Interview: Somebody Else’s Cambridge

Eleanor Metcalf 16 April 2014

Your blog is called Somebody Else's Cambridge – do you think only people at Cambridge can relate to the experiences discussed in it, or does it have a wider appeal?

I think the readership is mainly Cambridge people at the moment, although a surprising number of people from home who I haven't talked to in years pop up to tell me they are enjoying it. I get messages from people I don't know saying how much they identify with stuff said; it's great to know that it isn't just me and my friends who are odd. The most popular post is the one about how Cambridge is maddening but wonderful. I think the more people relate to them the more views they get. And that one is certainly very easy to relate to.

How did you go about finding people to interview? Have most people been amenable, or have you had some who aren't interested in baring their souls?

I tend to approach people who are kind of in my peripheral vision, who I have always wished I knew more about. It's a great tool actually, because if someone looks interesting I can just go up and find out about them, without all the small talk of real life. Interestingly, a lot of the people I have interviewed have since become close friends, perhaps because I often end up sharing things with them too if I identify with what they are saying. That has been really nice. I haven't had anyone turn me down for an interview yet. Most people tend to protest that they aren't very interesting and then they always are once they open up.

What made you decide to start the blog?

I was talking to somebody in my college who seemed to want to divide everyone in the world into interesting people and boring people. Instinctively I felt that that was completely stupid because everyone has this whole story that follows them around which is always fascinating. I wanted to prove that it was wrong, more to myself than to anyone else, so I thought I would start this project.

How has doing the interviews made you re-evaluate your own Cambridge experience? 

I can't work out if it's depressing or really liberating to hear your own thoughts, thoughts that you believed were unique, relayed back to you by someone else. I think it's very easy in Cambridge to feel like you are the only one who isn't living a completely perfect life, but this has made me realise it simply isn't the case – a lot of the people on the blog are the type of person who I tend to look at and think they are perfectly in control. They aren't. Its the same with relationships: it is easy to look around college and see everyone's relationship as perfect, and wonder why yours is different. Obviously under the surface they have exactly the same problems you have. But that can be easy not to notice.

Do you have set questions you ask, or do take a very open approach and see what comes out?

It really depends: there was one person who comes to mind who was so keen to talk that I couldn't get a question in edgeways. I often go in with an idea about what I want them to talk about, but I always ask them first if they want to pick a topic, just in case there is something even more interesting that I have missed.

I think fundamentally people want to talk about this type of thing, but often feel like they can't. There always comes a point when I am telling my friends about my emotions that I decide I'm being self centred and boring them, so I stop. Here people have free reign to share whatever it is that they want to get out. I can definitely see why that is appealing, I would open up in the same circumstances.

Speaking of opening up, in recent posts you've mentioned your own thoughts and feelings as well as your interviewees': is that a deliberate change of direction?

Yeah, that was a conscious effort. A friend of mine called me to say he thought I should mention my own experiences a bit more. I've known him for five years and he really doesn't like talking about emotions and stuff, so I decided if he had broken the habit of a lifetime he might be worth listening to. In fact, one of the interviews is actually me interviewing myself. The first guy I ever interviewed bet me I couldn't slip one in without him noticing.

Did anyone notice?

My mum! And the guy who bet me worked it out eventually, but he thought I could be four of them, which I guess goes back to what we were saying about how similar people's experiences are.

 

This term, TCS will be showcasing interviews from Charlotte's blog, which can found at http://somebodyelsescambridge.wordpress.com/ or on facebook https://www.facebook.com/secambridge567?fref=ts