As Blogging 101 told me today is a day for relaxation, I would just like to express how lucky I am to be a university student at Oxford who has an average week like this:
Monday: I spent an hour and a half scrutinizing a nude torso in a lecture in the Cast Gallery of the Ashmolean Museum. The lecture was given by one of the world’s leading authorities on Hellenistic sculpture.
Tuesday: I learnt how to dance two different types of foxtrot.
Wednesday: I restocked my supply of groceries from the market on Gloucester Green, within five minutes of my accommodation. Eight hours later I followed a Bacchic procession led by a giant blow-up phallus to a club and partied for free at my college’s Halloween bop (what we Oxonians call a ‘party’). Then walked the ten minutes (only!) back to bed.
Thursday: I chatted about ancient art in a tutorial held in a coffee-infused room above The Missing Bean, ‘the only independently owned and run coffee shop in Oxford’. That night I applauded the first ever 18+ play to be performed at the Oxford Playhouse. ‘The Pillowman’ received a standing ovation.
Friday: After answering questions from a sofa in my second tutorial of the week, I hitched a ride to Waddesdon Manor and gazed at one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the past thirty years being exhibited there. That evening I won a game of Senet (a 5,000-year-old board game) at Egyptomania, the Ashmolean LiveFriday event of this month.
Saturday: Whilst reading on a bench in the morning, I admired a wall carving in my college’s 17th century Old Quadrangle that I had never noticed before. In the afternoon I watched the ballet Coppelia with new friends at the New Theatre, with a glass of prosecco beforehand and a front row Circle seat, for (only!) £16.
Sunday: I woke up for a bargain Full English fry-up in hall, where I reflected on the amount of work I had yet to do over a pancake stack and started planning for another eventful week ahead.
For more about what to do at Oxford and how to make the most of your student life here, check out my Oxford Countdown!
Updates since publication:
23/11/2014: I discovered Rubis at their stall in the Crafts and Food Fair at Blenheim Palace. This must-have addition to the Christmas cellar combines two essential ingredients of Christmas: wine and chocolate. The chocolate essence is aromatic in smell but subtle in taste. It does not have the sticky sweetness of chocolate liqueur, and the wine has not a hint of bitterness. The wine is fortified with brandy and tastes a bit like port. It won Silver in the 2013 IWSC ( International Wine and Spirits Competition). Even my friend Luona who does not like to drink alcohol liked it.
25/11/2014: Last Saturday I went inside the Knowledge Emporium sweets van, which had been parked in Gloucester Green as part of Oxford’s Christmas Lights Festival. I got a sweet for my thoughts: a piece of knowledge, to be scribbled down in their Big Book of Everything We Know. Actually, I got a sundae-cup-full. The next day they read out some of the entries in the square. As for my favourite sweet, well you’ve probably heard of lime flavoured chocolate but have you heard of chocolate flavoured limes? I hadn’t, and they’re delicious! They are lime-flavoured boiled sweets with a chocolate fondant centre. Mmmm….
01/12/2014: When I was finding my library wifi to connect to, I came across a wifi network called ‘Amy’s Time Capsule’. Should’ve clicked on that one, to wi-fly back in time to see for myself what the Seleucid kingdom was really like…
25/01/2015 After failing to procure a Burns Supper ticket for the past two years, I finally got lucky! To my delight, my first Burns Supper had everything one could want in an evening of fun. Food, wine, music, poetry, and dance. All I had to do was tolerate the haggis and live with the possibility of dancing with my tutor. The first Burns Supper was held privately in Scotland among Robert Burns’ friends on the anniversary of Burns’ birthday in 1802, six years after his death. The first major Burns Supper outside of Scotland was held at none other than Oxford University in 1806, by students from Glasgow. Unlike the first ever Burns Supper, it was held on the correct date of 25 January, not 29 January, which was originally believed to be the date of Burns’ birthday (but the mistake was spotted within a year). According to my tutor (who had taken on the role of compère that evening), not all colleges have Burns Supper, so I’m thankful that I belong to one which does.
There weren’t too many kilted guests around on the night, but I guess, like Chinese New Year suppers, many Scots would have been holding their own Burns Suppers. The most Scottish the supper felt was when a Scotsman of Clan Grant spontaneously took to the floor dancing while the rest of us ceilidh initiates were catching our breaths and refreshing ourselves with whisky.
The supper ran as follows: (1) the piping in of the guests, (2) the Selkirk Grace, (3) the Address to the Haggis, (4) the meal, naturally featuring haggis with neeps and tatties, (5) the Immortal Memory, (6) the Toast to the Lassies, (7) the reply to the Toast to the Lassies, (8) ceilidh, and (8) the singing of Auld Lang Syne to end the evening revelry. Toasts were tongue-in-cheek, and my college also paid tribute to the humble and downtrodden, with readings of Burns’ poem Tae a Moose, and poems by the notoriously so-bad-he’s-good poet William McGonagall, who has been commemorated at the topsy-turvy alternative Burns Suppers since 2012.
09/02/2015: Passed Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, on the way to breakfast this morning, the day after he gave a sermon in Brasenose chapel.
