Because I am very strange in the middle of the night (and frequently verging on anxiety attacks), I got out my Programme Notebook and looked at some of my notes, trying to figure out what I'd have to do the next day. ...Make that "today," according to the clock. But the only thing I came up with was that I hate the strangely sized British computer paper. And when I say "strangely-sized," of course I mean "not-American sized in that lovely 8.5x11 perfection."
I also decided to take a shower in the middle of the night, because taking showers in the morning is just absolutely wretched, and I tend to be late enough as it is in the morning -- taking time to shower would just make the matter worse. The theory that showering in the morning helps you wake up is poppycock. (Poppycock? Who says "poppycock" anymore?) You're not any more awake after a shower. You're just tired and rather damp. So I showered in the middle of the night, probably to the annoyance of Anna next-door. Oh well. It's not as if my reasoning makes much sense in the middle of the night.
Thank you to all that is good in the world, or more specifically, thank you to Nikki, who is a saint for waking me up this morning because my alarm clock is evil and didn't go off, despite the fact that I set it to go off earlier than usual so I could be productive this morning. Apparently the world doesn't want me to be productive. Maybe I should accept that as a sign and do nothing today. That sounds rather pleasing.
I missed breakfast, and that added to my overwhelmingly tired haze, my mood was completely shot. I ran in to Farah in the stairwell, and when she asked me how I was this morning (damn the pleasantries of greetings), I started quoting the philosopher Fred Durst (from the band Limp Bizkit, the spelling of which I had to look up because I kept spelling it "Limp Biscuit" and that just doesn't look like the name of a rock'n'roll band). Anyway. Quoting Limp Bizkit,
"Its just one of those days
When you don't wanna wake up
Everything is f***ed
You don't really know why
But you wanna justify
Rippin' someone's head off"
(The profanity was "bleep"ed with asterixes for the readers of delicate sensibilities, despite the fact that I think I've already said "motherf***er" at least once already in this blog.)
I think I rather surprised/scared poor Farah. I will definitely not be getting any harsh words or obnoxiousness from her today out of her fear of bodily harm.
We all stumbled in blearily for our morning lecture, which was given by the professor who has already graced us with his presence previously. You know -- the stuttering, mole-toting, bad comb-over professor. The lecture did nothing to help my exhaustion. Sorry, but science at Oxford is just not something anyone wants to wake up to. But Professor Iles funds the programme, so of course what ever he wants to do, he does. If he wants to bore us all into somnolence, then, By God, he'll do just that.
Programme Notebook Entry:
In Dr. John Iles's lecture, "Science at Oxford," the group was presented with a history of the scientific achievements and progresses made at the colleges of Oxford University, or by any of the students who call Oxford their alma mater. But what scientific event that particularly struck me was Robert Burton's book, The Anatomy of Melancholy, written about five hundred years ago. It was with this book that the first psychiatric diseases were studied, and that, in the field of medicine, mind and body were equated -- both with the ability of getting sick and getting better. This was five hundred years ago. It boggled my mind that people can still doubt the validity of psychology as a field of medicine and study. It makes me doubt how far we've actually come.
My only note in my pretty little Lecture Notes notebook that is worth mentioning is "He seriously needs a cough drop or something." While The Anatomy of Melancholy is fairly interesting, and Boyle's air pump is hilarious, and Newton apparently was an argumentative dick, the cough drop is really more worth remembering. It has more character to it and demonstrates what I really took out of this.
Oh. And there's apparently a play called The Humours of Oxford, that's all about the sloth and drunkenness of the students. Oh, the hilarity. And I actually wrote down "And then he discussed lots of crap about Darwin," and paraphrased Hugh Cairns (the St. Hugh, I believe) as saying, "Hey, motorcyclists should wear helmets." Brilliant guy, Hugh.
When Professor Iles was just becoming more than I could handle, I wrote in very bold, capitalized letters, "STOP TALKING. TIME FOR COFFEE. NOW. You've gone fifteen minutes over and I need caffeine!" Farah was watching me write over my shoulder, and leaned over to write under my rant, "I CONCUR!" Ha. Farah, the med student, agrees that the lecture on Science at Oxford is just too much.
