Wednesday, September 21, 2019Oxford
Reading, Writing and Editing in Oxford
A Rather Unusual Morning:
Despite the fact that I am still waking by 6.00 am, I have no idea where the morning flies once I switch my laptop on. This morning was a particular case in point. By the time I checked email and responded to it, I realized that I was facing a tight deadline for the submission of a scholarly essay to a journal. Some frantic attempts at trying to find my draft began. And after I read it and realized it needed much editing, I arose from bed, washed, prepared my breakfast (muesli with honey yoghurt and coffee) and watched a bit of the BBC Breakfast show as I ate it. It was then time to return to work to revise the essay, add annotations and references in the correct format according to the publication guidelines as well as send out official forms to Italy for a lecture I will be giving there in November as well as finalize a date for a lecture I will be giving at the University of Leeds.
So although I had intended to get to the Bodleian Library by 10.00 am at the latest, in fact, it was only the afternoon that I spent there. But, of course, in-between, I was hard at work for I did not stir from my computer. When I was satisfied with the way the essay had turned out, I decided to put it away and look at it again tomorrow for more re-drafting and revising.
In-between I took a shower and had a shampoo and while my hair dried naturally, I continued working. I also darned a sweater that I intend to launder tomorrow. It is only my To-Do List that is allowing me to remain organized as I juggle the vast amount of items I try to accomplish on any given day. By 1.00 pm, I went into the kitchen to get myself lunch and was delighted to find half a quiche which I quickly warmed up in the oven and ate as I watched some more TV.
Off to the Bodleian Library Along the Thames Path:
Hence, it was only at 1.45 pm that I left for the library and since I no longer have the bus pass, I am walking the 15 minute walk to it. This means that I try each day to take a different path to reach Carfax and today, I followed my gut which led me right to the Thames Path—how exciting! I passed by ducks and rowers and kayakers and the lovely river-front yuppie flats that have sprung up all over the UK’s waterways and then I was on Folly Bridge at the pub called The Head of the River before I made my way into the perennial gardens at Christ Church College to take what is known as The Broad pathway. This could either lead one to the Thames or (as I preferred to do today) to Merton Lane and Magpie Lane which leads one directly to The High. I love these little winding Oxford lanes with their cobbled streets (very hard on my feet and legs for sure) and the honey-toned sides of their Cotswold stone buildings. Often I pause to take a picture of yet another beloved Oxford vista—a steeple here, a spire there. What beauty they bring to the skyline even when those skies are grey!
An Afternoon of Reading at the Bodleian:
I stayed in the Bodleian for the rest of the afternoon as I tried hard to finish a 500 page tome I am currently reading. Meanwhile, I received the news that Chriselle’s flight had landed but when she called me in the library, I could not talk to her. I told her I would call back later.
Time flew. People in the library came and went. It is interesting to see that so many of them seem deeply engrossed in their research—they even have their headphones on--on their computers when, in fact, what they are looking at is online clothes shopping websites and Facebook! What I love about this antiquated space (apart from the superb rotunda that is part of its architecture) is the absolute quiet. No one says a word here. The only occasional word exchanged is in a whisper. Outside sometimes, tourist crowds can get noisy as they invariably stand at the Radcliffe Camera where their guides deliver commentary during walking tours. I sit at different windows each day, depending on where I can find a seat, and each day the view outside my window is different and more heartening. One day it is the twin spires of All Souls College that greet me, on another day it is the steeple of the University Church of St. Mary The Virgin. One day it is the entrance of Brasenose College that I see and on another, the ramparts of Exeter College outside the thick wrought-iron ornamental grill that frames each window. Despite the antiquity of the building, inside it is amazingly modernized. For instance, there are plug points and USB sockets at each seat so that you can keep your devices charged. I have truly enjoyed every second of quiet reading time in this space and I know that when I go back to the British Library and continue my research there in London, I will miss these stirring views that never fail to inspire me.
At 5. 30 pm, I left the Bodleian having completed a substantial amount of reading and after taking copious notes. I stepped quickly into Tesco to buy myself some honey yogurt and bread for sandwiches for the next couple of days, then walked back to Carfax and to the Thames Path to take the lovely return route to the City Center that I have discovered. On the way, I chatted on the phone with Chriselle who had very little sleep on her red eye flight, spent some time on her own around St. Paul’s Cathedral before hooking up with her friend with whom she shall spent two nights before leaving for Scotland. She was excited to be back in London and although she was tired and sleepy, I could hear the excitement in her voice as she talked about her first impression of the city—the red buses, she said, made her feel very happy!
A Relaxing Evening at Home:
In fifteen minutes I was home, had the kettle on for a hot cup of tea that I sipped by the TV with a lovely chocolate éclair from Marks and soon I moved on to my laptop again to catch up with more work that had accumulated during the day. Night moves in swiftly these days and the temperature drops rapidly so that the warmth of the afternoon disappears in a flash as the evening closes in. I felt the need to go to bed early and so made myself a plate of dinner—leftover pasta from a past recent evening with Roz was jazzed up with a bit of cream and red wine to make a sloppier sauce and as I sat eating it while watching TV, I could not help but think how happy I have been here at Oxford, how much less homesick, how much better suited this warm and cozy space is to my psyche and how sad I will be to leave when the time comes to go away.
When I received the news that I would be spending the Fall semester in the UK, little did I dream that two full weeks of it would be in Oxford. How fortunate was I to receive this opportunity? And how generous were my friends to leave their home for my use while they were on vacation? Truly, circumstances coalesced so beautifully to allow me to do such concentrated reading, writing and editing in Oxford that I know I will always cherish these weeks and remember this city with the same affection with which I have always regarded it.
It was 9.00 pm, when I went to bed as I simply could not keep my eyes open—but I have rarely had a more productive day than the one I had today. I am truly living here the academic life of a dedicated scholar—and I truly could not be happier.