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Pred but dreaming - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
Pred but dreaming
Since the beginning of this term I've been singing with Pembroke College choir, where I sang for (most of) four years as an undergraduate. I hadn't planned to go back to my alma mater, partly because I've never really felt that way about the place, and partly because I thought it would seem a bit odd -- trying to turn back the clock, if you like, and relive my student days. But when I came to look through all the colleges' websites to find information about their choirs, Pembroke's seemed to be one of the most welcoming to 'outsiders' like myself. I decided it would be just as silly to avoid the old place as it would have been to have had my heart set on going back there, so I decided to go for it.

It has been odd, being somewhere familiar (my feet still know their way around the college) and yet strange (so many things have changed just a little, just enough). I try to avoid saying "when I was here" and "in my day" and all the other things that would make me feel older than I already do, confronted with wide-eyed freshers, world-weary second-years, and nervous finalists (though I do still get asked what year I'm in and whether I'm a fresher); but I can't help spotting the trivial differences, wondering when the choir started being allowed to use Broadgates Hall for its mid-rehearsal coffee and cake, wondering when the wheelchair ramp was put in by Staircase 8, wondering when those ugly statues were moved from the back quad to the second quad.

It's not that I feel that nothing should have changed, it's just... differences. It's like going back to my parents' house and finding, each time, that they've changed one more thing. That they've bought a new bed, or redecorated the dining room, or moved that bookcase from the hall to the computer room, which isn't really the computer room any more anyway now that we all have laptops and the oversized Mac G3 is now in our house, by which I mean "mine and Owen's", not "my family's"... and eventually "me and Owen" will become "my family", my immediate family, and "our parents" will become a separate thing from that. It's hard, sometimes, to remember what "we" and "our" mean. What I mean when I say "I've left it at home". I've left a lot of things at home, and carried a lot of other things with me from house to house, city to city.

It's been strange being back in OUCS, too, where again, things have changed and remained the same; it's odd to find myself standing in the office which used to be the late-access computer room, talking as one member of staff to another, knowing that at some point 10 years ago or thereabouts a younger version of myself was sitting at a computer in this room, not really feeling as though I was in the room at all but rather in an IRC channel, a place where I could hide from people and college and essays and stress. They've -- we've? -- recently refurbished the help centre; it looks so utterly different that I'd have barely recognised the place, but the structure of the building is the same. I've said goodbye to teenage skin (both its acne and its elasticity) but it's the same bones underneath.

(The confusion doubled back on itself, another layer of reference back, when I bumped into anat0010 in the help centre the other day. I'm always baffled when people object to the "meaningless" user IDs. These user IDs were -- and are -- my friends: scat0173, hert0145, scat0324, univ0555 and univ0556, anat0010, 'famous' people like mert0034 and mert0108 and math0001. They're as meaningful to me as ordinary names. Though I might draw the line at giving my children sable/herald user IDs as middle names. But I digress.)

I knew that coming back to Oxford would have this effect, but I said (and you're probably tired of hearing me say it) that I'd got over my relationship with Oxford enough now that I felt I could be friends with the place again. I think that was -- and is -- true; I know this city too well in too many different ways for it to have the same old hold on me now. I don't feel lost each time its seasons change; the new terms roll in and out like the mists across Marston cyclepath. I'm still attached to the place, but it can't wrap me round its spires any more. A quad is just a quad; a bridge is just a sigh.

Think how many pages have been written in and about Oxford, word upon word, covering the city in leaves like an eternal autumn. If a city could think, would it know that it was the same place underneath, would it see the paper beneath the palimpsest? If a city could speak, perhaps Oxford would look at me and say "how you've grown".
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katstevens From: katstevens Date: November 4th, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)


Heheh, bras. It's still funny. Heheheh.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 4th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: bras1136