Other quotes of some interest:
"Penicillin is important. No duh, Sherlock." -Farah
"Smoking cigarettes is a bad idea." -Captain Obvious, Professor Iles
"This lecture if officially WAY TOO LONG." -Farah, in a letter to her brother she wrote during the lecture, which really was too long
After the lecture, everyone huddled over their coffee and biscuits, and continued the ceaseless discussion about packing-concerns. No one cares about the safety of flying due to new terrorism-scares, but the matter of how people are going to get their luggage back home is of paramount importance. When I tired of this vein of thought, I moved on to another circle of programmers, in which the topics of discussion were: girl-talk that will unfortunately go off-record, love of Disneyland (Farah, who lives in Sacramento, has promised to go play there with me one day), and hats.
We all milled about uselessly, because that is what we do here. Katie caught me as I passed her and thanked me for loaning her a pound last night at Chez Gaston, and she promised she'd pay me back soon. This concern over $2 in American money seemed a bit excessive. "Yes, Katie," I told her. "I'm going to knee-cap you if you don't give me back my pound before the deadline, got it?" We all basked in the great joy that is mocha-coffees (the best hot chocolate in the world combined with only sort-of-okay English coffee). Jennie informed me that my hair looked good, and I informed her in return that it's only by the grace of God that my hair looks worthy of existence outside my room; I don't blow-dry and usually sleep on it wet. "Well, I wish God would grant me such grace!" she exclaimed, and, of course, was adorable.
I have come to the conclusion that Noonie is like a mommy. She rubs your back and strokes your hair if you're looking bored or tired or just plain sick of it all during a lecture, and it is infinitely comforting. I swear to God, this woman was made to have children; she is too good a maternal figure not to have children. It would be an insult to nature and a very sad thing for babies who are waiting to be conceived, possibly by her.
Jennie, as aforementioned, is another wonderfully tactile friend. Her greeting to me this morning was a heartwarming (however unexpected) hug, and there really isn't anything nicer than a hug when you're really not happy that the world insists that you participate in the day.
Off to the official seminar room for the morning's second lecture, the lecturer of which looks like an aged little girl, if that makes any sense at all. She was a tiny, tiny little sprite of a person, wearing a pink cardigan and an Alice bow in her grey-blonde hair that hung long around her just-a-little-more-than-middle-age-wrink
Programme Notebook Entry:
In Dr. L Whiteley's lecture, "From Romanticism to Impressionism in the National Gallery," we were taken on a running tour of many of the portraits in the National Gallery -- mostly portraits, anyway. Romanticism is an interesting concept as an artistic movement, and a lot of beautiful art came out of that period. But there are ideas of Romanticism that were not confined solely to that period, namely nostalgia. Most periods of history (and cultural/worldly climate always influences art) swing backwards and forwards on the pendulum from looking to the past to looking to the future. So often, art looks back to the classics, whether to pay lip service to them or to recapture that essence. Romanticism was merely the awareness of thinking that things were better once.
We learned that the National Gallery has over 2,000 pieces and that the English love 17th century Dutch art. The things that Oxford teaches you, huh?
I recognized only a few pieces, one of which was The Ambassadors, which I didn't actually recognize by sight but did so by reputation and historical symbolism because my good friend Claire Tuley had told me all about; she'd considered studying it for her IB Extended Essay. It's famous for having a stretched skull along the bottom of the painting that is so artistically amazing that no one can figure out how this guy did it.
Hayley's remark of boredom in her notes: "Wow. I'm really not paying attention." I think I was actually thinking about Hamlet at the time. Oh well. At least that's fairly academic.
And I recognized the painting "The Hay Wain" because of having to do research to figure out what on earth a "haywain" actually was for a play this year. Theatre teaches you the oddest, most useless things. But at least if anyone ever asks me what a "haywain" is, I'll be able to promptly answer, "A horse-drawn cart used specifically to transport hay, as the word 'wain' means a horse-drawn cart used to transport agricultural goods. Also, a wainwright is someone who creates wains!" Anyway. And back to our regularly scheduled program(me?), free of defining Old English agricultural terms.
