I haven't quite figured out where everyone goes. Do they sit in their homes from 6pm-7am? That seems impossible to me, but at the same time I haven't discovered anywhere comfortable outside of my home to just go hang out and work, particularly in the evening. It's a bit of a conflict, actually. For example, when you go to a food joint there are usually two prices listed: takeaway, or eat in. To my surprise (as in Canada any price differential is usually an incentive to avoid wasteful takeaway containers), the eat in option is more expensive by a considerable margin. However, if you choose takeaway, there is nowhere to go eat. This leaves me thinking that I'm paying (quite willingly) for space, for the ability to sit somewhere warm and dry that doesn't demand silence or hassle you out the door... Until it's 5:50pm and you're finally getting into your reading. Sigh.
Maybe that's wrong though. I have two non-mutually-exclusive hypotheses that I'd love some insight on. Are you English? Do you understand these things?
H1: Eat in is more expensive because cleaning the dishes is a nuisance and labour/utility cost.
H2: Eat in is more expensive to encourage turnover in the store. If fewer people are taking up space at tables, more people can pass through. If you get a takeaway container you can pick up and leave at any time, but if you eat in you have to stick around for the duration of your coffee.
**This just in: I've been informed that the difference in price is due to the Value Added Tax being applied to eat in, but not takeaway food. Thank you, Kyle! Reviewing the list of taxed and exempt items is interesting in itself. This discovery negates the suggestion that I'm paying for space, but the discussion is still worth having.**
Public space can be a tricky urban feature to get right. There's no knowing how people will use or maintain the space and how that will change over time. Often, public space becomes disproportionately filled with people who have no private space to speak of, which carries its own set of problems and in my experience dissuades a variety of people from wanting to spend time there.
I'm still searching for my special spaces in Cambridge. Mostly, I just want somewhere dry to sit down and read or eat a packed lunch close to my classes. You can't walk on certain grass here, so university greenspace is a no-go (don't get me started). At times I wish I could just take to the river and float the hours away at peace. If you've got any tips or insights on where people go to work, please let me know. Not only do I want to study there, but it will help me conceptualize the different needs of English vs. North American cities.