08/02/2015: I set eyes on my first ever croque-en-bouche outside of the Great British Bake Off. It was an entry in a student bake-off and it was almost heartbreaking to dismantle. And the profiteroles was filled with crème patissière, none of the whipped cream that supermarket versions make do with. This amateur bake-off was varied both in the nationality of the bakes (there featured a Russischer Zupfkuchen) and in the texture of the bakes, which ranged from soft and gooey to mousse-like to crumbly to chewy. As for flavours, the bake-off featured one of the best flavoured (with the juice of an orange) icing I’ve eaten in a while.
10/02/2015: I had the best value meal at an Oxford college to date. Salad with haggis for starter, chicken with couscous for main, and caramel cheesecake for dessert. With regards to college dining, ‘the only way is Worcester’. Their fried haggis balls look like falafel-wannabes, and taste, to a haggis hater, almost delicious, with crispy exterior fragrant from the oil they are fried in. The chicken was not pale and dry but well-seasoned, but tender, flavoursome and well-seasoned. The couscous was fluffy and tingling couscous, the roasted vegetables succulent and vibrant. The cheesecake was the right size, with not one but two fruit sauces not pooled but decorating the plate in elegant lines. The cake itself had a patterned face, a piped swirl of cream, and a chocolate thin laced with yet another pattern, in colour. All for £3.
28/02/2017: Impromptu karaoke last night in the Hulme Common Room, featuring an eclectic playlist of:
- ‘Say Something’, by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
- ‘Amaranth’, by Nightwish
- ‘Love Story’, by Taylor Swift
- ‘I Am The Best’, by 2NE1
- ‘セカンド(‘second’), by Dazzle Vision
- ‘Cantique de Jean Racine’, by Gabriel Fauré
- 海闊天空 (‘expanse of sea and sky’), by Beyond
- ‘Gold’, by Spandau Ballet
- ‘Dui Bu Qi’, by Transition
- 花田錯 (‘erring in the flower meadow’), By Wang Leehom
- ‘For Lo, I Raise Up’, by Charles Villiers Stanford
- ‘Frozen Medley’, by Pentatonix
- ‘We Can’t Stop’, by Miley Cyrus
- ‘Libera’ (a.k.a. ‘Let it Go’ in Latin), by O1ivette
08/03/2015: I’ve had a sentimental week, during which I:
- Woke without fail before 8am each day, without the need for an alarm. For 5 consecutive days. Which might be a record for me.
- Tried tea plant fungus at a less-than-a-year-old Chinese restaurant Jin Jin on Cowley Road.
- Wrote on the whiteboard tables (that my fingers had been aching to doodle on) in the Maths Institute, where a break from work seems to not infrequently consist of a game of chess – played on glass chess sets.
- Revealed a profound secret.
- Had an embarrassing encounter with a student who wasn’t a student, who didn’t have the name I thought he had, and who held a more prestigious rank in his profession than I reckoned he had.
- Decided to surrender to alcoholic abandon for once.
- Had dinner with fellow Classicists instead of being anti-social, for a change. Introduced to so many pop culture references my head spun.
- Fulfilled my long-contained urge to drink beer from the Chang Tower (actually a trendy thing in Thailand, according to a friend!) at Bangkok House on Hythe Bridge Street.
- Met a fellow (though not in the same year) volunteer excavator from an archaeological dig who was a member of my own college.
- Was pleasantly surprised by getting more than I bargained for from my Chinese da bao – and thankfully not food poisoned when I threw caution to the wind and ate the extras which weren’t mine.
- Realised that my college year group had issued a very attractive (even without me in it, ha ha) alternative prospectus.
- Was complimented by he whom I call ‘the dancing master’ more than once in a single class. Which made me feel less hopeless as a follower.
- Saw the most interest application request to date when grad schemes browsing.
- Witnessed a victorious cox being thrown into the river by the boat crew for the first time.
- Found out what the procedure was for when you lose your college fob and key. Always helpful when one needs to use it 4 times in order to enter one’s room of residence.
- Heard the best version of the Magnificat (by Herbert Brewer) so far in my unfortunately rare chapel attendances.
- Discovered rather embarrassingly and with no small amount of shock that a friend of mine was actually my college grandchild.
- Adopted a new favourite cocktail (not quite ‘recommended’ by a friend since it did involve the setting of the bar counter on fire) called ‘the Flying Homer’. There can surely be no better drink for a Classicist.
- Found out what my college drink (frustratingly no longer on offer) was : Black Vodka and Galliano. And I had heard of neither spirit nor liqueur…
- Upgraded from using glasses and bowls (instead of mugs) for hot drinks to drinking boiled water from champagne and port glasses. Because why not?
- Was shown how to get Facebook stickers. Didn’t even realise they were called Facebook stickers. My eyes have been opened!
- Looked up at the Brazen Nose on my college gate for the first time. After three and a half years of devoting my attention to other the architecture of other colleges…
21/03/2015: Last week I first heard of a Welsh instrument called the crwth, and saw it played in Lincoln College Chapel last week, by a duo called Bragod. The notation and ritualistic dance gestures were alien to me; I didn’t even envision the crwth being held horizontally. Being a Classicist, I enjoyed the introduction to the concert, where Mary told us about Boethius’ categories of music and Pythagorean tuning.