There were so many interesting aspects of how the artistic movement of Romanticism manifested itself in paintings. Romantic painters would often include a few lines of poetry to their paintings, and the subjects of paintings were very frequently children because they symbolize that uncorrupted innocence of being. But the sadness of it is that life is the gradual forgetting of what we knew before we were born; it's a very mystical concept. There's a lovely Gainsborough of two little girls chasing a butterfly but their expressions are so awfully sad. Oh, the symbolism.
Romantic painters were interested in powerful feelings, and dealt so much with classical beauty and form, but not with people of standing. So many artistic movements are all about searching for or going back to the Classical. What was so damn good about the Classical? It gets a little old after a while.
Jennie and I sighed in tandem at Monet. How sad is that?
Frankly I'm more fascinated by Impressionism, which the Little Girl Lecturer briefly touched upon. Taking what's nearest at hand... the immediacy of a moment and how fleeting it is... nature and the contemporary... realism, but a representation of what is "real"... It's fascinating.
We were so rapidly running out of time with still so many paintings to get through that eventually the slides were going by so fast that we only got a brief glimpse of each painting and maybe a title, like a flipbook of masterpieces. When the lecture ended, as always, I went up to chat with the professor. I asked her if she could define Impressionism for me and she brightened so vividly at a student taking interest in what she had to say, as if this were a rare occurrence. She made me write down my name for her so she could send me some of her materials. Her enthusiasm was infectious; I always enjoy talking to the professors. They always have something to say.
Next was lunch. Maira has gotten into the bad habit of swinging around her lanyard of St. Hugh's keys-and-fob, and she rarely fails to hit herself with said swinging keys. Let her bruise herself with unlocking mechanisms. I'm just worried about being in the line of fire.
The programmers are starting to get worried about the Programme Notebook entries; we have another deadline coming up. It's hard enough keeping up with an entry for every lecture and excursion, but extra entries to write as well? It means there are two new things to write about every day, as well as another laundry list of things to write about. It's becoming a little overwhelming, and the quality of the writing is quickly deteriorating, which probably defeats the purpose of these entries. It's becoming less thought and discussion and more frantic attempts to put something down on paper. These entries are supposed to make us think, and there's no longer any thought behind this rubbish we're writing. How sad.
And after lunch, I napped. I'm clearly trying to become a European, embracing the tradition of the siesta. And, hey, I'm a teenager. I'm tired.
I was not able to nap for a long and uninterrupted period of time, however, as I was summoned from my bed to hear Nikki's request for me to be photographer for the water-balloon fight. Unfortunately for her, nothing involving water-balloons can coax me from sleep. But I was soon awoken again by another proposition. Brian was next to knock at my door; I feared a water-balloon, but he was actually coming to call in order to invite me to dinner with him, Noonie, and Wally. I believe my exact answer was "YES YES I'LL COME." After that, I didn't properly go back to sleep for fear of being late.
When we finally left, topics of discussion varied. We examined the issue of teacher pet names (Noonie, Wally, etc.) and the appropriateness of showing affection toward teachers; what is the acceptable teacher-student relationship nowadays? Especially with the oh-so understanding liberal arts teachers. On the street past North Parade when you turn right, a few shops down there's this lovely and strange antique shop I've been dying to poke around in. It's called something bizarre and ridiculous like "Liscious" (yes, intentionally spelt wrong, I assume; not sure why). The shop seems to specialize in East Asia-type decorations, and it's filled floor-to-ceiling with mirrors. It gives it a vaguely ominous carnival feeling, though it was completely silent save for (supposedly) the owners whispering conspiratorially in the back next to a large wooden cabinet with oriental-style handles on the doors. And, of course, it was dusty. All antique shops are dusty. If it's not dusty, they're not really antiques. The definition of an antique is something obsolete that is actually wanted by another generation for its obsoleteness, so, while waiting for that next generation, said obsolete thing goes untouched for a long time.
