We spent the last couple of days wandering around in Oxford:
We headed there for a visit with my 21 year old nephew, and stayed over into Sunday in a pub not far from his place. The pub doubles as a small hotel, with rooms upstairs. (Yes, really. And what a great room it was! It was way better than most ordinary hotels.) He’s a “scholar” (that’s an official term) at Oxford University’s St. Hugh’s College.
He’s also a university tour guide, so knows plenty of tidbits about the various colleges and their histories. His dry sense of humor is often wildly entertaining. (He’s also over 6 ft tall now. I can’t believe this was once “the kid” we shared pizzas with while sitting on the floor in our lounge watching Star Wars DVDs.)
During our “tour,” in the courtyard outside the entrance to the Bodleian Library, we noticed signs requesting “Silence.” He misses nothing, so we were perplexed he ignored them and kept talking in a normal voice while others – including guides whispering into microphones so tourists with remote headsets could follow – were keeping their voices down. I pointed at a sign.
“Oh, I’m a student,” he laughed. “We do what we want.”
Best of all, we were able to have “a peek” inside his college’s main building. While the grounds are “open” (but you get the distinct impression you really shouldn’t be there) until the gates are locked in the evenings, visitors can’t go inside the buildings themselves. The students and staff have entry cards.
The college’s most illustrious alum is probably Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi. There’s a portrait of her hanging prominently in that main building’s entrance hall. It’s unmissable to the right as you step in that front door.
All in all, the buildings and attractive grounds reminded me of a smallish, northeastern U.S. liberal arts college. (Places you may know I’m pretty well-acquainted with.) It being Saturday evening, the college was quiet. We saw only one other student as we walked in.
After we’d left St. Hugh’s, we meandered through a park nearby that had a university field. When I mentioned the cricket pitch, he noted, “They also play quidditch here.”
You know, the game from Harry Potter.
“Uh, don’t you need a flying broomstick to play that?” my wife snickered.
“They run around with broomsticks between their legs,” he replied deadpan.
“Future world leaders. Greatest university in the world,” I chuckled.
Speaking of world leaders, Theresa May, the British Home Secretary, is also a St. Hugh’s alum. So is, uh, someone else. As we’d strolled behind the main college building, egging him on my wife had smilingly asked him, “Amal Clooney went here too, didn’t she?”
An uneasy silence followed for a second. He feigned ignorance and replied with an unmistakable air of exaggerated, grandiose snobbery: “Who? I’ve never heard of her…. Oh, wait, wait, yes, didn’t she marry some Hollywood act-or? Everyone here knew she’d never amount to anything.” 😉
Have a good Monday, wherever you are in the world. 🙂