Saturday, January 30, 2010

the sun is shining gloriously in Oxford & the birds are tweeting

...but my bicycle got stolen last night & perhaps right at the same moment Naya undid her stomach contents across our bed, quite thoroughly across our bed and our room still smells of HCl acid/semi-digested food though I've spent the majority of the day scrubbing & laundering with the wee tiniest of washers in a country that doesn't readily believe in dryers & also, perhaps right at the same moment the secretary for the committee of a graduate fellowship that took months for me to compose hit send to deliver a "of the 8500 applicants only 1400 were chosen, and you were not one of them" message to my inbox & now today I attempt to read the books I must, with our sheets and blankets drip drying on every possible surface around our tiny room, but my stomach is churning & I don't know if it is because of the antibiotics working me over, the layered ill-luck, or the fact that Naya and I shared a spoon about an hour before she upchu@#d.  I hope, like the bargaining optimist that I am (even though I feign atheism), that this means we've somehow "done our time" and can get on with the Oxford bliss momentarily.

It's not lost on me, however, that I have been a bit exuberant, perhaps annoyingly so on this the upside of all this day's weirdness is that I will not deliver an annoying peachy blog post where I detail how perfect my life is.

P.S. Naya is eating lots of food & feels mostly normal.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Going out for moon pieces

This is part of the English section of the lower Radcliffe Camera reading room (in the Bodleian) & where I spend the majority of my time midweek.  Yesterday & today's reading list:  Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, a biography on Hegel, Marx's The German Ideology & Theses on Feuerbach & ..., a biography on Marx, and Forgac's Marxist Literary Theories.  Not kidding.  The 8-9 page essay on all of this is due Thursday by 5p.  Then shift quickly to my other "tutorial" whose reading list must be consumed in its entirety Friday/Saturday so that I can deliver another 9 pager by Monday afternoon:  Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim, biography on Joseph Conrad, Kundera's Art of the Novel, Butler's Early Modernism...too many to list, as I need to get off this blog & read.  Last week I read 800 pages, this week promises more & I feel I am conducting an experiment with my mind to see how many pages can be read in each 24 hour period, with as little sleep as possible to keep the lab-rat going.  I have to say it thrills me (vs. frightens/fatigues) to consume pages, authors, and entire periods so voraciously.  It's the only way if one has any hope of grasping what humans have thought and accomplished.

Then, in all the spare time between antibiotic doses, helping Naya sort through life, and thousands of pages of human scribblings, I have this idea for a story I'm working on.  It is about a woman who works in Christ Church Hall serving the students their extravagant meals three times a day.  How is it that her life has brought her to her knees there, so to speak?  If you have any art in similar vein as the pic above please pass on the name of the artist/painting to me.  This one is 'La Mere' by Elizabeth Nourse, 1888.  &
 then, of course, the other two pics are the Hall we extravagantly dine in while I peep and wonder at the servers each night, making character sketches & a view of Tom Gate from the inside.  The story'll be a tragedy.  How couldn't it be.

Then a bit of poetry to share that I read this morning at 4am whose last line's sentiments I adore:

One of the Butterflies

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn to pain.

And lest you think I'm getting too arrogant and serious, some amusement Naya and I laughed rather too loudly over for our housemates last night:

"Fear can sometimes be a useful emotion. For instance, let's say you're an astronaut on the moon and you fear your partner has been turned into Dracula. Next time he goes out for the moon pieces, wham! You just slam the door behind him and blast off. He might call you on the radio and say he's not Dracula, but you just say, 'Think again, batman."  --deep thoughts by jack handy

& These are one of those spiral stairs in the Bodleian I mentioned before, which at this point I have stopped climbing up and down for fun.  It takes me four weeks of climbing spiraling staircases and smiling childishly about it before I can notice that the stack of books I'm not attending to almost needs its own spiral staircase to reach its top.

And on that note, to Hegel!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Einstein's equations about the universe from an Oxford lecture

The bottom line, I like the most, is the equation for sorting out the age of the universe.
One up from that is for the radius of the universe.
This and Thomas Hardy's tragic fatalism keep me company this very uncomfortable Sunday afternoon.

