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Gothic Pilgrimage, visiting the great French cathedrals.

                                Grandeur of composition, nobility of silhouette, perfection of proportion, wealth of detail, infinitely...

October 30, 2010

There is Love and then, there is Life.

You know how in the movies He says to Her, "You make me a better man" and you cringe because it's such a hackneyed thing to say. But, you also hope that you will end up with someone who brings out the best in you instead of encouraging all of your bad habits.

You definitely want that person around. That person makes you feel capable, and powerful and fabulous. That person is the one that is going to ‘woman up’ when it comes time to dislodge the fried chicken that is stuck in your throat.

Because I am spoiled, I have always thought that life should make me feel the same way a lovely woman does - safe, stimulated, challenged, your best, and most authentic self.

Where was I going with this?

Oh yea. In the meantime, there is life (school). Other than committing a few ‘fo-paws’ during my getting–to-know-you period, my first few month have passed without incident. I am studying hard and observing carefully, as school politics emerges. School is demanding (like a spoiled girlfriend), jealous of my indulgences and restricting playtime! School also encourages undesirable parts of my underdeveloped character, including (but not limited to) shyness and over-indulging in things that are bad for me (eating a bag of chips with a pint of ice cream). To prevent a break-up, I have come up with a perfect solution-

Move over Woody...

Meet my dreamwoman.

“Moi? Je ne suis pas infame. Je suis une femme.”

I’m a better man already.

October 3, 2010

Finding Inspector Lewis.

From Christ Church meadows to the vast university museum, no tour of Oxford could be as enchanting as the one conducted by a mathematician with a very special kind of logic. Charles Dodgson-known to us as Lewis Carroll-sprinkled references to the university (he was a scholar for 47 years) throughout the stories he created for little Alice Liddell.

Ah, but there was Charles, he loaded the car with baskets of choice comestibles, cranked the engine and we set out on Friday morning on a leisurely jaunt trundling along the roads through the Shire until we spotted the perfect place for a gourmet repast, and then drove on to Oxford.

She is a city of “weathered cloister and worn court,” a “grey city of strong towers and clustering spires,” exulted 19th-century poet Lionel Johnson, who also showered Oxford with a wealth of regal compliments. “A queen in pride of place,” he wrote, “beauty’s home."

Oxford sits aside the Thames, called Isis here. Its flowing waters-and those of its tributary the Cherwell-carry punting boats along on afternoons. Alongside the waters are meadows as peaceful as the drift of the boats, willow lanes where strolling and jogging are equally acceptable, and the Botanical Gardens. “The sky was laid below me in azure anemones,” wrote the poet Anne Ridler, and “the willows wept against the sun like rainbows, and punts as lazy as clouds slipped by beneath.”

Alas, it was a grey overcast day. “Our two weeks of summer are over,” remarked Charles.

” I have a surprise for you. He won’t tell where we are going until we arrive at The Trout Inn (one of Lewis and Morse’s favorite stop for a pint). So did we, make that several pints, and a scrumptious meal.

There is poetry, too, in the church bells of Oxford, forever reminding us that it is a city of the Middle Ages, a city where the Church was the font of life’s daily patterns.  The hall, the chapel in each college and the common gathering places-all reflect the monastic time.

Christ church Cathedral, a haughty Norman structure, rests in gardens walled to shelter its splendor. St. Mary the Virgin sprawls next to the 18th-century Radcliffe Camera, a magnificent rotunda that is the private preserve of students.

I did find signs of Inspector Lewis everywhere I went. Most places were reminiscent of scenes from episodes. Charles had no clue what I was all about.

And so each building at Oxford can be described, set in its time, delineated by its architecture, and filled with the personal stories of the students and the dons who had so blissfully resided here.

The architecture of Oxford, Wordsworth called the “sacred Nurseries of blooming Youth,” overwhelms the visitor as much as its academic history. From the simplest to the most extravagant, Oxford presents a 700-year lesson in the architecture of England. Limestone found locally was turned into buildings with Gothic grandeur, Elizabethan decoration, and the classical prowess of Christopher Wren, architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Baroque and High Victorian reside together as comfortably as scholars do. The landscape they are part of is so beloved and praised that Oxonians who have beauty’s home most often become prophets of its life and spirit.

Mathew Arnold perhaps said it best: “Beautiful city!...spreading her gardens to the moonlight…Adorable dreamer, whose heart has been so romantic!”

“I have another surprise for you Clive.” Charles told me Saturday morning. After a blissful night’s sleep I was unsuspecting of Charles’ little scheme.

“I have reserved a place for you in the “Lewis and Morse” tour, so hurry up, get ready, I will drop you off.” He smiled to himself. “You will have fun visiting all your favorite haunts and meet-up with so many American compatriots too boot.”

“And what may you be doing?” Ask I.

“I will have fun exploring roads less traveled.”

Charles enjoying the out of the box experience. Roving down memory lane? I see. So like Inspector Morse!

Nevertheless, the story of this picture Charles will not divulge. I have my ways. I am really starting to think like Inspector Lewis. Watch out Charlie.

So we did, have fun, one finding Inspector Lewis, and one, hmm, avoiding Inspector Lewis?


Following is a list of Oxford hometown expressions. I am NOT divulging how I found out.
No, Charles I will not tell.

