And so our time at Oxford begins to draw to a close. I've got very bittersweet feelings about the entire thing; I miss my family and friends (and Australia) so much, but I never want to leave this beautiful town.
Assignments have been submitted and we're in the process of having one-on-one feedback tutorials, which are just as terrifying as they sound. In the midst of all this, I've done the silly thing where I've decided that I'm going to actually start my novel, which is an idea that has been churning in my head for years now, but never managed to be written down.
One of the first lectures we had was by a man talking about memoir-writing. Someone implied that unless memoirs are written by celebrities, no one really cared. The lecturer said he didn't think that was right, but that he would never read something written by someone under 30. While he was generally talking about memoir, his point was that he didn't believe young people had enough life experience to execute really
writing. It was in spite of him that I decided that my life experiences, even at 19, do matter, and that I could write.
One of our last lectures was by someone talking about gender-skews in writing. The publishing world, she showed us, was dominated by male publications, and most awards are won my male writers. This was disproportionate, she said, because over 60% of readers are female. She went on to describe the differences in writing, and in male/female marketing. She believes that women are too polite when it comes to their writing, and men are more persistent. She said that women needed to take a stand if they wanted to fix the gender imbalance. So here I go. I'm under thirty, and I'm a woman, so I'm going to write my next piece like you wouldn't believe. You're going to buy it in a bookshop. You're going to tell your friends about it, and they'll buy their own copies.
Perhaps stubbornness is my fatal flaw. But it sure is going to take me places. Just watch.
Now, the ranting is over. The assignments are over. The course is over. Every single day has been super exciting. Rather exhausting. I'm going to sleep for a week when I get home.
Each of the three weeks, we were given the opportunity to read our work out loud to the group. I read a dramatic piece during the second week, and inspired my friends to sign up for the last session. In a panicked frenzy, they were asking which pieces they should read out.
On Monday, we gathered in my room, turned the kettle on and read stories to one another. Over steaming cups of tea, we commented on what had been read out, and helped each other choose what would be read out the following night.
On Tuesday, partly to relieve stress from all the assignments we had been doing, and partly because we are giant tourists, we decided to visit Magdalen College. Founded in 1458, it is younger than Exeter College - but still as old as the hills.
C.S. Lewis studied at Magdalen College - his room can be denoted in the New Building by the flower pots on the outside of the window.
And then, from the relaxing green parks of Magdalen, we dove right back into our university work, and went to the last Open Mic Night for the course. We were already feeling the nostalgia for our time here.
Wednesday mornings are non-stop for my class: first, breakfast, then class, next the lecture, straight off to lunch - then finally, finally, a break. The afternoon is ours. With our last Wednesday in Oxford, a group of us went for Cream Tea at a cute cafÃ©-come-pub. We'd been searching for High Tea, but had decided that near enough was good enough and settled in the cute booths for tea, scones and a sundae (sundae not-included... a spur of the moment purchase).
Wednesday night, some of the group signed out of dinner and attended a Shakespeare play. We had tried to rally together as many people as possible for the outing, and though we didn't convince everyone, there would have only been about ten people left at dinner.
The play was put on by a Shakespeare company based in Oxford, who apparently choose a different play each summer. We saw
The Twelfth Night
. For those who don't know it, Amanda Bynes did a truly excellent job making it modern in
She's The Man
. Though Amanda Bynes wasn't there, and it was all performed in the flowery language Shakespeare wrote it in, there were still a couple of twists.
The most major twist: it was outside. Wadham College generously leant its Fellow's Garden as a stage, and we sat in the mild summer's night, surrounded by bugs, watching people yell Shakespeare at us without microphones.
The actors all doubled as singing musicians, regardless of how well they could sing. The costuming was... unique. The garden was beautiful.
It was hilarious.
On our way home, to tuck ourselves into bed, we came across someone from the course who hadn't come with us. He was sitting in his street-facing room, balcony window open. Naturally, in a Shakespeare sort of mood, we began reciting Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene to each other.
