The encircling sea defines Sandbanks, present in every view and framing each day, much as the University gives Cambridge its enduring character. But the community is formed for me when people start to fill the frame. Three weeks in, I’m starting to fit into the neighbourhood, finding my place with the families living nearby and recognized by the local merchants.
To a large degree, this is due to the change in living arrangements, boarding with a local family rather than tucked into an isolated flat. The ages and activities of people in the community are a better fit: 45-65, moderately successful, socially outgoing, and comfortable in themselves. And I’ve made changes that welcome a midday coffee or an evening drink for introductions and conversation.
It all makes a difference.
I work, as I did in Cambridge, from an upstairs office. The household is the difference: kids flow through with their friends and neighbours drop by for a half-hour chat around the kitchen table. I similarly used to go have a talk and a nibble in the cafeteria at Physio mid-mornings and afternoons , and I’m rediscovering how necessary and balancing that part of the day is. It’s easier to keep the negotiations with lawyers and designers in perspective when I’m occasionally interrupted by homework questions or new puppies.
A group of us were invited to a neighbours for lunch at mid-week. They had just finished building a very modern house a couple of blocks away, all recessed lighting and fully-automatic environmental controls and sound systems. Lunch was a buffet of local seafood and ethnic samplers; conversation flowed from travel plans to politics to boating to gossip. Three hours passed, effortlessly, among the eight of us. It’s high-end normalcy, but normalcy all the same.
Several times each week, I move out into a local coffee shop for a necessary change from scribbling notes, fielding Skype calls, and hammering out emails. I mark myself ‘unavailable’ for a few hours: somehow work survives. The Sandbanks Beach Cafe has been congenial so far: it has a nice view of the sea, free wifi, comfortable chairs,and tasty coffee cakes (although no plugs and premium prices). Today, the window seats filled as the big ‘St.Jude’ storm blew in from the west. It was nice: lots of couples sitting together over coffee, watching the surf and chatting quietly.
It a bit like the Dutch gathering onto the banks and bridges along the Maas when the river rises, or when the ‘storm-chasers’ go to the Vancouver and Oregon coasts when the barometer falls: a shared migration to check the borders, witness wild nature, and share the experiences.
‘Followed by beach-walking in the wind and rain, of course.
It’s a nice feeling of connection and community to nurture on arrival in a new place.