Writer Daniel Penny – a recent transplant from the US to the UK – mulls over the importance of a good waxed jacket when living in rainy old England.
I have always been an Anglophile, so moving from Brooklyn to Cambridge UK this fall was the fulfillment of a long-nursed, if ill-defined fantasy. That my wife was leaving her job and starting a PhD here and that we were relocating with our border collie in the midst of a global pandemic did little to dim my daydreams of rambles across heaths and rugged coasts. Cambridge, I had read, was quite rural beyond the city bounds, so I assumed once we got settled, I would have the opportunity to explore the area and finally, after years of being cooped up in New York, get into nature. It turns out, however, that by rural, the guidebooks meant pan-flat farmland, not woods. And going farther afield wasn’t an option; in November, lockdown arrived, followed swiftly by another in January. Since arriving in the UK in mid-September, I have not once left the bounds of Cambridge proper. No train rides to London, no drives to the Lake District.
But I have gotten to know my new city quite well, at least from the outside. The winding, cobblestoned streets, the leaning buildings with their ornate stonework and gargoyles—unobstructed by tourists! It helps to have a dog, as I am forced to leave my desk at least three times a day, no matter the weather. Usually we take a stroll through Midsummer Common, an open field along the river Cam that is often filled with cows munching grass. A butcher around the corner from our flat turns them into steaks and burgers. Other times, we brave a mud-squelching trip to Jesus Green, where packs of dogs scamper and their humans malinger, desperate for scraps of conversation. It’s amazing how interesting talking about the weather has become!