After a quick glance around we dashed out, too creeped out by the atmosphere. Outside, the four of us turned to the vitally important and pressing matter: What are we going to eat? We searched our taste buds and decided on Italian. Next, we talked about our growing familiarity with this new world we're living in (or visiting, rather). We know our way around. We're accustomed to traffic patterns and crosswalks. We know which side of the street to stay on in order to get where we're going. We mused on whether home will actually be familiar when we get back. It's probably like riding a bike -- it'll come back right away from muscle memory, but Oxford is starting to feel strangely like home. Brian was talking to Noonie about a song he's been listening to lately, some "Home" song by OAR and how ironic he thinks that is, listening to a song like that while he's so far away from what he supposes is his "home". Sentimentality, perhaps? Homesickness? Dunno.
We stopped briefly in a tourist-y shop to look at Oxford sweatshirts, but, as St. Hugh's is the unknown college, there is no St. Hugh's memorabilia. There were a few pairs of sweat-pants with ST. HUGH'S written down the leg, but the pants were clearly made for tiny Japanese tourists and not to fit my fat American derriere. Such is life.
Next stop: Blackwell's Books. Brian ran off to his political whatnot and Noonie went searching for something to do with Tolkien recommended by her brother, I believe. Wally went off to go find whatever English teachers find in bookstores. I was glancing at a Harry Potter parody when I ran into Farah and Risa, who were spending the afternoon there in the bookshop to escape the water-balloon fight. Farah informed me that she had discovered Downstairs. (There is a whole other level downstairs, which is giant and crammed with books clearly for student research.) "I had a medical orgasm," she said, which, of course, she would, being the medical student. I had my philosophy orgasm down there. On that floor, I mean.
Farah and Risa asked me if I was running around town alone today, and I said no, that I was going to dinner with Brian, Noonie, and Wally. They giggled, I raised an eyebrow, and they went on the verify the "unspeakable" quote which has already been mentioned to me off-hand; Brian was apparently the source of this quote, last night at the nightly gathering in Andrea's room, and Farah went on to inform me, "Okay, and this is verbatim. He said, 'Hayley is so cute. I would make mad, nerdy, Harry Potter love to her.' Isn't that so sweet?"
I believe my exact response was "HAHAHAHAwkward."
I gathered up my companions and we left. At some tiny shop called Tim's, Noonie stopped to get stamps and Brian asked the counter-guy if he could give us a recommendation for a good Italian place. We soon settled ourselves in Bella Italia (the restaurant chain where I'd eaten with Matt and Mom in London, actually) to eat in the atmospheric gloom of candles in Chianti bottles.
As we waited for our meals, Brian worked himself up into a rant. His performance continued all through dinner. How is it that I find him so endearing? His acerbic perception of the world is vicious and somewhat hyperbolic, but there is always a gem of truth in his biting commentary. Wally says his humor (humour?) is similar to that of Don Rickles. Unfortunately, I have no idea who that is. Will report later with further research.
Near the end of dinner, we each discovered the restaurant's bathroom. Dante could have written about this bathroom. It's down many flights of stairs, leading into what I suppose is the storage basement of the restaurant. The staircase is lit with dim, glowing lighting that makes the stairwell look vaguely... yellow. Like fire. "Descending into Hell," I commented. Also, it got strangely hot the further you descended. Everything echoed and was ghostly quiet, empty. The bathroom itself was lit with torch-styled lamps. I'm not sure I ever peed so fast in my life, but nervousness will do that to you.
Back at the table, we considered dessert while Brian played with the candle in the Chianti bottle (such a pyromaniac) and regaled us with his "thing" about sneezing. Apparently multiple consecutive sneezes infuriate him. "I only ever sneeze once. I get it all out in one sneeze. If I get it all out in one sneeze, why can't everyone else? Lots of tiny sneezes are unnecessary and ridiculous. It vexes me." I find this absolutely fascinating because it is absolutely absurd.
After listening to over an hour of Brian's social commentary, I have come to the conclusion that he likes no one. Not a soul escapes his criticism. I fear what he says about me when I leave the room. "I'd hate to be under your critical gaze," I told him. "You're absolutely ruthless."
"Well I like you," he assured me, almost in the manner of an admonishment. Funny. So do only teacher-companions and Harry Potter playmates avoid censure?
