Sam Davies

The homesickness we feel in our own home

I’m planning for this to be my last post of 2021. Of course, we all recognise that things are in a very fluid state right now so don’t be surprised if you see me pop back up in the next couple of weeks!

In the meantime, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who has participated in the conversations I’ve started here this year, either on the website or by emailing me directly. There has been so much careful thought in your contributions, and so much obvious concern for what is happening in our neighbourhood and the wider city.

One comment in particular stands out as summing up what so many of us feel:

“As a person born in Cambridge, to Cambridge born parents, I have felt for a while a disquiet, an oppressive feeling, and powerlessness. Recently I have discovered that there is a name for it: solastalgia. The place I call home, that I identify as part of me, has been damaged, and in places made unrecognisable, by people from far away who view this space simply and only as a column of numbers on a spreadsheet. This space they imagine is an abstract representation akin to that of a mathematician who works with geometry – stick in a different set of numbers and a whole new space is magic-ed into being. Hey presto! it’s a business park. Oh, no, it’s a shopping centre… But it was my Home, a place that had meaning for me, and for many others. But that meaning, my feeling of attachment, is nowhere on that balance sheet, and nor are the lives of birds, insects, trees, wildflowers…”

Much of what I’ve written about this year has focused on the nuts and bolts of local politics: planning, transport, facilities, funding, governance, consultation. But while these are worthy of consideration in their own right, what really matters is how they add or detract to shaping something bigger: community, and the “sense of attachment” mentioned in the quote above.

We have never needed that sense of attachment more. What the pandemic has already shown us is that we are stronger together. Now, as we enter into yet another demanding phase, it is that commitment to community which we will once again need to protect and support each other. Let’s resolve to do everything we can in the year ahead to nurture that commitment and maximise its potential.

I wish you a very happy and healthy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

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Sam Davies

6 comments

  • Being new to Cambridge as a resident but have been coming here for over 30 years I felt lucky to move into Queen Ediths. As against the odds the locals are committed and connected to care for others, thanks Sam as our independent councillor and as the Chair of the band of volunteers who make up QE Community Forum, you have certainly made my family feel valued and connected

  • Oh how true… I mourn the disappearance of Cambridge of my birth, my parents birth, most of my grandparents and several of my great-grandparents and beyond. One grandfather was an alderman for about 30 years – vehemently opposed to the development of the Lion Yard and Petty Cury in the form as it ultimately turned out…The other grandfather started his own tailoring and outfitters business in 1917 in Green St – subsequently moving into Trinity Street and Sussex St. His house, where his five children grew up and I was born, is now part of The Arundel House Hotel and where l spent much of my pre- teen childhood. Jesus Green was my world and it was fab. My father was born in ( above) Jordans Yard. Som some history.
    But! As soon as one turns away from most of the university’ historic buildings, Cambridge, over my lifetime (75 years), has become a monument to disjointed, disconnected un- coordinated and badly executed building schemes of one sort or another. Ridiculously expensive too.
    Stand, if you will looking south down St Andrew’s St and with hand on heart say which- if any, buildings built since the war, actually add anything to the overall impression of an ancient university city? Stand on Hills Road Bridge looking south and despair! I know, I know, grumpy old git, hates progress etc, but my wail and moan is not that expansion and progress is inevitable, but that WHAT we are replacing and building, has to be so bland, so un- imaginative, so ugly so flat-roof horrid. I’ve lived here on and off all my life, I’m no longer proud of the place, and it no longer seems like my town. That’s sad

  • Summed up perfectly. Cambridge has been my home for 40 years. I started my first full-time employment, married, bought a house, worked in numerous settings, volunteered in different ways and made close friends here. I enjoy shopping at the open air market a rare feature in England. Though even that is under threat!
    Until the past 2 years I felt attached to the city but the growth has eaten away at every open space on my doorstep where I used to enjoy walking my dog. Our recreation ground is now a building site. I, with others tried to preserve its protected status as so much open space around has been built on and the recreation ground was a sanctuary, haven and connection with nature for the community, young and old. We couldn’t be properly heard or represented by our councillors who boasted that the plan was their idea. They weren’t representing constituents at all but liaising with the developer instead. They had made up their minds and we stood no chance of being properly heard.
    The recreation ground was hugely valuable at the start of the pandemic. Certainly while it was intact got me and many others through the early months. Now, I cannot bear to walk my dog on a building site. It wouldn’t help me feel the calm I used to enjoy. Instead I walk on streets near my house. I no longer encounter the numerous fellow dog walkers and friends.

    I don’t drive so that space was my access to a relatively unmanicured area where I could walk with my dog. I saw my first cinnabar moth, a flock of waxwings, different fungi, varied grasses, caterpillars in a web, heard the humming activity of bees on heady lime blossom. What was best was getting away from buildings that loomed over and seeing the sky.
    I don’t feel Cambridge is as pleasant a place to live anymore. The increase in building and the widening of the A14 has increased traffic onto our residential road and the roar of traffic is constant now. When we first moved here the A14 was audible only if the wind was in the wrong direction. Being woken by traffic from 4am is pretty much daily. Goodness knows what pollution levels are like.
    I fail to see how the widened A14 and building development can halt the amount of traffic despite plans for congestion charging.
    These years of pandemic have presented upheaval, stress and uncertainty which has been piled onto by the constant development. I don’t believe I’m the only one experienced this. Added to this is the threat to water supply which seems to be ignored.
    And still residents like me are disregarded.
    Maybe the real fact is that people like me, profoundly saddened, ARE very much attached. It’s the limited but powerful few, disconnected from this city and its environs, ambitious newcomers on a temporary rung of their promotion ladders who fail to see and experience the real, irreversible damage they are exerting and will leave behind on their career journey elsewhere.

  • Thank you Sam for another thoughtful post. Grateful for your persistence and focus as an independent councillor, as well as your skill as a guide to the complexities of local planning. Have a relaxing turn of the year ready for the fray in 2022.

Sam Davies

Sam Davies was elected to Cambridge City Council in May 2021 as a representative for the Queen Edith's ward, and is the city's only independent councillor.
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