in my first year i wrote a very rambling, disconnected list of fifty things I loved about Oxford.
in second year i crossed out some and edited the list.
in third year i found the notebook i’d written them on.
Some are listed wrongly, not in any particular order, I left them the way they were. I sometimes think of something to add to this list suddenly, whilst travelling or about to fall asleep. I left out the ones that were too personal, or repeated, or maybe controversial (G&Ds being overrated, for example, but loving its ambience) – so I just mixed some items together.
I love Oxford, I love its corners and secrets and gems and roads, and it’s the first place that feels like home because it’s the first place I’ve actually gotten to know properly. Anyway, let the list speak.
the beginning of term, with its air of anticipation, all of the plans we make, the bustling excitement of new faces and of change and of who sharked the freshers, the tinge of fear that you’d forgotten lived within you when your first essay title is handed to you, an enigma you’d forgotten how to go about over the summer holidays
the plans turn into resolutions, the early mornings, the drag to a lecture, freezing, moaning, to then spot a friend in the hall once it’s over, waiting for you. lunch together, lunch alone, lunch on the Radcliffe camera corners, lunch on a St Gile’s bench.
rainy autumn days, rainy winter days. soaking wet clothes on a squeaky bicycle down Queen’s Lane, the horror of having a bike break down, the eventual giving in to a weather that will most likely make even your bones moist. it doesn’t matter, I don’t like wearing raincoats anyway.
a tutorial which actually goes well, maybe even a bad one – it’ll make a good tale to tell, after all- with a questioning smirk on your tutor’s face when you get a bit too ambitious with your rambling , but more than that, a question you know you will enjoy, the handing in of an essay, a few minutes before the looming deadline, and the freeing sense of accomplishment when you have managed it
the cold, the bitter, freezingly cruel Oxford winter wind slapping you as you shuffle down the high street, longingly thinking of the warmth of hall awaiting you. it froze the branches and the windowsills the first winter I ever came there, and I came back home with lips that looked like I’d trekked across the South Pole. every winter that happens again.
antiques & high and their mounds of novels, books, strange little trinkets, jewelry you cannot afford, journals, encyclopedias, the two steps at the entrance I will always trip up on. I wonder if they still have that T.S.Eliot book I’ve been eyeing up for the past two years (it costs 70 pounds!)
formals and even their meagre portions, and the impatience to get through the Latin silliness to just sit down and enjoy the meal
the Christmas warmth of cafes and libraries and quads, and carols-on-the-stairs and mulled wine, the lights that go on so early, the Christmas tree in front of the Bod, twinkling as you leave the library
Union evenings, debates in a never quite comfy chamber, people talking and agreeing with every side of the argument, the annoyance at long queues for speakers and the rush in leaving to grab a comfy armchair in the bar on thursday evenings
the Taylorian’s annoyingly badly organised reading stacks, and the warmth, the comfort, the familiarity of every seat. the strangeness of looking out to see the Ashmolean, the essay crisis crammed into three hours,in the internet – less linguistics room as hail patters the roof and it feels like a little tin house
Hilda’s in the winter, with its ducks hiding away, the river slowly becoming a bit more frozen, the library becoming a refuge from the cold, the cats curling up in the lodge which I always linger in after it’s been cold for so long just so my fingers can regain feeling and being able to move
queen’s lane coffee house, hummus and pitta bread and the yummiest bean salads you might ever have, the grand café with its afternoon tea or the vaults and garden with their warming soup and rough, warm bread with a hint of spice, Gloucester Green avocados, the Itsu box I had all those times in first year, the wine we drunk in that last cold December week in Peck Quad of second year, the taste of birthday Ben’s Cookies, the smell of Christmas markets
wellington square and its endless staircases and strange cramped classrooms, the plushy entrance of the language centre and free folders and silly smileys on the screens announcing what time our lessons are
the places you fail to reconnect with their history. the Oscar Wilde room, the Alice staircase, the Brideshead café and the oak trees and cloisters
the bops, the silly costumes, the nights out, the drama and the gossip unravelling on the walks back, the effort to be original and the times I forgot my ID, the evenings rushed after collections to just go and dance the stress off
my 19th birthday, a pool table and half my year, too many cocktails, a big, colourful birthday badge, and a run down the high street to return home. my 20th birthday, in Cowley, with most of my year, dramatic events on the day, George Orwell books and tulips and writing sets. I still have the badge. I still wear it every birthday.
afternoons in south park, the view from the hill, the sun rising above it on the times I was most troubled and sleep wasn’t good enough at enticing me, so I wandered out and watched it trickle down at 6am, 7am, watched it colour the spires before me. then, I headed down the hill, as the day began.
the ridiculous initiations, our rowing team in four multicoloured teams running down a hill, skipping, screaming, some ziplining! and the crewdates that followed, the crunchy starters and the cheap wine, the silly sconces and the awkwardness of abandoning the team behind if we thought they were boring
red, tired eyes. the many nights that it would dawn as I wrote my essay, my bed a soft call tempting me – sometimes, the conclusion written in bed, amongst pillows and apple tea. the word count on the screen going higher and higher, finally coming to an end. i always say it drives me mad, but I love it.
the plays, the shows, the musicals, and the talks. all the events you say you’ll go to but never do. all the interesting panels that are always at inconvenient times, all the Blackwells events I say I’ll go to
Snowflakes in New College Lane
Cowley, I love you: I love your delis and your furniture jumbles and your charity shops, the fact you feel like the real world and less like a fairytale, your noise and carnival and music, your G&Ds and your trek to the o2, I love your sunny side wall and the Saturday afternoons when you fill with activity, I love your Monday mornings where you look sullen and reflect yourself on the face of every cyclist heading to town
May Day, never overrated, never did I regret getting up at 5 am in second year or not sleeping at all in first year, the former surrounded by Nutella croissants in our little Marston kitchen, the latter dragging ourselves down Cowley Road after a failed 60s jive, the peaceful emptiness of the High Street compensating tiredness, tutorials at 9 am on both times each year, strange emptiness, marching bands.
i feel that sadness weighing over me as the term, and then the year, draws to a close every time. sometimes it feels like a big house being pulled off my chest by an invisible crane, but most times like a hole slowly sinking into itself in my heart.