Sunday, 20 September 2009

Radio Silence

photos by: Simpologist

photo by: Pdam2

So, I haven't been in blogland for a while. On a few occasions, I have had the urge to write, but then hesitated. I think this is because I am often not sure where on the spectrum of non-fiction to fiction a blog like this one needs to lie. Most of the time, this doesn't matter - I am more than happy to tie together my entries with tripe, but when big things in life happen, it's not as easy. I feel some sense that this blog is an historical record, even if only partially reliable. I guess I am not the most willing or confident tell-all blogger. Plus, I am supposed to be talking about academic issues (whip crack), issues that become less relevant in the daily sense the more immersed you are in your thesis or perhaps they just become so narrow and iterative you can no longer (bear to) see them.

So here's the offload: I have spent the last few weeks dealing with breaking up with my boyfriend and moving out of a shared home. It took almost a week to complete the move, a painful and absurd task which involved dividing books and DVDs, gently bargaining over kitchen goods (with both of us declaring we didn't want any of it), cooking meals together and trying to keep things light and loving. Each day, the blunt reality of a house slowly stacking and emptying would hit us. Then, after my last load of things had been trundled to a friend's house in a clumsy wooden cart, I began the new experience of riding past shared house, empty and still, waiting for new tenants, evidence that the relationship, the sharing a home and more part, had vanished.

I am turning to thesis work, quite gladly in fact. I had been feeling terribly agitated about being behind my schedule, only getting a few hours' work done each day (even if I knew the reasons and understood the need for rest).

This post sounds far more grim than my life actually is. Time helps. The kindness of family and friends helps. Being older (hehe) is a very good thing too. I have also enjoyed some time out of the bubble, cruising through the vast green-brown Oxfordshire countryside to find thet the honey-coloured villages of the Cotswolds. One of these villages, Broadway in Worcestershire, was hosting a hearty fete, which was fronted up by a school jazz band, and supported by icecream carts and tea and cake stalls. I had a conversation with a few English people (one Burton-on-the-Water local, two from Yorkshire) about what they regarded as the decline of English society. They want to reintroduce the death penalty and to see more preventative measures against the increase in single parent families. I tried to feed a speckled white horse an apple, but backed out at the final moment. It had these pale blue eyes that seemed, to me, to be darting every which way. There was no agreement between us. I have never been good at feeding horses.

Anyway, I'd better get cracking with some work. I hope you're well. I will have a happy dawdle around blogland later on to see what's going on...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Oxford: a tremendous (painfully realistic) comedy drama

A few nights ago, I had dinner with two friends at the Standard Tandoori on Walton Street. It's an institution, cherished for its kitch interiors and warm staff as much as its food. I believe a local petition stopped it being forcibly closed. That's democracy right there. Anyway, one of my friends, an American, is leaving Oxford tomorrow, while the other two of us (a Pom and I) are due to depart in the next few months or so. It was a final hurrah, at least until we arrange our graduation ceremonies on the same day. But that could be a year away, maybe longer.

The American asked us to list all of the loves and hates of Oxford. ('Let's start with HATE', she said.) We came up with a few things:

Hates: smug Rhodes scholars, thick pollution and perennial allergies, narrow range of healthy eating options (we conceded that this has improved during our time here), terrible night clubs, feeling like you're regressing socially - relying on cheap gossip and discussions of national stereotypes to bond with people with whom you do not share a common history.

Loves: being somewhere imbued with the past, riding our bikes around (the breeze on your ears and shoulders), the Isis River, the University Parks, the arrival of the blossom trees, late night conversations in college bars, the opportunity to meet so many people from all around the world, its enchanting gardens and cloisters, the benefits of the bubble (minimal academia-haters, actual or perceived!).

But, I've got to say, the conversation fizzled out pretty quickly and we moved onto the social acceptability of full mouth kissing for casual greetings and the U.S. healthcare debate.

The next day, I considered why that topic deflated and it struck me that Oxford is not a place of huge dissonance. It is not a town that you could proclaim as a love-hate affair. It is for the most part very pleasant. While it is frustrating and stifling, you quickly learn its rhythms. You can't really hate a place that dutifully serves up malaise each of the three terms during weeks 4 and 8. Oxford's lows are as reliable as May Day.

One thing I will miss about England (eventually - I am not leaving any time soon, so I really don't need to embark on this nostalgic holiday) is some of the British television. I love it. I have already banged on about Stephen Fry, Frankie Boyle and other quiz show stars in other posts. Here, I plug their tremendous (painfully realistic) comedy dramas.

Here are some clips of two of my current favourites, Outnumbered and Jam and Jerusalem. The first is about a London family in which the parents are 'outnumbered' by their three cheeky children. It is semi-improvisational, chiefly the childrens' lines. The second (recommended to me by Miranda and her Man) is about a typical English village, focusing on the characters and crises of the local Women's Guild. ('Jerusalem' in the title refers to England's most popular patriotic song).

Jam and Jerusalem teasers on YouTube

Hope you enjoy them. I haven't had much energy for blogging of late. I am positively stressed out, as evidenced by me trying to recall at 3am this morning the characters from Street Fighter II (1991) on Nintendo and connect them to their signature moves and sounds: Sonic Boom!