Over a lovely dessert of gelati (mmm, gelati -- thank you, England, for your gelati stands on every corner), we discussed the joys of therapy, and how no person with a medical degree and a clipboard could compare to the therapeutic powers of a good lunch with good friends and a good conversation, concluded with a good dessert. Lovely. Gelati really is a lovely thing. I will never be able to eat any other sort of ice cream again without finding it inferior.
We had to hurry back to St. Hugh's so we could get ready for tonight's rescheduled Shakespeare performance. (As you will recall, dear reader, we were supposed to see the play last night, but the performance was regrettably postponed due to the disturbance of a small rock concert at the college next-door to the open-air theatre. Inconsiderate rhodes scholars.) We all looked relatively nice, but Noonan is frustrated that she forgot to really dress up for the cute actors. (Despite not seeing the performance last night, we still got programs, so we have determined that some of the actors are really quite cute, so Noonan knew to prepare. The lot of us girls have been trying to hook her up with a cute Constable, but a British Shakespearean actor would be suitable.) She threw a right little fit.
But any chance of catching the romantic eye of a cute actor was not lost when she failed to properly "dress up" -- it was lost when the Robinson group decided to compare skills of touching one's tongue to one's nose. Noonan is just not able to achieve this skill, though she tries very hard. She even does little exercises just to prepare to try to touch her nose with her tongue. The rest of the Robinson kids are able to do it (I am positively dexterous with my tongue; it's rather freakish), but Noonan fails. We were able to obtain photo documentation of this little event. Noonan makes the strangest face, sticking out her tongue like that. It will make excellent blackmail.
I'm really enjoying photo-documenting this experience. I want to make sure I have pictures of all the programmers, but some, like Anna, are very camera-shy. She hides every time I ask to get a picture of her. So, of course, I don't ask her permission and take candid pictures of her. And it makes no sense! She photographs so beautifully. She always looks so lovely, so serene. I can't stand it. So here's my tip for you all: if you ever want a good picture of Anna Gadzinski, just take the picture while she's not paying attention and it'll be the most gorgeous photo you've ever seen in your life. I'll post some pictures here later.
Anna's grown frustrated with my candid photography, though. "You're like a camera ninja!" she exclaimed. "I never know when you're taking pictures!" Well, Anna dear, that's the point. I don't let you know when I'm taking pictures so I'm able to take pictures of you! Oh, silly Anna.
There was a gorgeous black-and-white Argyll sweater in a store window that Brian and I were talking about, even now. When a sweater haunts you, it is clear that some shopping is vital. So Brian and I are going to skip breakfast tomorrow and hunt for sweaters. How sad is it that I'm excited to shop for sweaters?
Back to the matter at hand: the play. The play is the thing... Back home, I've been to open-air theatre performances before, but never one like this. The stage was right there. Well, actually, there wasn't a physical stage, just a space marked out on the grass with chairs. Three rows of chairs facing the grass, separated by about six yards of another three rows of chairs, so that these rows of chairs are facing one another with a great strip of grass between them. It made something of a runway, not quite a "thrust" stage, but more like a hanamichi of Japanese Kabuki theatre. (See? I learned something in IB Theatre.) So the actors were RIGHT THERE. I love that sort of theatre. You feel close to the story.
I've never seen a play where the actual sun is setting around you. Beautiful.
Programme Notebook Entry:
Wadham College's The Taming of the Shrew was definitely a production to please the masses. It was physical; it was over-the-top, it was lewd, and it was hilarious. The idea that Shakespeare had groundlings to entertain was well embraced here. But the play? In today's day and age, the play is awful. It demeans women, preaching how they are to be submissive and dominated. I can't see what Dr. Clerici meant in that this production lessens the blow of that offense; the idea is still there. My only guess is that Kate still keeps her spirit. This is of course entirely my interpretation of the actress's performance, but I felt that, even at the end, she still had her hard spirit; she just found something else to believe in.
What a great play! We all really enjoyed it. The actor playing Pertrucio was fabulous. He was lively, he was engaging, and he was cute. And, boy, that was one hell of a codpiece. Katherine is a lucky woman. She's going to enjoy her marriage.