I'm quite ill.  Intense, hot pain on one side of my head & jaw, and heavy, syrupy fatigue since last night, abruptly and without reprieve.  I think it's a real deal sinus infection, which I now realize I've never had.  Just took 6 children's tylenol after sleeping for two hours, and now I don't feel that I need to go to the hospital.  I had started to think the meningitis shot didn't take & began sorting out what to do with Naya (Hardy's fatalism).  Looking forward to attempting to secure a bottle of antibiotics tomorrow first thing.  Thankful that unlike Jude the Obscure I have access to medicine that will prevent me from dying in a small room in Oxford whilst the bells of all the spires clang in the background & I feverishly recite poetry or physics equations before the lights go out on a mere three decade stint.

Perhaps I've been doing a wee bit too much.  But who wouldn't?  & on that note, must write an 8-9 page essay by 1pm tomorrow that is better than anything I've yet written (must!), must go downstairs right now and cook dinner for Naya, & very much want to attend Burns' night tomorrow at Christ Church Hall complete with haggis, pipes, and whiskey & wanted to run with the x-country team again at noon Monday.  I'll start with standing first and walking down the stairs to see how that goes.

Oh, come now, human frame, no time for such a thing as weak, flimsy fatigue when I want robustness.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Maybe this will help you win some future Trivial Pursuit/Jeopardy game

Some Oxford trivia:

What, pray tell, does it mean when your professor writes NB in front of a phrase?  Hint--the Latin is Nota Bene.

Who is the only female who is gracing the walls of the Christ Church dining hall with her presence?

What does it mean when your librarian says that the books are sometimes shelved a bit wonky?

Why do we have the double solid yellow lines in the center of the road with white lines on the edges of roads in the US, and the very opposite in England--double solid yellow lines on each edge of the road & dotted white line in the center?

How does one go about studying seriously in Oxford--nose to book without looking up for at least four hours, that is--when the archways overhead keep making one smile & walking up and down the spiral ladders and rolling ladders for fun keep distracting one from anything other than taking it all in?

I use a fob, a hob, and a pair of Wellies every single day here, why and for what?

What novel am I reading right now?  Hint--Hardy's last.

With regards,
Your happy friend,
Who has come home to read
so that she'll stop playing with the ladders &
fawning over the titles she wishes she could read,

Sunday, January 17, 2010

varying degrees of heaven

When you hear really amazing choral presentations on the radio do you tend to think the soprano voices are women, like I do?  Perhaps some are but tonight we witnessed that the choir was entirely without women at Christ Church as the voices soared to angelic heights that might make the unholiest of us accept anything to be allowed to stay for more notes.  They are little boys.  Boys perhaps of five or six years to just over Naya's age who sing gloriously and boldly so that I kept having to bend my neck around searching for the women I thought must be hiding from my view.  Now I understand the tragedy of puberty from a new angle & the reason such a thing as castrato/i might seem rational.  And the tragedy of all the priest business as well, yet more fully.

Then as we left Christ Church, sweeping our long coats over ancient paths, the bell at Tom Gate (the main gate) struck seven times, with Naya saying she couldn't believe little boys could do that, and the stars overhead were grand and clear; and, I wished that the little boys could follow us all the way home and sing us to sleep.  But instead we have our nightly flutist, who Naya has named "The Flutist on the Roof."  Maybe he is a castrato whose voicebox has failed anyhow despite heroic efforts?

From a fellow of Christ Church who must've seen what I just saw:

The More Loving One

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My morning realization... that when one travels to a new country (or perhaps even to a new town, or to a new relationship, or new pair of socks or skis, for that matter) there are many things going on, but the main one, I think, is this underlying flutter (that perches in the soul & sings the tune without the words & never stops at all) that maybe here lies the possibility of all the things you wanted the world to be--already existing--and all the things you didn't want--not existing.  For example, and the very thing that inspired what is now perhaps appearing to be a convoluted, nonsensical (even slightly adolescent) thought, as I prepared omelets with Devonshire cheddar, Oxfordshire eggs, EU basil, tomatoes, peppers, kale, and green onions with a fair-trade mocha in the other hand moments ago, I realized that a country that opts not to put little irritating stickers on the peppers and tomatoes that none of us want to be there is a very good and intelligent country.


These are photos taken the other night when we first dined in Hall (capital 'H') at Christ Church.

