Sunday, 30 June 2013

/26/ Port Meadow

This week, my friend Shawnee came to visit. Shawnee and I go way back – think back, and then go further – and we never fail to have a great time whenever we hang out. It’s Shawnee who accompanied me to IKEA back in February (remember?) and when I went to Iceland last summer, it was with Shawnee and our mutual friend Ana (for a recap, click here). So on a day we both had off, Shawnee came to Oxford from her exciting job which I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about – but trust me, it’s very cool. After lunch in my College’s garden, we headed to Port Meadow and played around in the river. (The last time that Shawnee visited me in Oxford, she somehow ended up talking me into going for a swim despite me having no towel or swimming costume, which is something I wisely avoided this time around).

20130630_15391620130630_154128 20130630_153736  Shawnee and I are planning a trip in central Europe in September; I can’t wait.


Sunday, 23 June 2013

/25/ – second year recap (tl;dr)

So here it is; the end of year two. I can’t believe I’m already half way through my degree; I can’t believe I’m 21; I can’t believe I’m about to have a whole year in Berlin! How is it all happening so fast?

Before this portion of my life slips away completely, I want to record what an average week for me looks like this Trinity.

I spend many weekends back home with my parents, isolating myself from the world with nothing but my laptop and a stack of books for company.

Monday morning there’s a lecture on – Paper VIII, Modern German Literature – but I don’t really go now. The lecture series has covered all my topics of interest already (and I’m kind of lazy). In previous terms, I’d have two or three, even five lectures a week but now it’s just the one and I’d rather sleep in.

Most days I have coffee with one friend or another, grabbing a Cappuccino (much to the distaste of one friend, who informed me that Cappuccino is not to be drunk in the afternoon) and sitting on the bench on the Front Quad. Come rain or shine, I’m there.

I try to go to the library, but get bored quickly. I’d rather read in my bed, or in a coffee shop, or in the newly-refurbished GCR, a small common room with computers which I helped refurbish (and by helped, I mean I made most of the design decision s and the college’s maintenance team did all the actual hard work, so an ideal situation for me really even if I felt a bit lazy!). It’s a pretty sky-blue colour, and has some of the comfiest armchairs I’ve ever had the pleasure to lounge in.

I often grab a burrito or Chinese takeout for dinner – and I wonder where the pounds come from? – or make something back home, usually while watching an episode (or two, or three) of my latest favourite TV Show. This term, it’s been The West Wing, Game of Thrones, Parks and Rec and Hart of Dixie.

I don’t go out as much as I used to, but it’s a rare week that doesn’t find me in a club at least once. I don’t like to drink that much and though I’m often amused by my friends and have a good time dancing and talking, I don’t love the getting bored way before anyone else wants to leave any more than the slightly wobbly walk or bike ride home. Of course I also get wasted time to time, but the times are become further apart and I don’t miss it.

I also have my fair share of student jobs. At least once a week, I set time aside to go out and take some photos for the Development Office, be it of the College buildings, a sports match, a rowing race, or any number of other events happening around the College. On Thursdays, I work in the Development Office on our College’s magazine, Exon (you can read old editions here), where I commission, chase down, edit, and occasionally even write articles. My favourite articles are the features.

My other job is working in the bar. I love working in the bar – 99% of the time, you’re serving your friends, and there’s a really good quiz machine down there. I have no idea how many pounds I’ve wasted on playing Battleships, but I won my fair share of times! Because this term was my busiest so far, I often ended up taking the lighter shifts on Sunday evenings (which goes some way to making up for having worked every bop in the last year on top of one or two shifts a week – I’m so glad that we can have this flexibility for our studies when we need it). I’m really going to miss bar work during my year abroad but I know that job will be waiting for me in fourth year when I come back.

Of course, there never really is an “average” week in Oxford. This term, I worked on an immersive cinema event, photographed the Windsor Regatta, went to a Watsky concert, served Pimms on the riverside, stayed up all night dancing on the 1st of May, celebrated my 21st birthday with some of my best friends, took part in the selection process for the next rector, helped on a linguistics research project, went to three balls, and even managed to squeeze in the occasional run.

