The Oxford List

I love lists. I love reading them, and I love making them. Because I spend so much time here trying to make my prose flourish and bloom, right now I’m just going to take it easy and make a list.

The Oxford List:

Roommates: Mary, Cora, and Jessamy, the most patient saints that ever did live. They put up with me singing audition pieces over and over to practice, distracting them with craziness when they are trying to finish essays, and generally living a tornado life. Also, they vacuum my side of the room and make me coffee.
Favorite meal: Every formal hall at Oriel, just because of the space. It’s so fun to eat dinner there. Also, one day during break we made a delicious brunch of eggs, veggies, toast with jam, orange juice, and coffee, and we ate out in the gorgeous garden. That was a good meal.
Favorite essay written thus far: I absolutely loved writing on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ language and poetic innovation. Most wonderful reading, and after writing the essay, everything in the world seemed to jump out at me and proclaim its inscape.
Best reading for any essay: Either James Milroy’s The Language of Gerard Manley Hopkins or Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale
Favorite day of weather: The first days here in early September were beautiful – it was so warm, and the sun was shining so brilliantly. Everything was still in bloom. But the past few days have been gorgeous, too. Autumn in Oxford: the trees are changing, the air is crisp and charged, and the light takes on a bit of a muted hue. It gets dark quite early now.
Last thing I lost: I dropped 60 pounds in the driveway, and the wonderful Joel returned it to me.
Last thing I found: The Greens Café on St. Giles. Right next door to the Eagle and Child. Inexpensive food and drinks, quiet rooms to study upstairs, and lots of natural light.

Dregs of the tea most recently in my mug: I live on Lady Grey with cream and sugar.
Best music for study/reading/writing this semester: Explosions in the Sky is my go-to, always. But that’s not very British, so we’ll say Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Best sound I’ve heard: So many good sounds. The incredible music every week at St. Mary Magdalene’s, the music we sing at Evensong with the Oriel choir, laughter in the kitchen at the Vines, the piano/guitar/violin music always wafting from the living room, the sound of sizzling ingredients as friends cook for one another at the Vines, the sound of the wind blowing the leaves, the sound of pages turning in libraries. Perhaps the best sound so far, though, was the Introit sung by the boys’ choir at Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Best choir song so far: I really love everything we’ve sung, but I particularly like Charles Villiers Stanford’s B-flat major setting of the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis. Also, In the Pink is doing a sick mash-up of Too Close, Heartless, and Cry Me a River, so there’s that.

Best hymn sung in church: Be Thou My Vision will always be my favorite.

Best game: So there was this one time that I won Settlers of Catan by manipulating other players…

Favorite tea room: Definitely the MacDonald Room at the Randolph Hotel. It’s the hotel where C.S. Lewis first met Joy Davidman, and I’ve been twice now with friends. It’s swanky and classy, and so much fun. Plus five pounds gets you an entire pot of tea and fresh shortbread cookies!

Best night in: Once upon a time at the Vines, we all gathered in the living room, each with a passage from a book or a poem to share. We drank tea and read to one another, and I read from Gilead, and I got to hear each unique person’s voice and heart, and it was incredible.

Best night out: Once upon a time, Mary and I saw A Comedy of Errors at the Globe. Then there was that time when Kathryn and I saw Wicked on the West End. I live for the theatre.

Favorite pub: So I really like the Bear. In operation since 1261, folks. It’s just got so much character; they must have been smaller back then.

Favorite church service: Well, Rowan Williams did come speak at Mary Magdalene’s last Sunday, so that’s hard to match. But every week at Mary Mag’s is pretty great.

Best new skill: Cooking. Never knew I enjoyed it until now. Once a week, I cook for my “family” of six. I love trying out new recipes and making delicious things. It feels a little bit like making art.

Favorite place in Oxford: Duke Humphrey’s Library in the Old Bodleian Library. Google it, and you’ll see why. Most days, I study there.

Favorite lecture so far: Practicing Criticism by Professor Douglas-Fairhurst. I’ve never heard anyone read poetry or prose so beautifully, and the way he describes rhythm and punctuation makes me love literature even more. Our lives are measured by rhythm: speech, the turning of seasons, life and death. Language mirrors that. He’s a brilliant man.

Most unexpected realization: One Wednesday, Lexi took us to the Tate Modern in London. I think I’ve just heard everyone else’s vendetta against modern art, so I’ve been too dismissive. With her guidance, I’ve realized I actually really appreciate modern art, though it’s hard to view often because it’s so confrontation, and doesn’t necessarily make me feel good.

Favorite road in Oxford: Logic Lane. It’s real.

Most baffling conundrum: How Shakespeare did what he did. I’m convinced he’s the wisest writer I’ve ever encountered. I’m reading this great criticism on him by Harold Bloom, called Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, in which Professor Bloom argues that Shakespeare’s works, more than any other English works, shape how we, as inheritors of the English language and tradition, understand humanity and human interaction. I just can’t wrap my mind around his mastery of language and of storytelling. He’s ridiculous, and his plays are genius. The more I dig into them, the more I’m realizing this.

Favorite poem read while in Oxford: “The Windhover” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Most exciting paper yet to write: I’m doing my term paper on John Donne and George Herbert’s appropriations of the conventions of Renaissance love poetry in their spiritual poetry. I can’t wait to get started on that.

Favorite non-academic book read: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (I am going to see her speak here in November!)

Favorite non-academic movie watched: Watching Harry Potter just never gets old here.

Conclusion: I don’t ever want to leave.


One thought on “The Oxford List

  1. Hey Abbie!!

    Caitlin Fernandez here. I just want to let you know how much I enjoy reading your experiences at Oxford. They make my heart all warm and fuzzy inside. Thanks for sharing your thoughts because let me tell yah… YOU HAVE SOME GOOD ONES. Sending love your way. Have a great rest of the week.

    Cheers! Caitlin

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