I hope that at some time soon this blog will catch up to daily life, but at the moment I'm backlogged with the events as they happen.
I arrived in Oxford this past Monday. It was - of course - more complicated than I planned. But then, I should have planned for that, shouldn't I? The tube workers went on strike on Monday morning, so the Piccadilly line, which I needed to take to Heathrow to pick up my bags before busing to Oxford, was closed. When you are as ignorant as a orphan this is catastrophic. The policeman told me to take the seven to Paddington. What this meant was entirely beyond me for about twenty minutes as I lurched around like a camel with my backpack swaying behind me.
I found the bus stop eventually and took the seven to Paddington station which is as chaotic as a playground under heavy shelling. People were wheeling and running and walking and cartwheeling in every direction, and of course I bought the wrong ticket and went into the wrong platform and had to be let back out by a long-suffering conductor. I always thought I was kind of a good traveller. I now know the truth: I am completely at the mercy of directions and ticket machines.
Picked up bags, caught the x70 to Oxford.
"Where do you want to go, then?" the driver asked. "I mean - which stop. Gloucester Green?"
"Whatever's closest to the - the colleges."
"Which college, love?"
"I don't even know where that is." (This is a common response, but slightly unnerving.)
"Just down the street from the Bodleian?"
"The Boadleyan?" he said, provoking a sudden crisis of pronunciation. "Suppose you'll want Gloucester Green then."
I had it better than another passenger who asked if we were going to Gatwick Airport.
"Not going to Gatwick," the bus driver said shortly.
"Oh. It's just that's it's on the side of the bus."
"Yeah, well, I have the Taj Mahal on the side of the bus, too, don't I?"
It was a quick hour-long bus ride, and we quickly rounded into Oxford through once-familiar Headington, and as we drove past St. Clements the sun shot through the uniform clouds. And then we we crossed the Magdalen Bridge over the Cherwell and the architecture broke into chiselled faces and gargoyles and stones and figures on the roofs holding their arms aloft (to knowledge!) and the spires and gold rims and the sculpted jagged beauty on every side. The clouds disappeared and the sky was pure blue and the sun reflected off the windows and welcomed us in.
The High Street! A man in robes! Bicycles and buses and cars. The theological bookshop is still on St. Aldate's and so is the ice cream shop.
It took me, I think, forty-five minutes to walk less than a mile up George St and down Broad and Holywell with my bags. I walked for ten steps and stopped, sweating, panting, mortified. Absolutely aware of the eyes of all of Oxford watching me. I could see their disapproving faces at my over-sized luggage. They imagined them full of high-heeled shoes and hair-products; an American, obviously. There were no taxis.
I stopped a distinguished-looking man for directions - he looks pained when answering and vaguely resembles Simon Schama. (Was he Simon Schama?)
I ran towards a plain building up Mansfield Road, like the long-lost sheep, only to discover that it is a language building. I fell back onto the wall behind me; only it was not a wall, but a doorway and stairs.
Harris Manchester College. Wiping my face in disbelief and wildness, I noticed that my right hand is bloody from blisters that grew and ruptured on the walk, making shaking hands with the bursar uncomfortable.
I'm sorry to bore you with more pictures of my garret, but here are more shots of Rathmell number 12, before being strewn with - what else? - piles. Notice above how the jars of buttons survived the journey.
Now I'd better get back to my reading. The guilt begins.