I had the most magnificent opportunity of attending a summer school for a course of Creative Writing at Christ Church, Oxford University this July 2016.
Now, every experienced traveler will inform you of the riches of where they have been and what they have done. What they may miss out on is the fear, the anxiety and how it clouds your head like fog on a cold winter morning.
To travel is to paint. Your canvas is blank until you pick up the paintbrush and give it some masterful strokes. One wrong move and the picturesque scene is ruined.
Well, I was enshrouded with the same fear when I took a train from Paddington Station, London to Oxford Station, Oxford. Was I on the right train? Would the British regard me warmly? Would my train ticket be the right one?
Mine was a one-way ticket and my parents held onto two two-way tickets since they would be coming back to London after seeing me off. Dear Reader, don’t doubt my stress for my parents do not come from an eloquently English speaking background. Thus, the chances of them interacting were next to zero. However, that is the beauty of it all. An eighteen-year-old girl, figuratively on her own.
Regulating the whole trip emboldened me.
We reached the station and it was freakishly deserted. On asking a very helpful and efficient receptionist (skipping the part where I drooled all over his thick British accent), we made our way to a far away part of the station that hosted taxis and buses.
I think it was destiny or the timing was just impeccable. Because we managed to catch hold of a taxi driver from Pakistan who spoke Hindi. Let’s just say that it was one interesting ride and the thought of my parents bidding me goodbye in a few minutes flew from my mind hastily and conveniently.
We reached the gorgeous Christ Church in an hour. And we stood before it, gawking, taking its beauty in. Moments of questioning your sanity come seldom but when they do, they blow your mind.
We were not formally made to try the local cosine of England but Google was a big help. Some everyday foods eaten are English muffins, scones, scrambled eggs etc.
Christ Church is not only famous for the fact that Harry Potter was shot there but also because it hosts both a college and cathedral. This is why we would always hear the ringing of bells and mellifluous songs being sung by faceless choirs in buildings athwart our dorms.
Oxford is like a beautiful, tangible and invisible scar on my arm. Even today, I trace my nerves unknowingly and the memories come rushing back. It is safe to say that its chilly breezes and beautiful architecture grew on me.
If there is one walk that you should have, that is the Bill Spectre Ghost Walk. Bill is a vivacious, senile and notorious man who hosts the ghost walk across many colleges of Oxford, explaining their ghastly history on their way. More than intimidated by what horror his stories would induce in us, we were cracking up by his theatrics. He would trundle and suddenly walk to a nearby window and shout-“A young woman wearing black with blue eyes haunts this library!”. Or, he would engage us in mysteries of a serial killer who had walked loose on the very streets that we were walking on. Bill Spectre filled us with mirth and enthusiasm by all his dramatic antics. He is so adorable that I follow him on Twitter too!
Another activity that one should not even think of omitting is punting. It is a big deal there since Oxford University and Cambridge University have annual punting races and both use completely different techniques to do so. Punting is boating in broader boats. One uses a pole to steer the boat in very shallow waters. My group and I did it too. Alex, our student helper whimsically informed us that chances of us falling in water would be very high. Even moving the boat at first proved to be a taxing task! As we punted through, we came to a surreal halt. The sun was retiring, the birds were singing lullabies and the water was calm. It was very peaceful and an unforgettable memory.
We also attended an hour-long Vivaldi Concert inside Sheldonian Theatre of the Radcliffe Camera, a graceful building with a humongous dome on top. The concert constituted of various musicians showing their phenomenon skills in playing many instruments.
The weather in the o.k. is unpredictable. One minute, you are basking in the sunlight and the next you are scurrying away for shelter because of pouring rain. While I was in Oxford, I conjured a quote by myself that I still stand by even today-“Oxford is a labyrinth I would not mind getting lost in.”
Oxford University comprises of 38 colleges and we were also given a tour of the same. We were a group of five very strategic females who managed to tour some of the biggest colleges like Somerville College, University College, and Worcester College.
Since I was provided with adequate space in the form of a well-furnished room to stay in, I would not know a lot about where you should stay in Oxford. However, a brief conversation with my Course Director revealed that there are plenty of Bed & Breakfasts’ in Oxford and they are very popular with tourists.
London may be a cosmopolitan city but Oxford is its little sister who is more legendary and too beautiful to describe in words.
A jog in the University Parks near Christ Church or a scalding cup of hot chocolate from Paul’s will lift your spirits incredibly and before you know it, you don’t want to take that taxi and then train to London in order to fly back home.
Now, I am drenched with nostalgia after telling this tale.