I love plays with audience interaction. When Pertrucio comes stumbling in, late to his own wedding, drunk, Pertrucio passed out for a moment on the sidelines of the audience, and woke up, climbing into the lap of a random teenage boy. He shouted in surprise, landing into another guys lap. Shouted again, and then landed into mine. "Oooh," he cooed with a grin, then resumed the play. I'm not sure I'd blushed so much in a long, long time.
And in one scene, Pertrucio dismounted his hobbyhorse, and handed the hobbyhorse to Ms. Wallace. "Hold Buttercup for me, please," he said to her. Ms. Wallace, giggling, took the hobbyhorse. "No, no! Don't hold Buttercup like that!" Pertrucio exclaimed, wrenching the hobbyhorse out of her hands, petting its mane, made of ropes. "Like this..." He eased the hobbyhorse again into her hands. Everyone was laughing.
Maybe Noonan should have dressed up a little more. Pertrucio's eye would have been an eye worth catching. Mm. Shakespearean love.
We walked back to St. Hugh's from Wadham College after that. Parks Road was lined with drunken exchange students. We had to side-step groups of them to avoid broken bottles and stumbling students on the edge of passing out. Ew. Well, I suppose that's part of the college experience, right? But still, it's so déclassé.
On the way home -- I call it "home" because, well, that's what St. Hugh's is for these three weeks -- we talked about the weather. "This is the best August ever," said Brian. "It's, like, fall-y." I know that doesn't sound eloquent in text, but just being there, standing there, feeling that perfect, tepid air with just a breath of a cool breeze, knowing that this weather is perfect, and having everyone else know it and appreciate it too. You just feel good. Everything just felt so good. It made those words so much more eloquent.
The group said "good night" and we all went to our rooms to change out of our "evening at the theatre" garb. Some of us girls all changed into our pyjamas and then went out into the hallway on the third floor of the IV staircase -- my hallway I share with Nikki, Anna, and Andrea. We sat down, leaning against the walls of the hallway, and talked. Because we're girls, we must stay up until the middle of the night, pouring out our souls to one another.
It's a law of nature. If you get a group of girls together who are friendly and comfortable and emotional with each other, and stick them together, awake in the middle of the night, they will inevitably have Deep & Meaningful talks. Girls have a deeply routed instinct to form bonds with one another; I'm not sure why. It doesn't make a lot of sense, really. Here we are, a handful of girls who have only known each other for, what, two weeks now? And here we are, talking to one another and pouring out our souls like sisters, like best friends, like kindred spirits, like "bosom friends" (as Anne of Green Gables puts it). What has this experience done to us?
We reflected on our lives until the midnight be-in-your-rooms curfew. I petted Farah's hair as she lied on the floor with her head in my lap. She has such beautiful, dark, luscious hair. One of those glossy manes of an Indian courtesan that Amaru might have written about. Eventually, we switched places, and Jennie and I were falling asleep in Farah's lap. Two weeks, and we feel intimate enough to be falling asleep in each other's laps. How has this happened?
Jennie is too good for this world. She says "I love you" and she means it. The circumstances in which we all have been brought together are extraordinary, but then again, Jennie is extraordinary.
In our final news report for the evening, Daniel is gone. Remember Daniel? The Chinese boy from Hong Kong who attended the earlier St. Hugh's Programme and just stayed for the second one? That Daniel? Well he's gone. He was always something of an enigma, appearing only sometimes for meals or in the computer lab, but rarely ever coming to lectures or on excursions, so we were used to not seeing him, but it never occurred to us that he was gone. Apparently his parents came in the middle of the night and whisked him away, most likely worried about terrorist threats.
What a strange world we live in, that some of us are talking to our parents in the middle of the night because we're in different time zones, laughing about how much fun we're having, studying abroad, while other kids are being ushered home in the middle of the night by their parents, parents who are too afraid of this world to let them go wandering about alone. Because, apparently, if Daniel dies on a plane, Daniel's parents want to be with him when the plane goes down.
- Current Location:hallway on the third floor, staircase IV
- Current Mood: contemplative
- Current Music:"Dearest Helpless" by Silverchair