Still not as bad as 'scat' though!
celestialweasel From: celestialweasel Date: November 4th, 2007 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
The new undergraduates have stopped looking any younger, they are no younger this year than last :-)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 4th, 2007 11:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Or perhaps we've stopped getting older! That'd be it, yes. Top stuff. :)
barrysarll From: barrysarll Date: November 4th, 2007 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
The last time I went back to my Pembroke, I was sat at dinner next to a chap who'd not been there since 1972. He was amazed at how little it had changed since then; I was shocked by how much it had changed since 1999.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 4th, 2007 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I suppose it's a question of how long it seems since you were there. In some ways it feels like my undergrad days weren't that long ago, but then I think my brain has some kind of millennium bug whereby the 1990s don't actually seem to be getting any further away, or rather I still think of them as being very recent when in fact most of them are over a decade ago now. (I notice this when I'm sorting books at Oxfam -- the sort of books that stop being relevant, like travel guides and so on -- and I think "oh, 1999, that's quite ... ah. Quite ancient actually.")

I wouldn't've been able to go to my Pembroke in 1972! I mean, even if I'd been alive then. Unless I'd disguised myself as a boy. Weird to think of that sort of Oxford -- all boys in suits and Latin and stuff, I mean -- still being there when my parents were getting married, in their long collars and long hair and all that.

Boys and Latin and stuff, though, oh my. Is it just me or is it hot in here?
julietk From: julietk Date: November 5th, 2007 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)


I get that with the 90s, as well. It disturbs me greatly.

uon & I were discussing, the other day, the effects of being online-socialised (as it were) by oxnet. Unsurprisingly we share a number of prejudices.
lnr From: lnr Date: November 5th, 2007 11:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, go on, that sounds interesting.

I hadn't realised you and Jan were only 2 digits apart.
lnr From: lnr Date: November 5th, 2007 11:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I definitely have trouble remembering that the mid-90s are now over 10 years ago. It just plain doesn't seem that long.

I think the first bunch of Oxford colleges to go mixed was 1975 wasn't it? The year after my mum went to University. So she couldn't have gone to Hertford. That *is* a very very weird thought indeed.
barrysarll From: barrysarll Date: November 6th, 2007 12:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I know what you mean; every time a Britpop album comes out in a 10th anniversary edition, I do the same appalled double-take.

It was noticeable at and after the dinner how long Pembroke had been without women; I found it quite hard to talk to female friends from my year because they were constantly surrounded by the alumni from previous years, whose reactions seemed dictated not so much by libido as by sheer fascination at seeing women in Hall.
senji From: senji Date: November 5th, 2007 12:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Every time I go back to school (about every other year) I'm simultaneously shocked by how strange and also how similar it is. I think memory plays strange games.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: November 5th, 2007 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Perhaps it would be better if we all came to Oxford in the spring. It is a beautiful place, and it leaves an indelible impression; but, for me, it is the city of failed dreams.

It's a decade ago. Let it go, or grow and change with the place and the people.
htfb From: htfb Date: November 5th, 2007 09:55 am (UTC) (Link)
By happy chance I had Stalky & Co. open this weekend.

Let's praise famous user-names,
Names from black and sable
For their word continueth,
Preserved on disk continueth,
And greater, now, in fable.

We walked on foot to Banbury Road
To claim from OUCS
(Fourteen years ago and more
And thirty-fourth, I was, no more)
A name to hold for evermore:
The names by which you see us.

By those names we sparred and talked
And all the best was written down
For friends we had, and wit, and time---
Hours, then, of guiltless time.
Impervious we were to time
Though in that slowly aging town.

Tired I am, and out of work
And subject to a mortal's fate;
Freshmen supplant us, verdant green.
But still they blossom evergreen:
The posts of Maths One, Doctor Green
And mert0108.
littleangel_103 From: littleangel_103 Date: November 5th, 2007 11:38 am (UTC) (Link)
If someone were to move to Oxford where would you recommend them living (bearing in mind needing access to Headington and Gloucester Green type areas). Where's up-and-coming? Where's worth looking to buy (maybe, perhaps ish) and to rent?