Underneath the coats were very pretty outfits that were never let out because the building is so old it can't exactly be properly heated on a 30 F night.  Imagine the strong smell of kerosene, two-hundred British accents bouncing off the arched dome & walls, eating with unusual swiftness as the servants are arriving already with course two whether or not you are done with course one, and being seated directly beneath an original painting of Sir Thomas More (Utopia's author)--and, you'll have a hold of a tendril.  I put it forth again that I am allowed to bring two guests per night, so all you have to do is get here and then you too can wrap yourself in wool and take deep inhales of kerosene just as Einstein must have.  You'd be crazy (one sandwich short of a picnic) to pass it up.

One more thought, as this is a new shift--something changed yesterday for me.  I never took out the map and I knew my way around and I didn't feel the previous tendency to say very clipped sentences in hopes they wouldn't place the American accent.  I ordered a book from "the stacks" at the Bod to be delivered to the lower reading room of the Radcliffe Camera on Monday morning with ease.  I eavesdropped on a funny conversation with a mad professor at a bookstore cafe and smiled back and forth with the woman who was enduring it.  People moved aside when I walked down the various alleys and sidewalks instead of walking straight for me.  One woman took photos of me outside a college where I was waiting for a meeting.  I met with my tutor, Dr. Henry Dicks, for the first time and felt jovially intelligent with no need to equivocate during the literary line-drawing we were engaged in.  And none of that really indicates anything, it just sounds like me listing more of how swoony I am here but in between the lines there is something different.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The reading begins

It is Woolfie who planted this seed originally of inspiring me to seek out such a grandiose dream as this Oxbridge forum and of creating restlessness about absolutely everything else.  When I was nineteen, inundated by nursing curricula that I feigned interest in, I took a literature class each semester to maintain a hold on myself & one professor, fresh out of graduate school, assigned us A Room of One's Own, and thought privately that none of us understood it and she wished sorely that she was back in grad school or at some weightier humanities college.  Somehow I like to imagine that I wasn't the only one in that room that put life on pause to sit up and notice the vulnerable genius of that book and what it could offer people that weren't doing what they should with their lives, however.  Maybe that is why our professor looked so forlorn as we read it.  Maybe we all did.  I hope more than one of us from that room skipped the tracks that seemed so solidly laid.

In its introduction Woolf finds herself preparing for a lecture (the lecture is the entirety of A Room of One's Own) to a women's college about Women & Fiction.  She is strolling around at a prestigious university whose lawns are not to be trod upon by non-members, which, at the time of Woolf, included women.  In fact, some of the Oxford colleges didn't allow women until the 1970s.  Anyhow, Woolfie finds herself thinking of Women & Fiction and what she is to say to these young women at a women's college elsewhere as she trods across the sacred greens of Oxbridge (either Oxford or Cambridge) and is promptly shushed off by a Porter.  And therein her scene is laid:  her rub with why it is hard for women to write fiction is personified by the lawn and the shushing Porter.  Women are forever being shushed off lawns if lucky (like her) while most are at home burdened by babies, fatigue, a lack of their own money, and certainly a lack of a room of their own in which they could ever dream of having the time to create anything with pen and paper and steady gaze--at least most were at the time of Woolf.  As to our time, well, another blog post for that.

So, today I walked across the snow-covered lawns of Christ Church for the first time as we were inducted and was instructed by a fellow Christ Church student (British) that we were allowed to walk here, yet visitors were not and had to stay on the paths...and Woolf's lines wandered through my mind unshushed, and I smiled and enjoyed each slushy step.  I whispered to my friend Dara, "It is as if we've just been given keys to Buckinhgham Palace, isn't it?"  "Yes," she tittered back.

The afternoon carried on & I left Christ Church & just moments ago received word from one of my "tutors" (equivalent to professors, though here you work one on one with your professor for studies vs. the lecture format) that yes, certainly we would be able to delve into the bridge that mends the late Victorian to the early Modern (via Hardy and Woolf and others) but why not begin with a reading list of Woolf's.  He suggested that I read at least one novel, or up to four over the weekend, in addition to some of her diaries, and a biography, and an essay or two, and to come with an essay ready to discuss by Monday at 2pm at his office.  He was nice enough to add, if it isn't too much.  The beautiful thing (& here, I totally understand if you have need of eye-rolling) is that I read all of Woolf's works chronologically a couple of years ago to prove some theory to myself about her (ask me if you want to know).  So, contrary to the list being daunting, it is pure joy and familiarity and my eyes have now a secondary fever atop the viral one.  In fact, since here, I've been reading A Room of One's Own & The Voyage Out, at leisure, so I'll just pick it up a notch.  I had hoped to spend the next couple of days in the Bodleian library, instead of pretending to be an Oxford student, I'll actually be one.

