I’ve just spent a week in Oxford at a teacher seminar studying Shakespeare. I’m sure that there will be thoughtful and extensive posts about my time here and the people that I spent time with, but as the bus to Heathrow has both WiFi and power, and honestly a highway looks like a highway no matter where you are, I’m going to do a quick list of impressions before they get away from me.
- So much here is so old – Medieval, Tudor, Post-reformation – but the city is modern, too. It carries on, keeping the old without standing still.
- The Bodelian – seriously amazing.
- In pubs, men and women talk to people that they do not know. Last night four lovely young men (in all meanings of the term lovely – mid 30s, all) were in an animated conversation with the women I was meeting when I arrived at the pub. We were all much older than they, but they seemed to be genuinely enjoying their attempt to explain cricket to the ladies.
- We ate. Frequently.
- Miss Sweet, a fellow seventh grade teacher and friend, rocks in Boston, Vermont, Chicago, and the UK.
- The Tempest, performed outdoors at dusk on the meadow of one of the colleges, clocking in at one hour and 45 minutes including a 15 minute interval, was nearly perfect even though some of the ladies did not care for Caliban/Ferdinand actor.
- Christ Church College was interesting, but not enough to queue up for it. Word to the wise. The Cathedral Steward actually made the visit for us. She talked to us about Frideswide, and she liked us enough to show us Alice in Wonderland spaces that are not open to the public. Still, the portrait of John Locke behind the steam table entertained me, marvelous much.
- The Ashmolean Museum has been lovingly renovated. Most interesting to me were the Anglo-Saxon artifacts. Chicago’s Field and Oriental Institute have substantial collections of global, ancient artifacts – but not so much from England/Wales/France/Ireland. Something new for me. That and Frideswide (Anglo Saxon princess) were geeky pleasures for me.
The thing that was emblematic to me of how Oxford has embraced the new while honoring the past was our visit to the Worcester College library. The actual visit is the subject of its own post, but our entrance to the library must be described here. We climbed two floors on a marble and sandstone stairway that hugged the edges of a tower. We circled up the stairs to the librarian’s room. She met us, holding a reusable shopping bag that you might get at the grocery. The bag clanked. We went up one more flight where she extricated from this bag the most enormous, ornate skeleton key that I had ever personally seen. She put the key in the lock, turned the mechanism, and unlocked the door lock. Then she touched a small tag to an electronic sensor and pushed open the door. Giant skeleton key and little button sized sensor together open the door. This was followed by a second, even more enormous and ornate skeleton key that unlocked the interior room.
Oxford was wonderful. On to Spain for a short visit to an important friend.
(my photo of the Bodelian)