Ah, of course. Why we're all here. Because we were the best and brightest of our various sixth forms. So people will (obviously) take their work very seriously. They'll intimidate you with their summer reading (voluntary of course) and will leave you to wallow in your awkward ‘I don't know the answer to that question’ silence in tutorials. Who cares? You'll be the one with all the stories about vomming on your shoes. Who's the real winner eh?

The awful Oxford slang for a college disco. Some are raucous and amazing fun, some are awful (Merton...) most play Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ at least once. All have potent cocktails that will burn your taste buds off. Invariably fancy dress, but it's not like school: the cool kids all dress up. In costumes that took more time to plan than your vac essay. Seriously.

Where the cool kids hang out. Sweaty, small and too cool for its own good. Edgy hair and ironic dress only.

The foil of Babylove, just as sweaty. Cheesy fun. And it has a stripper pole that rugby boys tend to flock round. Unexplained. Just don't get 'Anuba'd'. Anuba is the bar (waiting room) you go to if the queue for Bridge is too long. You'll be given a ticket like when you bought your school shoes from Clarks. No night can recover.

Short for 'Bodleian Library'. Seriously, go to your fresher orientation otherwise you will never find your way round. And it’s seriously embarrassing going as a third year, and asking where you get books out from, trust me. Don’t try to take them home, you can’t, and you’ll be rugby tackled by a security guard if you try.

Crew dates.
A very unique Oxford thing. One all girl 'crew' (think netball team, drinking society, women's elephant polo club) goes for a curry or to a formal hall with another all boy crew (rugby team, drinking society, general lads). Can be between colleges or uni wide. One side pays for dinner; the other provides the wine (minimum one bottle per person). General hilarity ensues in the form of drinking games and copping off with each other. Although Cherwell advises against the latter.

Beginning of term exams used to check you weren’t telling porkies about how much work you did. Taken in various degrees of seriousness – some are in exam conditions, some you’re allowed to take back to your room. Don’t panic about them, very uncool. Go for studied nonchalance instead.

Drinking societies.
Ah, infamous tabloid fodder. Some are just as elite as described – despite various equality committees trying to intervene and spoil their fun. Each college has their own, with their own bizarre traditions. Initiations are a must. The infamous ‘Buller’ is now supposedly struggling for members- it's now cooler to turn it down than to accept. The first rule of equally infamous Piers Gav is you don't talk about Piers Gav (just google it). Christ Church Cardinals throw the best party every term, but don't be fooled by the black tie. Ain't nothing classy about their 'cocktails'. Girls drinking societies are a bit of an oxymoron, but they do try.

A college tutor. Derived from the Latin dominus meaning variously master, lord, owner, host. A strange species that comes in wildly different forms. Some are old school and will offer you a glass of wine and spend the whole hour talking about opera, some will let you call them by their first name, some are terrifying and are not to be crossed. Most cannot be fooled, and they’ve seen every trick in the book. And have probably already read that essay you’re trying to pass off as your own. You will, however, learn their traits and your own tricks for getting around them, even if it is just to avoid eye contact and sudden movements.

Entz/Entz Reps

Short for Entertainment, your Entz Reps will arrange the bops and other super fun events - think chocolate orange world record attempts. club nights as well as your Freshers' Week, film nights, and selling tickets for club nights throughout term. Be nice to them and they'll save you tickets and tell you what's happening.

Ban the phrase 'essay crisis' from your vocabulary. It's irritating, and if you have one, it's your own entire fault. Yes, you will get lots of them, particularly if you do a humanity, but get over it. There's some myhtical guideline that says you can only be set sixteen in a term. Maybe that's not very comforting. Double spacing is your best friend (the pages multiple, like magic!). And despite what you may think, doubling the expected word count will not impress your tutor. You're just giving them more to cover in red pen.

Examination Schools
Where Prelims, Mods and Finals are held (more on those later). On the High Street. Also where you’ll have to hand in any finals coursework. Not really a place of laughs and giggles.

Fuzzy ducks
The Brookes night, in the O2 in Cowley. Voted the fifth easiest place to pull in some lads’ mag, some time ago. Buy your ticket in advance, and take your breath mints. Not for the faint hearted.

Final examinations at the end of 3 or 4 years as an undergraduate. Some degrees are divided in to Part Ones (taken at the end of second year) and Part Twos (taken at the end of third or fourth year) much to the annoyance of people actually trying to have fun at the end of their term. Finalists can be recognized by a permanent caffeine shake and the deep scowl if people even whisper loudly in the library. Probably best avoided in Trinity term.

First years. Will be said with distain by some second years, who have conveniently forgotten they were one just a year ago. Don’t do anything too outrageous in Freshers’ Week because the nickname ‘Fresher Slut/Lad/Douche/Sick’ etc will stick for the rest of the year. Technically you should only be called a Fresher in your first term, but no one pays any attention to that. And you'll be told to “Down it, Freshaaaaaa!”, quite a lot.

G and D’s
An Oxford cafe - one in Cowley, one on St Aldates - specializing in ice cream and bagels. Always busy after nine as people avoid work and get their caffeine fix, but it's expensive... But it IS open ‘til midnight. So, swings and roundabouts.

Short and armless if you’re not a scholar, long and more batman like if you are. Also refers to the University in the phrase ‘Town vs. Gown’ – the ever-bubbling tension (apparently) between students and the normal people of Oxford.