Tuesday, August 03, 2010

London and Oxford, July 2010--Part 2

So once again I've been delayed in posting. I've been home for 2 full days now, and apparently life indignantly stops when I leave New Jersey. So, I've had much to catch up on--bills, grading, work, appointments. And of course, the cat spent the week I was away sulking, hiding, puking, and re-enacting the last scene from Anna Karenina. OK, I made that last one up. But seriously, if we had a train around here...

In any case, back to the third day of my trip. I left London on Sunday and took the train to Oxford. It was the first time I'd attempted a pre-reservation for a train, and I was glad I did, because the train was packed with American tourists going on some kind of walking tour in Kingham. Having a seat with your name on it helps on crowded trains. Plus, it's way cheaper.

I arrived in Oxford around 10:45 or so, and was at Harris Manchester College by a little after 11. For those of you who haven't heard of Harris Manchester College--it's one of Oxford's newest colleges, for "more mature" students. In Britain, they define this as someone 21 and older. Apparently the British government hasn't encountered many 21 year olds. I would pay money to meet a mature 21-year-old male. But not to get off topic--I was shown to my room, which was fairly nice, with a view of the old chapel outside. My only problem with the arrangement was that the suite I was in only had a bathtub--no shower. This is a problem, as I really can't take baths, as I'm a bit infection-prone. But I could have made do if I wasn't sharing the suite area with a man. A very nice man, but nonetheless, I'm sure he would be no more thrilled about sharing my germs in the tub than I would be about sharing his. We don't have that kind of relationship. Somehow I muddled through the week managing to bathe without filling up the tub, but I can't imagine how students do this during the semester. And this was not an old building, by the way--it was the newest one. So go figure.

I had time to meander around Oxford before going to the opening registration at 4:00. Naturally I made a bee-line for Blackwell's booksellers, particularly the rare book room. Unfortunately it was closed, being a Sunday, but I could still look at the offerings behind glass. I managed to restrain myself from buying anything, and headed over to the White Horse tavern, for some exceptional food and a Hobgoblin on draft. Really, it seemed life could get no better. And I'm still not sure it could.

I investigated the passages around Brasenose Lane and the Radcliffe Camera--a huge domed building that is currently being renovated. I made my way to the High Street, and discovered Chambers Pub, which has cheap beer (read as: not sold at tourist rates) and a magnificent beer garden out back. I ended up in conversation with a family from Birmingham that was vacationing in Oxford. They were surprised at how diverse it was for such a small city.

Back to Harris Manchester, I picked up my conference materials, and chatted with some of the other participants. Everyone seemed quite nice--some people had been there before. I didn't stay long, as I wanted to wash up before dinner. Dinners at this conference were a formal affair--I had my traditional little black dress with me for the occasion. I met a number of great people at the reception--Tonya, who has an impressive ministry to women in need in Georgia, Mary, who is a Thomist Christian from Kerala, and William and Chad, two Southern ministers (or former ministers, in Chad's case) who would immediately destroy your stereotype of Southern ministers. I found it encouraging to meet people who did not hold such a narrow view of Christianity, and weren't bound by literalism.

After an exceptional duck entree, Charles Mould got up to speak to us about Oxford, and some of the area and college history. Afterward, I retired to my room, and probably fell asleep rather early--I had a lot to drink between the earlier beer excursions and the wine at dinner, so I was happy to get some shut eye. Without the benefit of a cat pulling at my hair.

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