Friday, 4 November 2011

Final Post

It has been almost a year since I last posted, and since I submitted my thesis. I have been aware all this time that I left Academic, Hopeful in a soggy state so I am finally and formally finishing it now. I probably needed the time away from it, from all things related to life in Oxford and my thesis. After I left, Oxford took on a distasteful quality, even though I missed my friends and could remember being, for the most part, happy, even sometimes very happy, there.

Things have certainly changed for me. I don't punt or go to debates at the Union or cox or drink red wine with Germans. I write and perform comedy. I don't hear violin-playing at night. I speak more slowly. I don't talk as much about the future. I can better listen to other people. I don't jump when cats pounce at night. My face is brighter, but more lined. I can no longer watch dance shows or reality TV. You can't keep it all.

Last month I returned to Oxford for my DPhil graduation (see if you can spot me). I was able to enjoy the town again. Not as a student - I did not sit with the freshers in dingy bars to talk about whose country is better than whose, then shriek with laughter, or share dreams, and quietly worry. This time I was the visitor in the table beside, charmed by the place. And that was perfect.

Thank you for reading and your comments.

Best Wishes,


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Quick Must-See

Two of the best Brits, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, have teamed up in 'The Trip', a six episode, part improvised series.

Check out this clip and then find more on the Tube. I am in love. The Richard Gere bit killed me. Off to dinner.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

100 000 words lighter

I submitted my DPhil thesis on Friday. That was really hard, and I did it. And I did it fairly calmly too ('cept for the last few days - the bibliography beat me!). Thank you for your encouragement along the way. It helped. I now feel liberated and excited. It's done! (exhale)

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Best For Last

After a year of measly, dead-end rooms that could nuttify the most stable of people, I am now living somewhere pretty bloody superb. The ceilings are five metres high, cluttered book shelves make up much of the living room, there is always fruit on the kitchen table and chocolate by the tea and whisky, the shower has shown remarkable gumption and should be commended for that, there are plenty of coat hooks and mirrors in the entrance, and there is a cream and bronze, art deco lamp hanging over the dark study desk. I can move freely from room to room, which feels, quite frankly, stately by comparison. The back garden is lush and the leaves are now orange, lime and plum.

Only two more weeks til submission. I am suspiciously cheerful.

Hoping you are well, and enjoying a home.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Tuesday, Before Sleep

I have a full thesis now. It's finally fun, this thesis-writing lark, tidying it up. Submission date within weeks. Viva date already set. Supervisor has uttered 'excellent' and 'very good' in front of me, in relation to my work, for the first time. With other words. But still.

These past couple of months, some of my final here, have had their own rhythm and purpose. I hadn't anticipated this. I have made some new friends, including this adorable, camp Irish guy. Goodness me, he is funny. Then there's this very attractive young woman from Puerto Rico via the States. She has that calm observer quality, and she's affectionate. I've been far more open to learning from people's research topics. I am not sure why I found it harder to focus on this before. Perhaps I was panicked. I went to a late-night bonfire a week or two ago. It was an odd choice of activity for a meet-and-greet. The marshmallows were lush.

My old friends have been my family, not because I am so important, just because they're good people. One couple I've taken to calling Mum and Dad. They give me fruit, and let me stay at their place when they go on holidays because it's closer to the College library than my place, which is near the Parks.

One of my oldest pals - we were in the same row of rooms in my first year here - has the same viva date as me. That's nice. For two weeks straight we worked together in the American Institute library, which has a lot of natural light. We've been continuing with Geek Frisbee on a Tuesday and we wore flowers in our hair the other night. Her idea. White flowers. I liked it.

The other evening, my ex-boyfriend and I walked down my favourite street in Oxford, Queen's Lane. It was mostly dark, but there was some thin orange light, sent out from the Sheldonian. We could hear classical music on one of the corners. I pulled myself up the stone wall to look in at a young, Chinese boy on the piano and an older gentleman on the violin. As I jumped down, I gushed. He replied that this would all be good memories for me very soon, my time here. I was not quite ready for the 'm' word and had to blink a lot.

