Last Monday I got a telephone call from my cousin Megan. She was going to be London for the day and wanted to know if I wanted to meet up. I was more than willing for an excuse to head out to London, but as we talked, I realized that Megan had been to London before, but had never been to Oxford. “Megan,” I asked, “Why don’t you just come to Oxford? You can stay at my house.” And that’s what happened.
So, on Tuesday morning, after a lot of confusion trying to find the bus, Megan arrived in Oxford. I met her at the bus stop and we walked back to my house to drop off her luggage. Along the way, Megan expressed excitement about the “perfect English weather” we were having, and I laughed, remembering when I too liked the atmosphere of the cloudy skies over Oxford. I’m kinda over the whole English weather thing now, though.
After dropping off her bags at my house, Megan and I headed back into to town for lunch at Eagle and Child, and fulfilling the one requirement Megan had of the trip: Fish and chips. After lunch we went to Moo-Moos for milkshakes, and then I gave Megan the “grand tour” of Oxford (Christ Church Meadow, Radcliffe Camera, Ashmolean Museum, various colleges). We ended by exploring the Ashmolean for a while, and then went back to my house, where Megan got to experience one of our “family” dinners. When dinner was done, we went to G&D’s for desert and brought some ice cream back to Dane and Will. Then, while I did some school work, the guys introduced Megan to a card game called Blink, which I think she enjoyed (its our favorite game). We went to bed a little after midnight, and woke up early to get Megan on the bus to the airport. It was really fun to finally have a visitor, and to share a little of my life at Oxford with someone.
Thursday morning was May Day. Every May Day morning at 6:00 AM, Magdalen College’s choir sings from the top of their tower, and everyone goes to listen. Dane and I got up at 4:30 and headed out to see. We met up with Samantha, Jane, Mary Kate, and a huge crowd of mostly drunk Uni students. Traditionally, students used to jump off Magdalen Bridge, but the water is so shallow that people were getting hurt, so the police block the bridge now on May Day morning. It was too loud to hear the choir sing, though. Afterwards, Samantha and I went to breakfast at a café we found called Puccino’s. It had a really fun atmosphere, and I think we’ll be eating there again. We didn’t see much of Oxford’s other May Day traditions, though, such as Morris Dancers. Mostly, the whole point seemed to be to go to a pub at 6:00 in the morning.
“Mark, Mark, Mark!”
For the first time since 1913, Ascession Day happened to coincide with May Day. Ascession Day is 40 days after Easter and marks the day that Jesus ascended into Heaven after his resurrection. It also the day that, since 1428, the church St. Michael’s of the North Gate marks their parish boundaries in a ceremony called Beating the Bounds. They do this by walking to each of the church’s old boundary stones and beating it with a willow rod three times, shouting “Mark! Mark! Mark!”. As you can imagine, Oxford has grown a lot since 1428, and consequently some of the boundary stones have ended up in very odd places, like inside Mark’s and Spencer’s. The Cheeky Guide to Oxford tells visitors to “Come and watch loonies wander around the city hitting it with sticks”.
We definitely looked odd walking around with our sticks, like some sort of strange mob, and there were a lot of tourists taking pictures of us as we walked through the city.
The strangest moments were when we went into stores.
All in all, it was a very fun, and a great opportunity to participate in an old Oxford tradition. Plus, Lincoln College gave us free lunch.