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Showing posts from June, 2011

Mods (and Rockers)

I write this - ejected from my well-beloved room in the eves of Rathmel – from Jericho, the trendy wine-barred Victorian bricked suburb of Oxford, overlooking a narrow overgrown garden tumescent from today’s grim humidity.



Its ninth week and most first-years have started their prelims today. The ritual begins with the layers of subfusc, the pinning of the carnation, and the mortar-board carried (never worn) into the exam hall. Once you arrive at the place of examination, you’re directed to a marquee where candidates mill around like animals awaiting slaughter, black-and-white dressed penguins with marvelously English faces who tear through notes, select the correct amount of highlighters, assume superiority (if you take PPE) or exaggerate the expectation of certain failure (English). You delay nervousness (or increase it) by looking at the large seating chart. Then there are the announcements: no bottled water with screw caps, no carbonated water, no cellphones. There are more announc…

June ends

Yesterday was Midsummer, the longest day of the year; over sixteen hours of light mostly masked by the rain. In coming to England I imagined that the day before, Midsummer Eve, would be my high festival. We’d go into the woods to do the rites with twigs and herbs and light a fire and dance around it wildly and yell full-throated, and drink nettle-tea, or sweet wine, and watch the smoke rise. Out on the meadow, or in a copse. Instead I was preparing for Mods. Yesterday, Midsummer’s Day, was spent writing theory in a post-apocalyptic hellhole in Summertown.

I’m going to pretend today is Midsummer’s Eve. There’s a garden party in the quad, and the wind turns a fierce corner. The sky is alternately sullen and gleeful. We might be rained out, or hear the night birds.

I will midsummer-ly console myself with my favourite part of my favourite book: Midsummer’s Eve in I Capture the Castle, which is pure indulgence to include here (but which I will do anyhow):

There wasn’t a breath of wind as I …

Sober sub fuscing

‘It is farely easy to be topp in English and sometimes you may find yourself even getting interested. If that happens of course you can always draw junctions and railway lines on your desk
- ‘How to be topp in English’, Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle, How to be Topp

The culmination of three terms: Mods, my first-year examinations, begin this afternoon. I am to take a taxi north to Summertown – we are taking them at Ewert House rather than the Exam Schools – for the next four days until we finish in victory, or at least exhaustion, on Friday. Intro to literature, Victorian, Twentieth Century, Medieval, finis.

Wearing, as per instruction:

(for women) white blouse, black ribbon tie, dark skirt, dark tights, both mortar board (or soft cap) and gown are worn

with the white carnation that signifies today's the first exam.

Most important is my wall of secular saints above my desk, watching me suspiciously to see if justice will be done to their work. I must say that Beckett looks the most …
Just learned of Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor's death. Am somewhat heartbroken, though death at the age of 96 is not, I imagine, unexpected. I have been waiting for the third volume of his autobiography, and the news that he had decided to learn to type a few years ago just encouraged the possibility that it might appear. And now never got the chance to crash his Grecian villa. A sad day.