Yesterday, I ventured down to Lunar House, in East Croydon, south of London, to give my prints over to the UK Border Agency as per their requirements. Once an Orwellian nightmare, it wasn't so bad this time. I made my way back to Oxford the long way, via Hoxton, East London, to check out some art studios. The high street there is packed with art students in leopard print harem pants, leotards and tailored jackets. In another street, in which there was a surprising number of cheap Italian shoe shops, women in gently sequined headscarves were picking up their kids from primary school.

I sat with Bill today and he asked what we were going to do next. We brainstormed possible business ideas and our top pick is setting up an ecotourist business on the meadows at the back of College. We'd dress in medieval costume and people could take photographs of us planting and weaving. We'd exchange our produce for goods, and speak in Old English. We'd have a hut with a few props in it, but, at Bill's insistence, it would conceal a tunnel back to our rooms in College. I added that the tunnel would need to house all the mod cons, so we could emerge in normal clothes. We'd probably take up the ciggs. Our target market would be wealthy students, tourists, and North Oxford families, with children called Ambroise, Saffron, and Orlando. I tested it on a friend after dinner and he said he would pay £50 to be our feudal lord for the day and give us light whippings. He thinks we should add potions to our products. I blue-skied that we could also take on troubled kids as one of those brat retreats, medieval-style, that would then become a Channel Four documentary. But this would probably require a dungeon and then, as my friend concluded, a marauding Mongol.

On most days, it is bright and blue outside, but it is very chilly.

We are all wheezing the same wheeze.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Thank you, Oxford

photograph by rugosa rosa

Sometimes a slab of time will pass and I won't feel a part of Oxford, even if, like right now, I can look out onto the dark, neat quadrangle lawn, and follow a student begrudgingly push open the lodge door. I will be here, though not part of it. It like it's over my shoulder, but remote. Then I have these times, when I almost want to apologise for not being adequately grateful to it.

Take this evening. After a bit of carry-on from me, I agreed to give Ultimate Frisbee a go. With a toe out the door, I had assumed my days of geek sports here were over, but it was bright and warm and it won't be so for much longer. In fact, the wind is already a little barer. As I rode up to the field, I rolled my eyes like a grotty kid, having spotted a young woman in a basketball outfit, practising. I had specifically told roperinerer that I was not up for opposing any 'bronzed, well-groomed American women of German decent'. They smash it in team sports. I asked her where she was from. Turned out she was Canadian so I made my way over.

There were nine of us - three Saffas, three Mrrkans, a Turk, a Canook and a Skip. Mostly boys. Two very, very tall ones. The game was bloody good fun. I often forget how much I love team sports. They're the best. Straight after, it started to rain rain-shards: slanty, slappy little shooty things. So many of them, and so thick! This all meant one thing: I had to take my girly bike to the max. She's named something like Maroon Dreamrider or Happy Challenger. I can never remember. I belted it - illegally, I should add (honk, honk) - straight through the University Parks, ripping up that central clay path, whipping past the cricket pavilion, dodging the odd mental poodle, and saluted all the way by the wooden benches of the dead. The sky was dirty-white until that last strip before the horizon when it became the clearest, prettiest see-through blue. (I've said this before, but England skies are marvellous.)

The rain rods wet me right through which made me start to laugh. I saw my year one primary school teacher coming closer through the windscreen wipers of my Mum's lazy, bronze Peugeot. She had her waterproof jacket pulled up over her happy-squishy face. She yelled that school had been rained out and made a 'turn around' motion with her finger. I fanged it up the walled bitumen path by Lady Margaret Hall. It's right near my house.

After I had showered, and sat down for dinner in front of a British bake-off show (so good), I realized that I was supremely happy. It was not that happiness that I sought to hold onto. And the realization did not make it go away either. It has not made it go away.

So, yes, thank you, Oxford, you thoroughly odd, magical place. You never demand that I love and respect you, you simply make it worthwhile when I do.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Last Crawl

One of my friends in the States, who is also in the final phases of write up, sent me this today:

I am joining you in the last crawl, and in celebration of how badly this last bit stinks, I am sending you this video...