I’ve lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and I love it here. Completely settled with my family, many close friends (who are like extended family), colleagues, acquaintances and neighbours. I’ve lived in Cambridge longer than anywhere else, including my birth town of Huddersfield.
I was lucky enough to find a home in the vibrant and diverse Mill Road area in 1996. The prices were more affordable then and I have not strayed far since. Now I feel very much a part of that community. But it did take some time to bed in, and that gave me the idea for scuseme.
When I arrived, Cambridge was new to me. Having lived and worked in London, the pace seemed slow and a social life seemed a long way off. Back then I worked at the Science Park in Melbourn and although I met (and remain friends with) some great people, nearly everyone relied on cars, and I missed a spontaneous social life. The ghostly abandoned car park on a Friday evening always depressed me; where was the Friday night social? I struggled to find exciting places to eat and socialise. Back then there was no Thirsty Riverside, FoodPark night markets and few innovative independent cafes offering music and culture. Cambridge has come a long way since then.
When we first arrived, my neighbours were welcoming, and when our family life started, new friendships blossomed as they tend to. Gradually my neighbourhood became and remains my ‘village’ with all the great things that a small and intimate community brings with it. But this did take time because of work, commuting, travel and heading back to London perhaps too often.
One of the things that always takes time is knowing how to get things done. I would ask neighbours, colleagues and friends for recommendations if I needed odd jobs sorted (my husband is useless at this stuff, although he maintains that my unplugging him from the mains one fateful afternoon when changing a broken bulb sealed our relationship). And of course, the internet soon became an essential.
But building a network of reliable and trust-worthy traders took a while and involved some costly mistakes.
Ones that stand out include taking a plumber to the small claims court and having to get a chimney breast re-done because the plasterers did such poor job on the damp-proofing.
scuseme? can you recommend…..
So fast forward: a loft conversion, new garden, side extension, two new kitchens, bathrooms and many other jobs around the house. But it was in 2013 when we had new neighbours and I quickly became the person they called on for help. Could I recommend a local electrician, plumber or carpenter? Where do you recycle? What days are the local markets? What about the farm shops, cafes, butchers, fishmongers? Or perhaps join a local running club or any other activity? Registering with doctor, optician, dentist, vet? But just as revealing was the fact that barely a day goes by when either me or someone I know will ask for or share a recommendation of a trader, service or place.
Although you can get this information from the internet, people prefer to get trusted recommendations.
But if you’re new to the area, where do you look for the trustworthy, local, independent traders? And even if you’re not, good traders are often in short supply.
That’s when I came up with the idea for scuseme. Launched in February 2016, I developed it to provide personally recommended traders to anyone looking for a service in Cambridge. It’s free and online because that’s the easiest way to reach lots of people, but equally customers can phone to get access to our team. scuseme started with the traders I have used personally over the years; people I trust to deliver high standards. Since then the team has expanded to cover a wide range of useful services; faithful to the scuseme ethos of meeting in person all traders, so you can be confident that when you use a scuseme trader, it is just like asking a friend for a recommendation.
It’s different because our focus is on building a community service. We only invite traders who work in the Cambridge area and want to invest in growing a local customer base. Traders pay a small commission on work that they win to scuseme.
scuseme now provides more than just recommended traders. There are regular blogs and features scuseme what interviews chats with interesting people who live and work in Cambridge. It also includes things that will surprise you about Cambridge. The idea came from the fact that despite living here for over 20 years, I’m always discovering new things about my city such as the annual orchid count at Fulbourn, the sculpture trails around the city and places to go for free drop-in French classes.
I hope scuseme will be your new best friend in Cambridge.