& The most brilliant thing of it is that after I sent off my tutorial requests months ago asking to combine Hardy & Woolf, I regretted it--why hadn't I just focused on Woolf with an Oxford Woolfian scholar? I kept asking myself.  Yet now it seems I get to.  How lovely, really.  And next weekend there is a Woolf lecture with The British Virginia Woolf Society in London, and I am on the waiting list for a ticket, that I requested several months ago.  Oh, and it was Woolfie that got me into this online English program I've been doing the last year and a half as I wrote an essay about all of this room of one's own business & my chronological reading of her works that the English faculty liked.  So it is quite fitting that my time  here should hone a bit in on the one I like to call Woolfie.

One last bit, she is brilliant.  If you haven't read her or you think of her as only a rock-pocketing melancholic wench at the bottom of a river, then perhaps pick up A Room of One's Own, at the least.  It's very short.  The WF public library has a few of her things on shelf.  And it is very relevant to some aspect of your life I am sure, whether or not you are a woman I'm sure you have need of a room of your own in some way that you are presently ignoring.  Oh, and just a sidenote, she bottomed the river at age 59, which doesn't quite fit the melancholic wench profile you might have pegged her as.

So here I am, not in possession of the things Woolf says to the ladies of the women's college that they must have if they are to write fiction--I do not have a room of my own--and it indeed makes the writing of fiction, or the attending of Oxford much much harder.  In fact, I am at this very moment lying in bed in my very small room with my sleeping child, with my Italian roommates speaking in the hallway now for about 20 minutes very beautifully and without either of them taking in air.  Like everyone, I say I have very little time for myself.  As a solo act avec child, fiction & creating, quite possibly, should find themselves tossed out with the laundry water.  I haven't exuberant, or even exuberantly small amounts of money.  But I have got insatiability and wonder and verve and a warm yet melancholic stance on humanity.  I have access to walk on certain lawns.  I have access to 117 miles of shelves.  I have access to this insanely elite club down a secret alleyway that is no less jaw-dropping than stumbling upon Diagon Alley, I am sure.  I have nine weeks with a tutor who's spent his career on Woolf.  And I have a fire under me arse that causes me to write and think and smolder when I should be sleeping.  Somehow what Woolf had to say about Women & Fiction is not something old hat, read already enough, fitted on its spot on a shelf, outdated, drowned.  Somehow it is one of the very essences of what it is to be human captured perfectly in its pages so that it doesn't outdate because just as she thought Shakespeare had nothing in his way, neither did she.

No rocks in m' pockets.  But full of gratitude for beautiful genius.  She had a flawless mind for what she used it for.  I'm thankful to the melancholy professor who handed out one of those thin books to my nineteen-year old hand.  & to the sleeping child who inspires fiction as much as she inhibits it.  & to poverty as it makes one creative in ways wealth simply couldn't.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

formal, 7:20p, at Hertford Hall

assigned seating, my lovely friend & Christ Church fellow, Dara, beside me (outstretched arm)

pre-drinks:  champagne
first course:  baguettes and three-mushroom soup, Hertford college red & white wine
second course:  vegetarian pastry, brussel sprouts, carrots, sparkling water
third course:  cheesecake, Hertford college port
fourth course:  petits fours, cafe au lait, more port
fifth course:  cheese & fruit platter, sparkling water
post-drink toasting:  involved forty speeches, including one of my own, and more port

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Turning water into wine

Stained glass window at the Oxford Unitarian Chapel this morning.
The quote below it read:  "he prayeth well who loveth well both man and bird and beast"

time and its passing

Today, what started out as a simple text to our new acquaintances Claire, Marcus, Lula, and Freya asking if they could recommend a babysitter (as I have a formal dinner Monday evening at one of the college dining Halls) resulted in the solidifying of friendship.  Such a cool family.  They live one block from us.  They're British, but they've recently lived in Uganda and Copenhagen as she heads up Oxfam and he designs roads.  They invited Naya over to play & I sat and had coffee with Claire for awhile, before they headed off to London for an evening of Burlesque theatre.  She kindly insisted that Naya simply come to their house whenever I'd like, including tomorrow night.  & Her only request was that she get to be my guest on occasion to some of the debating events at the Union society.  & then when their babysitter was 30 minutes late, I was able to stay with the kids & sit in their cool house so that they could leave for London in time.  Just doesn't take much to turn strangers into friends and trust.

