Spires, Bells, and Our Cozy Little Flat
Trip Start May 30, 2010
20Trip End Aug 15, 2010
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Every evening at 9:05 Christ Church's bell (called Old Tom, for the bell in Tom Tower) rings 101 times, to call the original 101 scholars (from sometime earlier than the 16th century) in for the night. This loudest bell in Oxford signaled curfew for all colleges; it is meant to be 9 p.m., but set at "Oxford time". The distance west from Greenwich (still used to set the exact time for everyone in the world) was calculated to equal 5 minutes, so the fellows--all male--had curfew at 9 p.m
We have just enough room to be comfortable in our flat (the English word for apartment). The boys’ bedroom doubles as the playroom, with a nice large table at the windows (three per room) upon which they play Legos or make art. Our kitchen is a narrow galley, but we have a small table in an alcove at the end, and while we eat we look out on Merton College’s chapel spire—built in the 13th century.
The weather was horrendously hot and sticky on our arrival, but it has tempered nicely. The days are pleasant for the boys to wear shorts, but not so hot that we don’t want to be outside. Most nights we hear an owl in the honey locust tree outside the windows, but last Tuesday I heard a nightingale singing when it was pitch black outside—so long that I was ready to chuck a shoe at it (I didn’t). The doves are cooing right now.
It hasn't rained once while we've been here
Oxford is a lovely, extremely walkable city. We’re located right in the heart of the city, but one street off the main shopping street—generally called the High Street in every English town or village. In Oxford people refer to it simply as The High. The center of the city is closed to cars during the day, and only buses run on many streets. Some are entirely devoted to pedestrians. There are so many people walking about in Oxford! When we walk around we hear more languages than we can keep track of! There are also large groups of people on tours walking through the city, and Liam grabs my hand when he sees them coming so that he doesn’t become separated from me and lost in a sea of bodies. At night even the buses stop, so it becomes very peaceful, though without cars the days aren't terrible. The loudest sounds are of the many workers repairing the buildings--many buildings nearby have scaffolding erected and workers up high on the sides of buildings making repairs during the warm summer.
I haven’t taken as many pictures as I should of Oxford, so for our next posting I’ll add more.