Oxford: Saturday, 24 January 2015
Got the bus with with Gefion from hers and Markus’ to the City Centre of Oxford (which was my first ride in a double-decker bus: they’re surprisingly tall and look too wide for the road). We had breakfast at a university cafeteria-like thing, which was quite good and free because Markus had to use up his food allowance (I didn’t really understand it, but hey). Markus left to return to work on his paper, so Gefion and I looked around the city at various buildings, all of which are enormous
Oxford is not what I expected. The town is dotted with college buildings and buildings owned by the colleges, such that there is no actual campus. Instead, it’s a town with a university embedded in it, or rather the other way around: a university with a town built into it. Something like that.
Unlike London, which would have expanded to meet civil needs, Oxford appears to have expanded to meet academic needs, and so there is always something to look at. In London there are a lot more buildings between landmarks, because obviously people need to live and work there. At Oxford, however, it is clear that the colleges are the important parts, and buildings get scattered between them as necessary in order to support the goings on in the colleges. We looked in at the Divinity School, which is very pretty inside and was built in the 15th Century.
Eventually we found our way to Keble College, apparently one of the newer colleges. Gefion told me about the Destroy Keble Society, a secret society whose members must steal a brick from Keble College in order to join. It seems to have been formed of students at the nearby St John’s College who considered the red brick Keble College to be an eyesore. However, Keble is not actually ugly in my opinion, and has a great big chapel with a high ceiling and pipe organ.
Eventually we headed back to Gefion and Markus’. I enjoyed their company immensely and am extremely grateful for their hospitality. This was my last night in Oxford before I return to London, and they have been incredibly generous in letting my stay in their spare room for two nights.
Hackney: Sunday, 25 January 2015
Not much on the agenda today. I got the bus from Oxford to Victoria Coach Station, and then the Tube to Bethnal Green, and walked to Sean’s place to stay the night with him in Hackney. Being around midday, the coach ride was pleasant and I got to see my first glimpse of the English countryside. It looks remarkably like Western New South Wales, once you get over the Blue Mountains: the similarity between it and the drive to Mudgee is uncanny! The bus had free wifi (at the rate I’m going I’ll have to do a review page for everything) which was handy for finishing my blog post for the first few days in London.
I got to Sean’s without difficulty. He looks well and seems to be enjoying living here. Sean and I studied music together, but he didn’t complete the degree, and instead went into graphic design. He’s been living in London for about 18 months and goes back at the end of this year.
I went out to get dinner and then went looking for a pub. I witnessed what was certainly a drug deal: a girl walked up to a guy in the park, they swapped something, and then headed in opposite directions. I haven’t even seen that back home, and I live in Western Sydney!
I found a pub, but decided against going inside because there was a guy outside it giving me a weird look and when I confronted him about it he just grinned and mumbled then laughed. So I went to the one just across the road and was accosted by a recently-made-homeless sound engineer who was rapping for loose change. I gave him a few pounds and bought him a drink.
While sitting outside, the guy from the first pub came by and sat next to me. Then he started rambling about war and the apocalypse and various other nutjobby things. After about ten or fifteen minutes of nonsensical banter he asked my quite brazenly “do you have anything, even a pound?” and suggested I buy him a drink. When I declined giving him either money or alcohol, he said I was boring, to which I replied “fine” and left, going back to Sean’s.