Nothing earth-shattering here, but such a nice reminder day that
Life can be very simply amazing and kind.

Last bit of news--we both have a slight fever tonight and I'm trying to view the replicating UK virus in my blood as something as intriguingly cultural as any other thing I've been swooning over here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Love hand-written mail way more than electronic/phone communications...

& I just received a second postal address here that feels very elitist & I'd love get to use it once or twice:

I have a pigeon-hole (mail slot) at the Porter's Lodge of Christ Church & to get your hand-written letter to it you could write on your envelope:

Sabine Brigette
Christ Church
St. Aldates
Oxford OX1 1DP, UK

Sorry, I'm a bit like a bouncing around child, not meaning to be annoyingly excited, but I simply am fairly uncontainable at the moment.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

first moments within the walls of Oxford

at 7am I awoke to find that New Hinksey Primary was indeed among the long list of closed schools (but no panic ensued as my Oxford comparative lit. professor landlord assured me that Oxford was very keen on being kind to students that were also mums) & so while sleeping beauty slept I prepared two backpacks--one with loads of food, water, toys, markers, paper, 3rd grade math, books, & Simpsons dvds; the other with a pen, paper, map to the orientation building, and a beautiful packet of letters for Sabine Brigette about the specifics of having the privilege of being a budding Oxonian & we set off for the 8 hour orientation after some toast, yogurt, meusli, cocoa, & mocha.

at 9am passing the Radcliffe Camera, holding Naya's hand, and detailing to her how I know she will be quiet and that it will be hard for so many hours, but how it is essential not only for me (because I so badly want to hear what they are saying and feel excited and not irritated) but for other mothers who attempt to do the same after we have come and gone.

straight ahead, through the thick locked wooden doors, into a courtyard, under an archway, turn left, into another door, up a spiraling and ancient stairway & there we sat and were welcomed to what we've all just taken on by gaining acceptance into Oxford.  oh my.  so happy.  can't believe the privileges & expectations handed to each of us in that room by each of the speakers that came.  how will i ever leave?

lunch in Hertford Hall
(sorry, quick shot, cameras didn't exactly feel appropriate)

coffee break shot out of a window

from within Hertford's walls, out the wooden door, and then heading home at 5:15p
(what I wouldn't give for one of my shovels leaning on my back porch in WF just to help scrape off this skiff of snow that everyone is slipping on for lack of simple shovels...could have helped pay for my "privileges" if I had one)

walking to our bus stop,
naya is tired and i keep rubbing her back telling her she is such a good good kid, unbelievably capable
and within my own walls there are a thousand cedar waxwings alighting & flying in joyful, impossibly intricate dances in the air.

coolest bit of local knowledge gained today:  the Bodleian library owns most of subterranean Oxford to accommodate its vast shelves of books (it owns a copy of every published book as it is a copyright library) & since we have access to any one of them there is an underground train system just for retrieving the books for the students, which are then delivered to your reading room of choice.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Shoveling the arctic oscillations with a cereal box & smiling about it

A snow day in Oxford is like stepping into a quaint little fairytale book (read on, not as annoying as this sounds)--

After six days of sun since our arrival, the snow began to fall in heaps last night & by morning we had over a foot covering everything.  Lovely of course, & no big deal for a person from the Rocky mountains, right?  Well, yes, but no one owns a snow shovel here & the last time it really snowed like this was in 1987 according to the BBC this morning.  They don't really have snowplows--though I did see one guy with a jeep and a quasi-plow driving around &...not plowing.  So, to Oxford it is quite a very big deal & how to handle a foot of snow? --Well, step into a fairytale world where once upon a time,