It was very literary-nerd of us.
Thursday had promised to be good weather. 24, the forecast claimed. Warm and sunny!
Thursday was not good weather. 20, if it was lucky, raining and drizzling and misty and pouring.
Thursday was the day we had booked to go punting. We were under the impression that it would be a pleasant boat ride - sunscreen and sunglasses.
Rain in your face and drenching your hair. A wet seat to sit on, poles and oars splashing water up into your lap.
The only upside was the ducks. There were so many ducks. They were clearly used to being fed chunks of bread by other boats on the river, because they came close and searched your fingers for food. Once they realised you had none, they would swim away, unimpressed. Their friends would do the same thing. They would leave us alone for a few minutes, then apparently forget that they had already checked for food, and they'd meander back over.
Only one of them tried to attack us.
Punting is a lot harder than it looks. Someone stands on one end of the long boat with a long pole, which they stab into the ground. They push away from the pole, propelling the boat forward. They have to remember to take the pole (technical term: quant) with them - and if the boat and the pole start to separate
choose the boat
. Don't choose the pole, because you will most definitely fall in the water
The boat doesn't really like to go straight, either, because chances are that you're not going to be able to push on the gigantic pole straight. So someone else sits up the other end with a piddly little oar, directing the front end of the boat, pushing off banks and sorting out the aftermath of crashing into other boats.
We were drenched by the end. We walked back to Exeter on stiff legs, jeans soaked through. The wind, instead of being a cool breeze, felt like ice. It dried us, but at what cost?
We got back in time for class, thoroughly exhausted. I managed to keep my eyes open for the entire class, which felt like victory after our punting excursion.
By dinner time, we were ravished. I ate so fast that I gave myself a belly ache. I hardly had time to register the ingredients of my food. Possibly I had a tart. Possibly it was pizza. Maybe a pie. There was pastry involved.
After dinner, re-energised by the food, we were invited to The Oxford Grand Quiz Night... It sounds a lot fancier than it was, I promise. During the first week, we'd had a Quiz Night. It was hosted by the Summer School assistants, held in the Undercroft Bar. Our team - The Little Mermaids - came second to last. It sounds better if we say we came third.
This quiz was exactly like that one had been: four rounds, one being a series of pictures handed out at the start, in the Undercroft Bar, hosted by Nat and Richard.
This time, we rechristened ourselves The Proudfeet (inspired by our surroundings) and set to work. All the questions were based around Oxford - the University, the town, the Colleges. There was an entire round dedicated to Exeter only. There was also a 'Movie Soundtrack' round - in case your three weeks here hadn't been long enough to absorb all the history around you.
We did surprisingly well. We stumbled on a few questions, and blitzed the Movie Soundtrack round, which surprised us. We were the only team to guess the
Overall, we only got two questions wrong. We won. We'd told our opponents that the underdogs were going to surprise them, and they'd scoffed. We've officially got bragging rights for eternity. That was literally the only prize, but that's okay with us. We did what we'd told everyone we were going to do.
Thursday night, even though my day had proven exhausting, was the latest I've stayed up since arriving here. By the time I finally made my way to bed - after hours of discussion and debate about trivial things - I had a headache. I slept like a log.
Friday is goodbye day. Friday is last feedback sessions and last time to stroll down High Street. Friday is last time to be touristy, and last time to pretend you're better than tourists. The last breakfast, the last lunch, the last dinner. Time to set up pen-pals and add on Facebook. Hugs and photos galore.
The weather, as we expected, was terrible. We're telling ourselves that the weather was giving us a last English hurrah. As much as I look forward to going home, I'm going to miss England. (I'm not looking forward to the plane ride, that's for sure...)
Oxford: So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye. It's been a pleasure.
But for now, I'm going to sit down and be flown 16'380 kilometres back home.
You can read more about my adventures in
Oxford or Ox-fire
Oxford Creative Writing, Week 1!
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