Saturday, June 18, 2005

Not with a bang but a jaffa cake

Not with a bang but a jaffa cake

I was ok during yesterday's mini tour of Oxford until I hit Jericho. Well, I'd felt a bit nostalgic at Christ Church, remembering sitting in the quad there two summers ago just because...well it's a lot nicer than St Anne's and then remembering one drunken evening when two friends and I decided to go and kidnap a particular Christ Church student who hadn't shown up for dinner. Not being able to find him - which impeded the kidnapping somewhat - we settled for writing a mildly abusive message on the back of a pizza box which we'd found and pinning it to his door. So I'd remembered that but books in Blackwells had pushed all such thoughts out of my mind. Posing for a final picture outside of the OFS, the theatre where my Oxford drama adventures both started and finished, created a little blip of hopeless retrospection but, oddly, I don't feel it's the end there. In my head at least, if I make enough money at the writing lark to have some spare change I think I'd want to buy the building and then give it to the University, removing it from the clutches of a company that only runs it so that the council will continue to do some deal with it over its club next door. This isn't the place for an OFS rant, but it's a fantastic little theatre and, with the right amount of funding, could be brilliant. I hate to think it will carry on being neglected as it has been until one day it ceases to be a theatre at all.

So the OFS wasn't really a goodbye but Jericho. Jericho was different. We weren't even going to walk back to college that way. I suggested it since it wasn't too late and the weather was still nice. So we did. And suddenly I got hit by a whole lot of memories that I hadn't expected. Maybe because Jericho hasn't really featured in my time in Oxford this year. I've been for Sunday lunch at the Radcliffe Arms a couple of times, I went for a meal with lots of red wine (after the review) at Freuvds and I've ambled along into the housing estate behind several times in order to visit the St Peter's contingent. But I haven't spent much time there. So, in walking up the main street seeing the pubs and restaurants that I frequented in my second year I got hit with a whole new bunch of memories that I hadn't thought about. That I hadn't calculated on dealing with. As I walked up St Bernard's Road, past the Gardener's Arms, a trip I used to make at least two or three times a week, I couldn't help remembering. Remembering a time in Oxford that was very different to my Oxford of the past year. I've added new haunts, new routines, new people to the merry go round. Oxford is no longer a bubble, my life has not centred around it in the way that it used to. But Jericho is already a memory. A memory of the bubble. And one I never really said goodbye to. So, for the second time in a week, I felt a little saddness for something I'd missed creep up on me.

It was, however, only a temporary feeling. For all that is the past. I'm in the odd position of being someone who's 'left' Oxford twice. The first time was hard because it meant leaving people behind, leaving a way of life that I knew I would never quite be able to grasp again. My final day in Oxford then was a whirl of people and, perhaps even more so, food. I managed two lunches, one afternoon tea and an evening meal and I suspect that I might have had icecream at one point too. But I learnt that time that just because I left Oxford didn't mean I would lose those I left behind. Our relationships are different, we've all had new experiences that seperate us and make us distinct from when we were living in each others pockets. People change. I know I've changed. But moving away, heading off in a different direction from the people I've known at Oxford doesn't scare me any more. Now, leaving means saying goodbye to Oxford itself. The city has loomed in my life since I was 17. And after tomorrow...I may never live in Oxford again. And that does sadden me. Because Oxford is beautiful. Staggeringly so at times. When the sun shines there really are few places that can match it. And I've been part of that, a little piece of it has belonged to me. Will I always feel that some part of it belongs to me? I honestly don't know. Maybe I'll have to come back in a decade and see.

What I have learnt today, covered as I am in bites from wandering around Woodstock and Whitney (two towns slightly further north than Oxford) this morning and with a red nose from being in the park this afternoon, is that even when you dunk a jaffa cake in Baileys it is not a good thing.

NB: Apologies to TS Eliot for the title.

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