d cycle 150km in a day, I wouldn’t have believed you. Heck, if you’d told me six months ago, I wouldn’t have. We booked a few days off at the tail end of August and cycled to Norwich (and back) to see Laurence’s parents, as neither of us fancied catching the train. Whilst there, we squeezed in a 90km ride to Mundesley (pronounced Munsley) via Happisburgh (pronounced Haysborough – thanks for setting us right on that one, Uncle Geoff!), had our fish and chips fix and dropped by to see Laurence’s aunt and uncle. Our route back to Cambridge took us through Ely, where we saw my auntie, uncle and cousins and enjoyed a cuppa and a slice of homemade cake (thanks, Auntie Anne!).

Learning Spanish

I’ve been dipping my toes into language learning again over the past couple of months, and thoroughly enjoying it. If I’ve learnt anything*, it’s that you have to try a few resources out and see which work for you. I didn’t get past the first sequence of videos in iversity’s ‘Spanish for Beginners’ course as it felt incredibly dated, and only made it through the first module of edX’s ‘Basic Spanish 1: Getting Started’ course, which was very thorough but felt quite slow-going. I’m currently learning the basics through Duolingo, though I could definitely do with setting aside time to jot down vocabulary and practise grammar.

*Aside from essential phrases, such as yo quiero un gato (I want a cat), that is.

Moving Flat

Packing up our life into boxes, suitcases and rucksacks revealed just how much stuff we’d acquired over the past three years. Maps, leaflets and tickets from our travels. Kitchen knick-knacks that hadn’t seen the light of day since going into the cupboard when we first moved in (why hello again, plastic apple-shaped timer). Piles and piles of paperwork. You get the picture. We kept what we needed, and donated what we didn’t. After all, it didn’t make sense to pay to move things we weren’t using – and we don’t have space for surplus stuff in the new place. We enlisted the help of a local removals company, and everything went swimmingly on the day. (If you’re based in/around Cambridge and need a man with a van, I would highly recommend Tom’s Van.) I am so, so glad we moved – our new flat is cheaper, toastier and, best of all, there are no slugs lurking by the door.

Blackberrying

Plump, juicy berries caught our eye whilst out on a run, dodging rabbit holes on Coldham’s Common as dusk fell. We returned in the morning, methodically working our way round the field, tubs in hand. The morning’s pickings left to soak, we headed out on our bikes to Saffron Walden. We put tubs in my pannier bag in case there were more blackberries to be had, and hit the jackpot in a layby on a quiet country road. I could feel a jam-making session coming on, and sure enough we had enough berries for two crumbles and four-and-a-half pots of jam. (Thanks, Katie for the tip on how to remove maggots and other bugs from blackberries!)

Six Months in Six Photos

What’s Next?

We’re off to see my parents, and I am beyond excited to see them after all this time. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that the powers that be don’t throw a spanner in the works. Aside from that, I’m aiming to cycle 2,000km this year – I’m about 100km off the mark at the moment.

8 thoughts on “Cambridge Chronicles #6 | September 2020

  1. Wow, colour me impressed by your cycling achievements! I’ve been contemplating getting a bike, but it’s a bit of a pain where we are at the moment. 2020 has definitely been a weird one for everyone, huh? Where are you planning to move to once you are able to?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If there’s one thing Cambridgeshire is good for it’s getting into cycling, as it’s so flat round here! 2020’s been such a strange one – it feels weird to be seeing Christmas stuff in shops already. I don’t know where the time goes! We’re looking to move up north, ideally Leeds or Manchester, to have better access to national parks for hiking and so we stand a chance of buying a house one day (it’d never be more than a pipe dream here!).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh gosh, yeah that’s fair enough! We actually put an offer in on a house the other day excitingly – but we didn’t get it! 😦 We are starting to look though. That area of England is great for so many things, I only discovered the Peak District last year and it’s really lovely around there!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Good luck with your house-hunting quest! Scotland’s sealed bids system (too many episodes of Location, Location, Location 😅) sounds quite challenging. The Peak District has some beautiful landscapes, and you’ve got the Yorkshire Dales, North York Moors and Lake District within easy reach too. We’re (slowly!) getting the wheels in motion and researching options though, so hopefully a move up there isn’t too far off.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad to hear from you, Rosie. You’re not alone: I think many of us have found 2020 to be the most trying of times. I’ve barely traveled anywhere this year, with the exception of a day trip to a national park in California in June. A lot of not-so-great things have happened, with COVID-19 being the main culprit, but knowing that it’s all temporary gives us hope for the rest of the 2020’s. Hope you’re staying well and healthy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not been plain sailing, that’s for sure, but as you say, knowing things will change (at some point!) certainly helps. I’ve enjoyed getting out on my bike and exploring East Anglia more, and there’s plenty of years ahead for trips further afield 🙂 Hope you and your family are keeping well – and that your new job is going well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the beginning of this post is so on the mark. It’s been a weird year but we can dwell or we can make the most of it. Glad to hear you’ve been making the most of it! Enjoy your trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Weird is definitely the word for it! I find if you don’t make the best of a bad situation, it only feels worse. Thanks – just hoping no last-minute local lockdowns come into effect (it feels a little as though local lockdowns are going on and off at the flick of a switch over here!). Hope you’re keeping well across the pond 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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