all the schools closed
all were encouraged to stay home, get out the sledges, and simply enjoy the snow
and leave work and driving and things to do for another day
followed with endearing phrases thrown out like arctic oscillations, snow villains, and Oxford at the    epicenter of the worst storm ever.
Where everyone did as told, stayed home, left their teeny cars buried,
bundled up in scarves, wool coats, and rainboots,
had town-wide snowball fights,
& I mean everyone,
even the police were throwing snowballs at each other in the park near our house,
and if they weren't throwing snowballs they were carrying them in their hands on the ready,
and there were snowmen built everywhere, really giant ones
because the snow is perfectly sticky
and people made beautiful snow artwork outside of their places of business
and the only shoveling we saw was one man with a cardboard cereal box clearing an area by his gate & another with a rake attempting to rake a bus stop of snow (and making no progress whatsoever) & a third with a regular dirt shovel clearing the bank's entrance...very very sweet...with snowballs cascading all around & occasionally beaning you right in the head or on the shoulder with just a laugh and a shrug in place of apology as if to say, "it might not snow again--you might not get hit again with my snowball for another twenty years--what else would you have me do?!"

& so Naya and I slept until 10am, then walked to town centre, walked under the Bridge of Sighs, down an ancient snowy, maze-like alley, into Hertford college to pick up my orientation packet, then past the place I'll meet the x-country team next Wednesday at 1p instead of today, and all around the alleys & roads & sidewalks & bridges of Oxford with no cars driving and so so many of the jolliest people I've ever seen.

I was just feeling a little tug for Whitefish's powder & a proper winter yesterday--and no doubt, Whitefish's exuberance is no less than this...but like everything it is done from a slightly different angle...there, gear is brought out & collective jolly recreation occurs & reassures everyone why they live where they, everyone is ill-equipped drastically, no gear & collective jolly wandering occurs & reassures everyone that nothing at all has changed here in the last one thousand years...they still live in the world of once upon a time that has no indication at all of going anywhere if you look into their eyes.

woman in a red hat by the Thames (Isis)

woman in a lavender hat with a new bike

view in town center

very pretty, yeah?  wish I'd taken some shots of the snowballers though...the looks in their eyes was really something I would have liked to share.

P.S. Wish me luck that Naya's school is open tomorrow as I have orientation from 9a-4p in beautifully old Hertford college, in a room that I have to walk over the Bridge of Sighs to get to & I am so excited for this aspect of the adventure to begin!  But begin it will either way--with or without my four foot four inch sidekick.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fragments of the day

There are vast paths, meadows, rivers, hills, and forests embedded within this city to the point that I got lost on my run today for awhile with no road in sight when I wanted one to be...and, I assure you, I was in the middle of the city.

An Oxford library card is now in my wallet.  Though the town library is smaller than the one in Whitefish, the shelves are teeming with things a town library usually overlooks.  In a few days I'll secure a Bodleian card & then what?!

Things that are cheaper in Oxford (in $):
-You can buy a heavy jug of port (ruby or tawny, vintage or no) for six bucks at the grocery
-Fancy soap like the sort from 17th century France for 75c.
-Running shoes with the sort of bounce that's best for pavement--notable brand, way too cheap
-Beautiful loaves of bread for 75c.
-Hummus that tastes like the kind from home & not the usual playdough at the store--heaps of it for very cheap
-Almond croissants--the sort with marzipan in the middle--perhaps 40c.
-Butter from the Queen's own cows (kidding, sort of...the Queen does seem to endorse certain products and not others though with elaborate descriptions)
-Organic, green, fair-trade, sustainable, recyclable, local, British & Euro-made products...they are quite a bit more far along on demanding these things and making them available at rates that are often less than the alternative.

Things that are not cheaper in Oxford:  everything else.

Naya's first day at New Hinksey Primary today (see her blog for photos ):  She's up on a top floor in this gloriously sunny room of windows in an ancient, pretty building.  Her new friends are Freya and Maple.  They have "school dinner" when speaking of hot lunch.  Naya had packed lunch.  At the morning roll call her teacher, Mrs. Christensen says each student's name and they respond, "Good Morning, Mrs. Christensen, school dinner (or packed lunch,) please!"  And she says, "Well done" so and so.  They begin with a school wide assembly everyday at 9...meeting in the school "hall."  Naya said that they recited poetry to them about ways to bring about newness into life, etc.  I'm totally happy to forego the pledge of allegiance for poetry!  Also, Naya already got some sort of main part in a play...she's a chicken in a chicken play.  &They are going swimming on Mondays...French club on Tuesdays...   It was quite key that this aspect (Naya's school) worked well and made her happy for my endeavor to have a go whatsoever.
& I think we have luck yet again.