So that’s it, pretty much! I have no idea what my average week in the next year will be like but I can’t wait to find out.


Sunday, 16 June 2013

/24/ - Rowing (So Much Rowing)

The last few weeks of term were a blur of sunshine, hurried essays and Pimms on the grass. On two occasions, I found myself involved in that most notorious of Oxford sports – rowing. I myself have never been in a rowboat, other than a dinghy manned by myself and my brother in a Greek bay when we were kids, but it’s inescapable here whether you’re in the team or not.


Summer VIIIs is the name confusingly given to the Summer collegiate races, since it happens at the end of 5th week. It’s the one time of year where everyone, and I mean everyone, flocks to the boat houses on the Thames. It’s like the biggest barbeque you can imagine with dozens of collegiate boat houses selling hot dogs, hamburgers, coke, lemonade, coffee, tea, ice cream, beers and Pimms. Last year I just lay around on the riverbank, cheering along our teams and feeling awkward for a lack of something real to do. Not so this year. I worked at our Pimms stall along with Will (a housemate), Owen (one of my good friends, currently travelling across the USA) and Lu (our boss), pouring and serving for so many hours that the motions became automatic. But I’m not complaining – the Sun was beating down, we had a steady supply of cold refreshments, and I got to run out to the river a couple of times, snapping photos of the races and the festivities.

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At the beginning of 8th week, I got up painfully early to catch a train to Windsor with my college’s women’s rowing team. After an hour or two of bikes, trains, taxis and old-fashioned walking, we arrived in a large muddy field under an overcast grey sky. The reason for this was that Exeter College Boat Club had, for some reason or another (the details escape me), been entered in the Windsor Regatta. I had come along at the behest of the College to take photos of the event. Windsor Regatta isn’t half as classy as Henley or Marlow, but it was nice to be there nonetheless.

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Even if I felt a little useless, I think that it was a better thing to do than wake up late, stay in bed, and watch YouTube videos in bed which, let’s be honest, is what I do most Saturday mornings.


Sunday, 9 June 2013

/23/ Greys Court

Even though my grandma is now ninety-three years old, she’s still sprightlier than many women at the age of eighty. Of course she is often tired and sometimes forgetful, but I am so incredibly lucky to have a grandmother who is still smart and funny and up for conversations about the history of Israel or the purpose of poetry. She still has the energy to fly from her home near Munich to England several times a year, to visit my family and my aunt’s.
This year, during her visit, we (me, my Mum, my aunt) indulged her love of English country houses (a love which I share) and visited Greys Court not once but twice. It’s a beautiful old family home, and was until recently a functioning home to the Brunner family. Sadly you weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the home. It was luxuriously furnished but with many homely touches: you could see that the rugs had been run ragged by four enthusiastic boys playing, there were mountains of worn and loved books, and much was hand-stitched, hand-made about the place. The gardens were hugely impressive and beautiful.

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Sunday, 2 June 2013

/22/ Trashings

I don’t think I’ve ever talked about trashings. It’s one of those Oxford traditions that you just get so used to that you sometimes forget it doesn’t happen everywhere. When students finish their exams – sat in a uniform-like get-up known as sub fusc – they are bedecked with silly string and confetti and ‘trashed’ with water and champagne (or whatever fizzy wine their friends have got their hands on). It’s a kind of crude rebirth metaphor I suppose; they enter the porter’s lodge dry and still a student, and emerge on the other side sopping wet, freezing cold, and laughing in the ecstasy that their exams have finished. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get a sopping hug from a grinning friend, and if you’re really unlucky you’ll get caught in the crossfire of buckets and bottles. It’s also one of the few occasions where students are allowed to walk on the grass of the front quad, so there’s usually a large congregation of people who turn up to watch. When the history students finished, I stood at a safe distance and caught it all on camera.

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It’s a little sad, especially for finalists because they know that’s the last time they’re undergrad students, and it means goodbye for most of them. But there’s value in the rebirth metaphor: washing away all the stress and youth and neuroses of the past three or four years, they are now ready to make mistakes and be silly in new places.