Half-Way Through Bread Loaf Oxford Already

As I sit at my large desk with the windows thrown wide open to the sun, a peel of bell chimes echoes down through the quad.  I love the sound of the bells in Oxford–even if they can seem sort of endless on the weekends.  I enjoy taking my morning walk through Christ Church meadow and timing my progress by the tinny plink reverberating down the spires and into the grasses.  The walk usually takes me about 40-45 minutes start to finish.  I like to rise early here–something that’s easily done because the sun rises at 5:00AM.  I usually make myself a cup of lemon ginger tea sweetened with honey and sip it while I journal at my desk. I then dash off to the meadow to walk past the cows (yes, cows) down to Isis, which is what the river Thames is called in Oxford, then up the river Cherwell.  The path is gravelly and makes a pleasant crunching sound under my sneakers (“trainers” here).  The air is always cool at this time of morning (usually around 7/7:30), which I appreciate in the summertime.  The path and streets leading up to it are also mercifully clear of the usual throng of tourist groups that gawk and walk five abreast and stop suddenly, making it impossible to go three blocks in less than 20 minutes.  I could never live here or anywhere that has so many people on the streets.  It frustrates me to no end, which is why my morning walks are my favorite part of my day.  I get back just in time for breakfast (invariably including some delicious flakey French style pastry, British style bacon, and yogurt), and then follow up with some yoga in my room before getting ready for my day of reading, writing, and/or binge watching Call the Midwife as a mental break.

I spent the first part of the week in the Bodelian library researching women sonneteers.  I was stunned to note that there are in fact way more women publishing in the eighteenth century than I realized.  Stupid anthologies.  They include one or two token women poets from the periods before the 20th century, adding to the myth that women didn’t write anything of consequence until recently, when in fact, that is just not true.  The issue is simply that no one though to preserve their writings–or talk much about them in secondary classrooms.  I fell in love with Charlotte Smith’s sonnet sequences in particular, though there were many other such women writing in her time.  I was sobered to note that there were only three books of criticism dedicated to the subject of women’s sonnets in the Bodelian.  And all of them written by women scholars.

I also speed read a number of novels for my American Novel course, as well as reread some Walter Benjamin essays that I plan to use for my papers.  We had another high table dinner Tuesday, as well as some lectures I ended up not attending because of some migraines.

Wednesday, I met with the senior class president (I guess I’m supposedly some sort of Vice President?) to plan out graduation and senior activities, putting my planning skills to good use.

Thursday, we took a school wide field trip to Bath, about two hours southwest of Oxford.  Since I’ve visited Bath as a tourist once before, I opted out of touring the Roman Baths and the church and instead decided to, as they say, “take the waters” and bathe in heated mineral water in a newly refurbished spa called Thermae, which is just around the corner from the Roman Baths.  They had aromatherapy steam rooms (my favorite was the Lotus Flower one; the menthol eucalyptus one smelled like a sick ward) as well as couches to lounge on and herbal tea.  I ended up buying ridiculously expensive aromatherapy shower and bath oil that a therapist there swore would knock me out at night and help me relax.  Feeling slightly like a sucker, I tried it out, and wouldn’t you know, I have been sleeping better, though it could be because I switched back to showering at night before bed, which in itself is relaxing.  After soaking in the pools, I treated myself to a three course pre-theatre menu next to the Royal Theater, where we all had tickets to see She Stoops to Conquer, a surprisingly funny (if dated and sexist) play about mistaken identities and courtship in Restoration England.  I had the most amazing meal I’ve had in Britain to date, and all for only 19 pounds: mackerel on mixed greens, a vegetarian mix over mashed eggplant, and a chocolate brownie and praline for dessert.  I dined alone, which I actually really enjoyed after the relentlessly social meals I’ve had all week.

Friday I mapped out my final paper topics with my professor in an independent tutorial and took a long walk in the University Parks, which has many beautiful flowers in bloom and lovely shady trees dotting the path alongside a tiny little lake where adorable little ducks dive for weeds.  Last night I went out to dinner with some friends and we laughed and talked.  Today I need to buckle down after I post this and get going on my final papers so I can actually graduate!

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