For those of you that made mention of it...there are still cows in the middle of the Christ Church meadows...happily munching and wearing warm coats.

130,000 can feel like 3,000 people when they are either used to, wanting to, or confined to low-consumption, heavy recycling, little parking/roads available, walking everywhere, having only a few options at the grocery store, working with small living/retail spaces in favor of meadows and hills in the middle of town, etc.  (Oh, someone had asked me to note whether London to Oxford was continuous, sorry I've forgotten who--not continuous.  It's the same style as in Germany & France.  Super smart planning whereby the towns have strict limits of where they end.  Even when they are London.  Paris.  Frankfurt.  And when you leave the limit you are in the country and it is green and open and beautiful.)

Going running with the Oxford cross-country team on Wednesday at 1p--we meet outside the Bodleian library.  I get to wear some sort of team clothing...&no doubt i'll be running all around Whitefish in that this summer being annoyingly sentimental and happy.

Ate salmon from a Scotland loch, broccoli, wild rice, eclairs, and madeira for dinner in our kitchen & then watched a unique rendition of Snowwhite on dvd in bed with Naya.

It takes me one day to get from the mountains of Whitefish to Virginia Woolf's favorite park.  It takes me four days to be able to control which of the British accents I'm using.  It takes me five days to recover from jet lag and a time change.  It takes me one week to unweave love enough to weave fluidly with that part of my mind/emotions again &notice all the pretty threads without concern.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

We're getting good at throwing an accent without much effort

Naya's lovely photography
(view out of our bedroom to the garden, and to a large city park & lake beyond that, and to farms & hills beyond that)

It seems to me we are in a town of three thousand so far...just not seeing the other 130,000 people from our neck of the woods.  Our neighborhood seems to be in the country...with Christchurch surrounded by vast parks and meadows, including their own college cows.  Feeling abundantly lucky!

One of the entrances to Christchurch.  We were both compelled to giggling at the magnitude and prettiness of this place matched with the ridiculously absurd notion that we would get to go inside.  That I would get to go inside one of the very old doors and smile mischievously at the tourists on my way to some room, some particular room to talk to some particular person about a particular book.  (More pics to come as this one hardly does it.)

The way back to our house from town centre, one inch of Christchurch lit in the backdrop.

I learned last night of this thing called the Oxford comma--which turns out I have been rigidly & naturally drawn to since I was a child (without knowing it had a name)--it is the use of the comma before the 'and' in a list such as:  scones, teas, and cakes.  Much prettier to me & more consistent than the alternative:  one could say scones, teas and cakes...but why forego it?  Especially now that it has a name.

Our visit to the grocery.

Afternoon tea, teacakes with butter (aka clotted cream), & scones with jam--Christchurch in the background out a steamy window--& the lovely Naya.

So far we're very good at anything with the letter 'r' in it.  Give us another week & we'll be able to use it to other people besides just ourselves--followed by much giggling.  We're really having a great time & no longer regret that Paris didn't work out.  This surely is where it feels we should be.

Enjoy the lovely heaps of snow we've heard about!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Precisely what I'd hoped to hear

On the train to Oxford this afternoon we were first warned that we were about to step out of the 21st century and into the 18th--that "they just refuse to catch up to the world there."  What she didn't know is that this is precisely what I'd hoped to hear.

Then upon arrival, our new Polish physicist friend, Kaz (friend of the landlord), said that he arrived here thirty years ago to study and never left & he wondered if it would be the same for me.

Later a walk through our neighborhood revealed that we live surrounded by vast parks and nature preserves with immense trees, lakes, songbirds, swans, riverways, with only bikepaths and footbridges & it seemed everyone we passed looked up and smiled with eye contact.  I think we have stepped into the pages of some book--a very pretty, meaningful kind of book with characters that all have good parts and lines.

It is quite more inspiring and comfortable than I thought it would be.  And we've not yet left the neighborhood.  To Christ Church & the center tomorrow for groceries, running shoes, and a blanket.  Truly can't fathom that these are my pages, stage movements, and lines.

And it was gloriously sunny and warm.