The party’s started, y’all

Here’s the new site! Come join in the merriment.

This possum is very excited! Are you?! (Just kidding, it’s actually hissing because it’s mad. If you ever see a possum do this, run away.)


What’s next?

President Josiah Bartlett, gettin’ things done

My housemates have done a lot of wonderful things to enhance my life and broaden my horizons (I like to think I’ve done the same for them), but one thing we can pretty much all agree on is the greatness of The West Wing. Josiah Bartlett is every wishy-washy liberal commie pinko like me’s dream president: authoritative yet grandfatherly, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and highly educated, yet also likeable and folksy. He combines the winsome appeal of Reagan with the apparently genuine concern for ethical government, and the man-of-the-soil credibility, that we associate with Jimmy Carter. Even Republicans respect him. His favourite thing to bark at his long-suffering and brilliant staff after a long day of solving diplomatic crises, saving the economy and stickin’ it to right wing nut jobs is “What’s next?”

So what is next?

I’ve finished my degree. I’m no longer enrolled at Exeter, though I’m still in Oxford. I’m currently unemployed and endeavouring to alter that circumstance. I have, suddenly, a lot of time on my hands to do things that had to be shelved for the past three years. Reading precisely what I want. Writing poetry and essays. Thinking about things (and then writing more about them.) Going places (within reason, since I’m not really earning.) Cooking more, and better, and learning about what I cook.

This blog was always meant to be about a college experience, and, lovely and stimulating though that experience has been, it’s now over.

A new experience, however, is emerging, which I would categorize as the young,-highly-educated-and-unemployed experience. A lot of people up and down the country are having it at the moment, and I’d like to be able to tap into a network of people who are all in the same boat. My own experience is only slightly different in that I’ve elected not to move back in with my parents (who are, after all, quite a long way away), and am instead living in a house in Oxford with four of my friends, who are still studying. I’m in an odd limbo between dependence and independent living, and it strikes me as an interesting phenomenon. One that could profitably be studied. Analysed, even. And, perhaps, written about.

I’ll shortly be starting a new blog. It will combine pieces on things that take my fancy with pieces on topical issues (education, job hunting, the process of Being a Grown-up), as well as book reviews, tales of travels, housemate foibles and days out (as always–that seems to have been my bread and butter on Ex/Elle), food and cookery writing, and some creative writing of my own (which, I promise, will never contain any references to vampires, unicorns or moonbeams. Ever.)

It’s been delightful writing this blog, and I’m so grateful to everyone who’s read it, followed it, commented on it, etc. I’m going to leave the site up, and will include a link to it on the new blog. A link to the new blog itself will be up here soon. I hope you come with me!

Do fidem

I graduated on Monday.

What the hell, you guys. This was not supposed to happen, like, ever. I was meant to come to Oxford and be ridiculously happy and make friends and learn things and never, ever leave. All of those things happened, but now it turns out I have to leave.

Well, sort of. I’m still living in town next year. But I won’t be a student again for a while to come, and I sure as shootin’ won’t ever be an undergraduate again. This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, but it turns out that it is really quite surprising.

The morning I graduated, I woke up so nervous that I felt sick. I’m still not sure why. It might have been motivated by a subconscious fear that my family would do something American and gauche, like cheer at a wildly inappropriate moment, or it might have had to do with the fact that I knew perfectly well what the day would entail: inhumane amounts of clothing experienced simultaneously with extreme heat, stress, uncertainty about where to go and what to do, and a general inclination of circumstances towards the unenjoyable. Actually, most things turned out fine. I had already pre-ordered the BA gown and hood, which is lined with white fur, from Walter’s, the shop where I’d bought both my commoner’s gown in first year and my scholar’s gown after Mods results. I’d completely forgotten about the problem of subfusc when I was packing up my house earlier this month, and had therefore put mine in storage, which forced me to buy an entirely new skirt, shoes and black ribbon for the graduation ceremony. But apart from that, which I’d taken care of before getting to Oxford, all of the regalia proved unproblematic. The woman at Walter’s, whom I’d spoken to on the phone, leaned to me conspiratorially as I left: “I’ve given you a nice hood,” she said in an undertone. (And she had.)

