I was in Oxford three weeks ago. Oxford was hazy, summery, full of bicycle bells, buses, herbaceous borders, and teenagers on summer school. I bought books, and dresses.
Oxford is where I did my Masters and my PhD, where Andreas did his BA and MPhil. We met up with our friends, the people we knew when they were students, or just starting out on their careers, who are now archivists, publishers, fellows.
I spent much of the time re-reading Dorothy L Sayer’s classic, Gaudy Night. Please, go and read it. It is, in my view, one of the great novels of the twentieth century. It pretends to be a genre novel (2 parts detective novel, 1 part romance, 1 part nostalgia), and it is all those things, but it is also more. For me, this time, I read it as a meditation on what it means to return to Oxford, older, more successful… and yet not having fulfilled the promise of your student self.
I loved the bookshops. I order a lot of things here in Melbourne, and that’s fine when I know that I want a book. A good bookshop offers you books you didn’t think you wanted.
There are some books I’m really excited about reading, but the big surprise was John Kinsella’s Jam Tree Gully, a West Australian revision of Thoreau’s Walden. I don’t usually like that kind of thing, but the poetry was electric.
Then we went on a family visit to Germany, the Amersee is idyllic, and the weather was excellent, and I have a beautiful nephew. I managed to get about a day of reading done.
I have never had jet lag as badly as this. I have crawled home at 6, and sometimes managed to stay awake long enough to eat. On Tuesday, I found out that a full half of my job is about to be on a Strategic Communications project as the Web Architecture Workstream Lead. I have no idea what I’m doing, or what we’re doing, but I’m going to be busy.
But all is not doom and gloom. I went to Shut Up and Write, full of guilt at the writing I had not done, full of cares about the semester ahead. And I plugged in my headphones, and opened up my document… and I wrote.
And there is some seriously cool stuff I found about the sensational trial for murder of Noela Slessor’s step-father–but mostly I just felt the calm.