Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 2-7

The strangest thing about the day after Laura died was that nothing changed. I still had to get up and row at 6:30, come back and shower, go to class, do some research, attend a lecture, and go to the home leg of the GTC exchange dinner. The lecture was the first in a series of Oxford Wells Lectures (sponsored by Stanley Wells, a famous Shakespeare scholar and Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who was present) given by Katherine Maus called "Being and Having in Shakespeare." She began with Prodigal Princes in Henry IV and Richard II. I had not read either play at the time (I have since read Richard II), but I found some of what she said interesting. In a later lecture she discussed Heirs and Affines in The Merchant of Venice, which was easier for me to follow, as I know the play well. Overall, I think I liked her style--very American, a bit casual, but at least she didn't just read at us like some lecturers do! As ever, she was grilled by her peers after each one, with moderate success in handling the questions, though sometimes she just got out of it by saying, "oh, I'll address that in my next lecture or my book." At least I learned some things. For example, she used a word in the first lecture that I didn't recognise, which I wrote down and later looked up: "deracinate" apparently means to tear something up by the roots (rather like "extirpate"). I do love expanding my vocabulary! That lecture ran a little late, so I had to hustle to get back for the dinner, which as I said was not as fancy as the GTC one, but was still quite yummy, and we got sherry before and port with chocolate after, so I can't really complain.

The next day I attended a seminar on staying in the UK to work after my studies. I am eligible to apply for a two-year work visa, which I can do either from here or from home. If in that time I can find an employer who will sponsor me for a more permanent visa, I might be able to stay. I have not yet given up on the D.Phil idea, but this was definitely something to consider, as I would like to remain in the UK at least for a while.

That Friday, November 5 (Guy Fawkes Day!) the MCR held a wine and cheese for us. I sampled all of the cheeses, and found most of them delightful, though there was one that everyone agreed was quite disgusting. I also sampled a good number of the wines, so I had a bit of a headache the next day, which was a shame, as I was coaching the W2 boat in the morning and rowing the W1 in the afternoon! But somehow I managed. I borrowed a bike from Jess and rode along the tow path next to the Isis, smiling at people I passed and trying both to watch where I was going and to watch the rowing technique of the girls in the boat. I had been nervous when Flo asked me to coach, because I didn't think they would take kindly to the idea of a newcomer whom they barely knew telling them what to do in the boat, but they were really pleasant and eager to learn. Of course, as I knew would happen, we had an amusing vocabulary issue! Nicole (their normal coach) had left me a list of things to work on with them, and one of them was to "practice roll-ups." Now, in America, the roll-up is the rotation of the wrist as you move the blade from feathered position back to square, right before the catch. So I had them practicing this for about 15 mins, trying to get it all happening at the same time, when one of them said, "so, just to clarify, when you say 'roll-up' you mean the movement of the blade, right?" And I said, " that not what it means to you??" And I was informed that, to them, the "roll-up" is the movement of the seat up the slide, I guess because it has wheels that roll slowly forward. Oh dear! I was embarrassed, but they all had a good giggle over it, and we moved on to *that* part of technical practice next.

That evening was Bonfire Night in South Parks, to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day. This was advertised mainly as a fireworks display, but it was more like a carnival with rides and food booths and a stage with live music, including a singing contest! It was very cold, so we clustered together--we being the majority of the Lincoln MCR, who had walked over together--in the middle of the field in front of the effigy. That's right, there was an enormous effigy made of wood and straw towering over the crowd, ready to be set afire. It didn't look like Guy Fawkes--in fact, it really resembled a sort of warrior, with frizzled hair and a pointy chin and a spear-like thing in its hand. Ooh, in fact, I've just looked it up, and you can read about it and see a photo of it here:
After the amazing fireworks, they lit him on fire, and the blaze was so large that we were warmed even in our spot at the back of the crowd. The metal frame underneath was revealed as the straw burned away, and the face actually did look like a Guy Fawkes mask once it had been reduced by the blaze. The whole thing was really cool, despite its somewhat barbaric origins. At least there were no hangings!

The following day was Sunday, and it was also the day after my friend W's birthday, so I had promised him a day of fun. We left Oxford in the morning and traveled to Burford, one of the cute Cotswolds towns nearby that has lots of sloping streets and stone buildings, adorable shops and old-fashioned pubs. We wandered the town for a long while, admiring quaint signs and old churches, and spending a long time in a charity shop, a brewery, and a candy store, to name a few places. I finally picked up a nice warm pair of gloves for my frozen fingers, and W. got a hat for his morning runs. We had a late lunch in a pub called the Highway Inn, where we sat in a cosy window seat and whiled away two hours in conversation and people-watching. After that it was just about time to head home, as we both had work to do, so we trekked back to the car, pausing to snap a photo of the sign outside Mrs. Bumbles of Burford's Delicatessen (!!), because I couldn't resist.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry about your Aunt Laura. I know how close your family is. George has not had to deal with such a loss since he's been away, but he used to get scared every time somebody got the times wrong and called him at some ungodly hour!