Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Visit to an Oxford College: writing as a distraction

I walk along the High Street in Oxford, regretting that I have no map with me, but knowing I have studied them well enough that a map in my hand would not gave me any more information.

I reach a long, anonymous building which is probably the right place. The windows are above head height. A few steps set in to the wall lead up to a dark oak doorway: a group of people are on the steps, as well as a small noticeboard propped against the side. "Is this Queen's College" I ask and they assent. I push open the small door set into the larger one, and go through.

The porter's window is to my left. I ask the way to my meeting: staircase 4, back quad. I hope I can recognise staircase 4 from staircase 5 and staircase 3, this is all new to me.

I start to go around the quad, under the cloisters. But the woman I know is here, and says to go across the quad. I open a small metal gate: the path leads directly across the square, between two lawns with short, green grass. Between the grass and the path, there is a flowerbed on each side. The effect is symmetrical and controlled: each flower bed contains two rows of small blue-purple cultivated primulas. Elsewhere they would be called primrose, but the use of the Latin name is appropriate for this place.

I walk down the path to the far side, amazed that I have the right to do this. At the end, a single pale pink hyacinth shows between the rows of primulas. It looks out of place, but there is a row of hyacinth plants between the rows of primulas. It is the only flowering hyacinth: I am the only person here.

I walk through the archway to the back quad. Another courtyard, with a number of closed doors set into the walls. Above each door is a number painted on the wall. As quickly as I can, I scan for the number four. Through that door, and the meeting room is obvious. There are people here, I have arrived.

Through a window at the back of the building, I see two carved gargoyles chasing along the buttress of the neighbouring building.

I leave at twilight. A man wheels a bicycle across the front quad, a scene that could have played out at any time in the last 100 years. His fluorescent yellow jacket glows in the gloaming, seemingly incongruous in this setting but it anchors me to the twenty-first century.

I write this to distract me from the knowledge that my first-born is taking his first GCSE exam now: years before most of his age-group, and it is the hard 'triple-science' award.

1 comment:

Ferret said...

Nope, doesn't look like email is working.

I am starting to wonder how useful email is. Apparently part of teh problem is ISP's (including mine) turning on grey listing. It does neatly stop a lot of mail I want to be getting.