Sunday, February 7, 2016

A red-letter Thursday afternoon

Thursday was a delightful day. I had meant to study all afternoon, but instead I found myself meandering through Oxford - wandering down backstreets and poking into shops. I began the afternoon by browsing through the Covered Market with Amy. It's a wonderful place with restaurants and cafes, thrift stories and ice cream shops, and the odd jewelry and clothing store.

We passed up the pheasants at 1.50 a brace and instead settled on lunch at Pieminister - a sit-down restaurant with savory pies and a student discount. I opted for a butternut squash, spinach, feta and chickpea pie with - it's so British - mushy peas and gravy. All of which was delicious, even the mushy peas, once they were salted. For dessert we stopped at Ben's Cookies, a place our fellow SCIO students have been raving about. My chocolate chip and orange cookie was marvelously gooey and has me brainstorming about how to produce such a delicacy at home. 

It was a lovely day and I wanted to study outside in the sunshine, but I wasn't sure exactly where to go. Happily enough, as we passed Balliol College I noticed that it was open to visitors. The different colleges here are open to the public during certain times each day, and because I have a University Student ID card I can get in for free. I went in and was amazed at how large the college is. It's a complex of many different buildings, with several lawns and courtyards. The spring has come early here, so one of the lawns is already carpeted with pale purple crocuses. 

I discovered a mulberry tree that is more than 400 years old and the great hall where members of college dine. 

 I plopped down at a cafe table and worked on my essay for a couple of hours with birds singing around me and hopping across the lawn hunting for worms.

 Then I packed up and simply wandered around Oxford. I discovered many things I forgot to photograph, and several that I remembered to record visually.

The proprietor of The Last Bookshop - stocked with a hodge-podge blend of new and used books piled on all available surfaces - discovered a plate of chocolates and courteously offered them to me and another browser.

I investigated several churches. One of them, a Catholic church, was perfectly nice, but nothing particularly noteworthy. Until I noticed this placard on the wall nearby:

(It may be hard to see, but this was the church where Gerard Manley Hopkins (a beloved poet) was curate.)

I was charmed by Mutton Yard Flats.

And delighted by the grounds of the College of St John the Baptist. 

I browsed through Waterstones - the British equivalent of Barnes & Noble - and bought a book on impulse: 84 Charing Cross Road. It's the published correspondence between a poor American writer and the London bookshop from whence she mail-ordered all the books she wanted but couldn't find in the states (having a taste for out-of-print books). I read it this afternoon, and it was delightful. I highly recommend it to any bibliophile. I also sat down in a windowseat in Waterstones and read the first two chapters of Maus - an award-winning graphic novel about the holocaust that I definitely need to read in full.

The fitting conclusion of the day was Evensong at Magdalen College. It's the Anglican service of evening prayer - set to music and sung by a boys' choir. This peaceful and soul-stirring service is offered daily in many of the churches and college chapels in Oxford, and it is a wonderful close to any day. I always appreciate the opportunity to pause and be still before the Lord while participating in a service practiced for many centuries here.

All in all, Thursday was a fabulous day. 

{P.S. I'm horrible at remembering to take photos of myself. I will try to rectify that in future, but we'll see if that actually happens.}

1 comment:

  1. thoroughly enjoyed, kate.
    with all the different colleges at oxford, does one say they have a degree from such-in-such-college in oxford? is cambridge similar?