Oxford was an amazing place to visit. I find it hard to believe it has been over two months since we first arrived there. Home is very different, so it feels like a world away. A world I wanted to write to you about. I want to share where I’ve been. Let my words transport you now.
Oxford feels like a world of its own. Time seems to stand still there, but in a funny way. It is as if Time is standing by while people rush past it, while they change. They make a few little adjustments to Time’s appearance, perhaps to the way it stands, or to the way they discuss it. But it stands still.
It stands still in the glorious architecture of the colleges scattered throughout the city. You enter those buildings, and you forget about the rest of the world. You wander around the maze of cold stone, take in the fragrant rose gardens and styled grass, envelop yourself in the sacred hush of the chapels. They are perfect places to pause and dream for a moment. You peek in to the grand dining halls, and walk the paths through forests and meadows, and wonder if you haven’t stepped in to a fantasy book.
We didn’t enter the inner rooms of the magnificent Bodleian Library, or Radcliffe Camera, but I can imagine the scene within the grand structures. An ocean of books, housed in an elaborate ship of fine dark wood, and beautifully carved stone. Fit for the literary greats of old, places where one can bury oneself in the bookish mood seeping from the shelves. Places to ponder life’s questions, and places to dream about what might be. Places to study and learn, and places to remember the musings of the wise.
Time stands still in the colleges, even while mostly young students inhabit their cloisters. I believe Oxford students are friendly with the past, traipsing the cobbled stones in their sub fusc, the academic dress worn on certain occasions. The new embraces the old traditions here, until they are merged into one.
Time even stands still in the shop fronts. However, here, I can picture Time chuckling at what people have piled up around its feet. Inside quaint, beautiful buildings there are chain restaurants, with bright lights and signs. An interesting juxtaposition.
Time stands still in the museums of Oxford. You can visit the Pitt Rivers Museum, and feel as if you have stepped back into the late 1800s, as you read the old labels and walk through the cluttered assortment of items from all over the globe. Visiting the History of Science Museum, you can easily imagine it as the laboratory and anatomical theatre that it was in the 1600s. At the Ashmolean, Time does not only stand still for you, but it leads you on an exploration of a world of history, ancient and modern.
Time seems to stand still as you spend the day lost in the pages of a classic, sitting by the banks of a river while the punts and ducks drift past. Of course, the day does end eventually, but Time understands the importance of a good story, so the days feel extra long. I lost myself in Middle Earth, reading The Lord of the Rings. I seemed to forget that Tolkien himself wasn’t still alive and living in this city.
Stopping for dinner at The Eagle and Child, the pub where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the other “Inklings” used to meet, I could almost picture them sitting at our table, deep in conversation. In our cosy corner where we ate pies, they would meet to “drink Beer and to discuss, among other things, the books they were writing”.
But now, what has happened? Time stood still for me while I was in Oxford. It was the ideal break for me, and I soaked up every moment of it. I knew it would pass eventually; in fact, I wrote a blog post about this before I arrived in Oxford. Yet here I am, two months on, and it feels like Time has sprinted on. The rush has returned. Life resumes, as busy as it was before, perhaps busier. But Oxford has taught me something, and it will do me good to remind myself of it: live in the moment. Enjoy things while they are happening. Dream of the future, but pay attention to today. Smile at the memories. Love life. Appreciate Time, its tricks and its acts of kindness.
Well, thank you for reading, friend. It is special for me to relive those memories, and special for me to share it with you. I hope you enjoyed going back with me.