Oxford, Day One
The day after my trip to Charleston, I whisked myself off to Oxford for two glorious days.
I stayed with a friend who lived near Magdalen College and was part of a four-week theater program. We met and immediately went to the covered market to buy milkshakes from Moo-Moos. YUM. It was one of the best milkshakes I have ever eaten (drank?) in my life. I got Cadbury cream egg flavor, but they had Turkish delight, raspberry vanilla, and every type of fruit. It would take a lifetime to try them all. A glorious, glorious lifetime. Mmm.
My friend had a long day of theater rehearsal, which meant off to the races for me! The only deterrent was the rain, which started to come down in buckets as soon as I walked into the Bodleian Library gift shop. The shoppers looked up anxiously every time lightning flashed and thunder rolled. I like hearing big claps of thunder, though. My body’s reaction to it feels thrillingly primordial.
The rain cleared a little – and I was wearing my indomitable rain jacket – so I walked through Oxford with my tattered and wet map to find Christ Church, the home of everyone’s favorite math lecturer Charles Dodgsen, aka Lewis Carroll. When he lived there the dean of the church had a wife and four children, one of whom was Alice Liddell.
I walked through Christ Church meadows as the clouds swirled above me. Every hour in England brings new drama; the sky never settles on a mood. It’s beautiful and hard to capture in pictures, but I’m desperately and constantly trying to get a photo that shows the shifting.
The deeper into the meadow I walked, the more magical it became. Both Oxford and Cambridge have beautiful brown and violet cows that graze in their fields, and walking behind the trees and seeing them is so calming. I will not stammer through more explanation when Anton Chekov has already written something perfect. I lazily edited a passage of The Little Lap Dog for you:
The leaves did not stir on the trees, grasshoppers chirruped, and the monotonous hollow sound of the sea[cows] rising up from below, spoke of the peace, of the eternal sleep awaiting us. So it must have sounded when there was no Yalta[Christ College], no Oreanda[Oxford] here; so it sounds now, and it will sound as indifferently and monotonously when we are all no more. And in this constancy, in this complete indifference to the life and death of each of us, there lies hid, perhaps, a pledge of our eternal salvation, of the unceasing movement of life upon earth, of unceasing progress towards perfection…. Gurov[I] thought how in reality everything is beautiful in this world when one reflects: everything except what we think or do ourselves when we forget our human dignity and the higher aims of our existence.
After my long walk, it was time to eat at The Eagle and Child. I hiked up and down the Oxford streets trying to find where it was, since the street I had written down was incorrect, and I ran into many other pubs. But none other would do.
Finally! On St. Giles street. Oh happy day!
I had vegetarian sausages with mashed potatoes and gravy, along with a Pimms lemonade. It was a glowing, comfy pub. I asked the people sitting underneath the framed pictures of Tolkien and Lewis to take a picture of me. This is the pub where they and other Inklings talked about literature and mythology, every week. Narnia and Middle Earth under one roof, friends. I’m surprised I didn’t cry when I got there.
My friend was finally finished with workshops and rehearsal (final performances were next week so everyone was working hard), but The Eagle and Child was the highlight of the night. It was the end of one of the perfect days bestowed on us now and again: the kind you recognize while it is happening.