I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post about how I stopped feeling like an inadequate blobfish at Oxford. You can read it here!
Since the end of last year, a number of friends have come to visit me here in Oxford. That number is 6, so by now I’ve developed a standard walking tour of Oxford sights and snippets of information…that I’ve never bothered to verify. Like butter on a toasty baguette, I think that historical anecdotes and hearsay should be laid on thickly, and unclarified.
I start by taking them around my college and its deer park (source of Magdalen’s venison meatballs), point out the Old Library (excavation yielded a bunch of bodies from the 15th Century hospital site, plus Oxford’s largest collection of wig curlers), make up some symbolic meanings for the scores of gargoyles and grotesques we pass along the way, and then take them up the Magdalen tower.
Usually when I wake up on my birthday I feel exactly the same as the day before. Not any older, not any wiser. This year was a little different; my raging hangover was a stark reminder that I’m definitely getting on. Apparently, gone are the days when a morning Gatorade solves all ills.
My college had a Heaven and Hell Bop on the Friday evening, so when the clock struck midnight I turned into a 24 year old tequila-shotting pumpkin in a Hieronymus Bosch-meets-geriatric ward scene (equal parts people in devil horns/macabre face-paint/neon wifebeaters and those in white gowns/cupid diapers/cotton ball cloud costumes). Yikes.
It’s the first day back at Oxford, Hilary term. I’m due to present in a legal theory class in a few hours.
Hmmm…first day of school! I consider ironing my top and wonder if I have any barrettes. Oh wait…that’s the school picture day trope. I should be sharpening my pencils. Metaphorically, of course. The few notes I made last term were bashed out on my laptop, or hastily scrawled in lipliner.
Nerrrrves. I’m not a confident speaker at the best of times. Let alone when I’m presenting on something completely over my head. Like state sovereignty and how we can reconcile it with the emergence of supranational legal orders. Ugh. I should probably have spent more than 2 jet lagged days on this.
I should watch a TEDTalk to put things in perspective.
This year was my first Christmas away from my family. As Oxford clears out over the break (undergrads unceremoniously evicted from their rooms, postgrads fleeing for home or warmer climes), I’d feared a lonely, tumbleweed-filled day.
‘I do feel sorry’, said Draco Malfoy one Potions class, ‘for all those people who have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because they’re not wanted at home.’
But there were actually quite a few who stayed on (particularly the scientists on mice-monitoring duty), and I’d dragged my friends down from Edinburgh, so we had a fun ragtag bunch to celebrate with.
After a whirlwind 4 days in Edinburgh (which pips Paris as the Most Romantic city I’ve ever visited, though of a slightly more rain-slicked, gritty ‘there’s a high chance you’ll have your throat slit by a Demon Barber-esque’ vibe) I’m heading back to Oxford with my friends for Christmas.
A bit over-excited at the prospect of a Real British Christmas (ie. not one spent sweltering in 40 degree heat, baulking at the prospect of hot pudding or roast anything) we somehow agreed to cook turkey for 20-odd people. Well, it started out as volunteering to host for a few friends. Then, like a rotting salmon tossed willy-nilly into a dumpster, (and I say this lovingly), we somehow attracted all the Oxford strays. Everyone generously agreed to bring food, but patently ignored our ‘Perhaps a ham/other protein?’ suggestion in favour of the cheese and Bûche de Noël options.
I’m really looking forward to a big Christmas, just a bit apprehensive about being on poultry duty. Every TV holiday episode I’ve ever watched has involved a broken oven, attempts to cook the bird in the washing machine, or someone making an awkward declaration of love with a turkey on their head. And if there’s one Christmas gift that keeps on giving, it’s salmonella.
That said, Tori successfully manned the mocktail stall at our high school fete for 3 years, doling out winsome combinations of coconut cream, pineapple juice and Cottee’s cordial. I was self-declared Vice Chancellor of Barbeque. Freya comes from the school of cooking thought that anything can be improved by the addition of avocado or bacon. We’re pretty much 3 culinary geniuses.
At our college Exchange Dinner last night, there was a bit of an awkward moment when I went up to get a drink and Barman Sam boomingly announced to the entire room, “My roommate found you on Tinder!” Apparently, this roommate had come across my profile and remarked, “Elodie, that’s a weird name” (note: in this broadcast Barman Sam couldn’t even employ flattering poetic license to make it something like, “Elodie, wow! What an attractive girl. I can just tell from her 5 overly-filtered pictures and 2 sentence bio that she is fun, beautiful and an interesting conversationalist!”). Anyway, Barman Sam made the connection, and saw fit to make a Public Service Announcement of my Tinder presence to the entire college.