Me and the Kid pre-ceremony

Me and the Kid pre-ceremony

We were meant to show up at the lodge and leave our hoods in the rector’s lodgings, before attending a briefing by the Dean of Degrees on how to behave during the ceremony. I met both Darcy and the lawyer in the quad, with their respective families, and although I quickly lost track of the lawyer (finding him again later), Darcy and I went off to the dean’s meeting together. Our Dean of Degrees is one of the modern language tutors, who frequents chapel for the music, so although I’ve never met him officially, his was a familiar face. His duty in this instance is to present us to the Proctors and the Vice-Chancellor formally, to ask them to admit us to the degrees which we’ve worked for. There’s some onus on you as a student, as well; you have to bow at certain points, as a mark of respect, and you have to respond “Do fidem” (“I swear”) to the injunction to uphold the “statutes, privileges, customs and liberties of the University”. This question is posed in Latin, and, as the Dean warned us, it did not sound like a question. Consequently, there is a lot of bleating and mumbling as people try to work out whether their turn to assent has come or not. I think the graduating group of Exeter B.A.s did better than most. We were certainly an improvement on the two hapless men receiving one of the Masters degrees, whose incompetence so greatly surpassed the norm that it even flustered the officials.

There were, I admit, a couple of tricky moments. One of them was the point at which the Vice-Chancellor told us to applaud our families, who were all sitting in the uncomfortable, closely-spaced, high-banked seats of the Sheldonian, watching the ceremonies. He reminded us, pertinently, that we would not have succeeded without them. This is quite true, and it made me feel a bit weepy. (I could see, even from several hundred feet away, that my dad had already succumbed to the same impulse.) When we sat again, I pinched my wrist to deflect the weepiness, and watched the blue-and-rust mural of unidentifiable semi-pagan figures and painted clouds on the ceiling, waiting for the hot prickling sensation behind my eyeballs to disappear.

It is a very diverting ceiling.

It is a very diverting ceiling.

After you say “Do fidem”, you are marched out of the side doors of the Sheldonian and into the Divinity Schools (a massive room in the Bodleian, where they filmed the infirmary in the Harry Potter films). All of our hoods were somehow moved into this room while we were inside, and the ritual is to don the hood before being paraded back through the Sheldonian, three by three, like a weird triumphal procession. I found my labeled bag without apparent difficulty, fastened the hood properly, and cast around for Darcy. He was standing by the window, hoodless. “Someone’s stolen mine,” he said with peculiar calm–so I waited, with the lawyer, for the Development Office minions to find a spare. As a result, we ended up the last three in the procession. “At least our parents will know which ones we are,” I pointed out.

The lawyer, whom I’ve known since freshers week, stood on my right; Darcy, on my left. “It feels rather appropriate to graduate with you,” the lawyer said. “End as you began, after all.” End as you began, and as you continued, I thought: with your friends. The doors opened. We walked in, and through, and bowed to the Vice-Chancellor, and out. We had degrees. We could officially put “B.A. (Oxon.)” after our names. We were really, truly finished.


But I’m not finished here.

I know I started this as an Oxford blog, but it’s become more than that–a travelogue, a sort of incubator for opinion pieces and sketches of places, people, events, a record of thoughts and doings–and I want to keep doing it. In the fall, it will move to a different website, and I’ll keep you all updated on that as it progresses. (I’ll also include a link to the new site here, when it moves.) Meanwhile, the summer beckons: I’m in York at the moment with my parents, which is a good chance to revisit a city I loved six months ago, and a further trip seems to be in the offing in August. Keep coming back, and I’ll keep feeding you!

New styles of architecture, a change of heart

(Props to Auden. Again. Gosh.)

Whenever I read over this blog, I read constriction. It doesn’t sound like me. It sounds like half of me, part of me but not the entirety. As though my mind has been sliced down the middle and one hemisphere has been put somewhere else. Which doesn’t mean I sound stupid (at least I don’t think I do.) Just incomplete.

I find this unfair, both to me and to you, whoever you are. I write much better, funnier, more lucid and interesting things than this when I write solely for myself, or when I write letters to people. It’s unfair for me to have to write, and for you to have to read, something inferior. Also, I just read a book which started life as a blog (which might or might not be entitled The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. Shut up. I have to relax somehow.) and got some very interesting stylistic ideas from it. I should probably have read more blogs before I started this one, but no one ever does anything fully prepared, do they? Otherwise we’d never do anything at all. I know I wouldn’t.

So as of now, the way this blog runs will be changing. Posts will be shorter, more frequent, more anecdotal, and in general better. There will be much less exposition, not least because it’s unbelievably boring to write and therefore to read. There will also be slightly more swearing—half the reason I don’t recognize my own voice in these posts is because there are no vulgarities peppering my sentences. It will be, in brief, a tighter ship. But also a more realistic one.

If you don’t prefer this way to the old way, you may not have ever met me.

For real.