A lovely day in Oxford

Posted on October 27, 2005 by Holly Hayes
Part of: Graduate School in Oxford

After two days of dark clouds, rain, and wind, today was unseasonably warm and absolutely gorgeous. Not a cloud in the sky, a light breeze, and well over 70 degrees! I wore short sleeves all day and wasn't even cold in the shade. Amazing.

In addition to the beautiful weather, I woke up to happy news this morning - one of our boxes has arrived! Just before we left the States, we shipped three big boxes of computers, books, clothes and other various stuff to ourselves by ground, which takes 4-6 weeks. We've been very anxious to receive them, as I need some of the books and we are tired of sharing one laptop computer (though we're doing pretty darn well for only children, I must say).

However, this single box wasn't actually a lot of help, as it just contained two CPUs - no monitors. I hope the other boxes aren't far behind! The computers were banged up a bit inside, but David's already straightened that out. It's like watching a surgeon at work, except with wires and belts and metal thingies (that's a technical term). He's quite an expert and I'm always very impressed.

We walked through the park into town so I could return a couple library books, then we had lunch at the University Club. It was de-lish. David got a couple more job calls today, which is always good. I think he will be employed pretty soon!

We came home for a bit, and then I was off to my weekly "historiography" seminar. The last two weeks, as I've mentioned, were on early Christianity, located in Christ Church College and I did a presentation for it both weeks. Now we've moved into the medieval period, and have new tutors and a new location at Harris-Manchester College.

Because this college is located by the University Club, which has excellent bike racks unlike Christ Church, I rode my bike to class. I don't know if we've mentioned our bikes yet - we got them a few weeks ago. We both got the same silver mountain bikes, but David's is naturally a bigger frame and he put road tires on his (mine is the top one, his is the bottom one in the photos below). It's great to travel around like everyone else does around here! We keep them in our apartment even though we're not supposed to. This always adds an extra workout to a bike ride, as we have to hoist the bikes up the stairs.

Anyway, Harris-Manchester was a college I hadn't been in before, and it was beautiful. I actually saw just about all of it, since a fellow student and I wandered around most of the grounds looking for the right room. Our tutors are now two women, and we had the seminar in one of their offices. We learned about St. Bede, also known as the Venerable Bede, who was the first English historian of Christianity. He was a monk near Durham and Lindisfarne in the early 700s AD.

The Venerable Bede always reminds me of my Church History class in college, taught by the wonderful Irv Brendlinger, who officiated at our wedding. One of my favorite parts about the class was the slides from his travels related to the history we were learning. I remember he showed us a slide of Bede's tomb in Durham Cathedral and said, "Here's Bede, being venerable." While I was studying in Edinburgh I did get a chance to go to Durham for a day and I saw Bede being venerable in person.

But I digress. The seminar was quite interesting and fortunately I managed to make up a couple semi-intelligent-sounding things to contribute to the discussion despite the fact I hadn't read much in preparation. The pressure was on, as the tutor - an imposing woman named Sister Benedicta - started out by saying that she expected all of us to contribute to the discussion because she had to report on all of us and didn't want to say, "And Holly said nothing." Yep, she used my name.

And it's a good thing I did contribute, as one guy was being pretty quiet until she suddenly said, "Sam, what have you got to say?" He said, "Uh, about what?" And she said, "Anything!" I think I would have frozen up with a completely blank mind, but he did well and actually said something intelligent. I complimented him on it afterwards and he said, "That's what three years of Oxford tutorials will teach you." (He did his undergraduate work here, too.)

Afterwards I went with two of the guys, Jeff from Denver and Dominic from England, to a local pub. Even though it was almost dark, we still were able to sit at a table outside and I was warm enough in my thin sweater. Incredible. It was a really good time with fun conversation. The pub, called The Turf, is a favorite of Jeff's and he said it was also favored by another Oxford alum, Bill Clinton. Apparently there's a plaque to that effect inside.

I didn't stay long, as it was now quite dark, I was hungry, and I had forgotten to bring my bike headlight. Whoops. But I did have a nice and bright taillight, which is much more important anyway. Despite the dark (the headlight really would have come in handy), I had a wonderful ride home in the evening air, and once again felt so lucky to be here!

We've just finished watching an old episode of Alias on DVD ( has a Netflix-like "DVD by Post" program that is wonderful) and I don't think bed is far off! Here's hoping we wake up to another box or two waiting for us.