Inquiring minds want to know....
j4 From: j4 Date: November 5th, 2007 11:59 am (UTC) (Link)
If you can afford to buy anything in Oxford, you're in a whole different universe from me, so I don't really know... :-} Headington is nice, though, if you've got a spare quarter-million or so. Blackbird Leys is the more affordable end (ie you might be able to find a tiny hovel for under 200K) if you don't mind living in an enormous sink estate (albeit one with good public transport).

Kidlington is supposed to be a bit cheaper but that's a few miles out of town. Not a bad cycle ride, though, & frequent buses.

For renting... well, anywhere, really. Prices all seem to be much of a muchness; Headington looked okay for renting last time I looked, and it has shops and stuff. Summertown/Jericho is très chic and more expensive; Cowley Road is cheaper but more noisy & studenty (so lots of pubs, kebab shops, etc). Botley (where we are) is a bit shabby but there are good shops, good buses, & I think it's generally cheap-ish; OTOH it's the wrong direction out of town for pretty much everything except access to the ring road.

I've no idea if there's anything rentable near Gloucester Green -- that's right in the centre of town so it's mostly college-owned.

Um, HTH, though it probably doesn't I'm afraid... :-}
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: November 5th, 2007 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
There is a council estate in upper Wolvercote where it is sometimes possible to buy a 3 BR for less than 200K. Under no circumstances should you consider Barton, which would in theory give you cheapness + access; it would also give you extraordinary headaches with vandalism and street crime.

Other than that, 1 BR flats in Glossie Green run at 250-280K to buy. Houses in Headington on the west side of London Road (on your right as you come from London) tend to be a bit more affordable than the ones on the quarry side. You could have a look at Rose Hill and Temple Cowley (there are some fairly nice little houses in Temple Cowley near the local swimming pool, frex), and some of them come in at ca. 200K. Houses in Lower Wolvercote tend to go for ca. 285K for 1930s semis; there are a couple of older, not-huge houses on the Godstow road for about 350-ish and they aren't selling at that price. One of the townhouses on our road in W'cote sold for 250K: no meadow view and needed "updating", but these tend to go for well upwards of 300K these days so that was a bargain.

To rent: depends on what you other needs are in addition to Gloucester geen and headington. Traditionally you'd be looking at the Golden Triangle between Iffley and Cowley Roads (so-called for the drug dealing there) but which has good buses and various ethnic and studenty hand-waving pubs, clubs, and eateries, along with the horrendous contrast between the needle park and the local mosque off the Cowley road.

Botley is, as j4 says, slightly shabby-ish but there are some decent places to rent or buy there (I lived in the Dean Court estate for a while, which was a mixed blessing); Elms Rise might be a place to look, but there are places, for example down Abbey Street, closer in, in which you might a place to rent. There's an estate agent who specialises in local renting listed on the Botley Road you could consult who has a good enough reputation to bother with.

Sometimes Jericho can surprise you with some affordable places, too, at least to rent, so no need to eliminate it from your enquiries.

hth a little, anyway.

Further afield, there are sometimes houses in Eynsham (good bus route and service to Glossie Green) for 160-175K; and you can try Kidlington, also.
littleangel_103 From: littleangel_103 Date: November 5th, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow! Thanks for the fantastic advice - duly noted and will use to help us look for areas at this stage.
imc From: imc Date: November 17th, 2007 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
If I had the money I'd probably live in Marston*. But I don't, so I live in Blackbird Leys. Cycle to city centre is about 30 minutes (would probably be closer to 20 if I were fitter and had an expensive bike). In fact the house a couple of doors from mine is for sale (and my goodness, I think the price has gone up since I last looked, which isn't going to help it shift. It's been on the market for yonks, possibly even a year.)

* Well, if I had money I'd live in North Oxford.
sion_a From: sion_a Date: November 5th, 2007 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Palimpsest city

For some reason, the other day we were discussing connecting with the sense of place evoked by a novel. I observed that I'd failed to connect with the (one of) Susanna Gregory's mysteries set in 14th century Cambridge because the city has changed enough that it doesn't feel like it's talking about the same streets I'm walking every day. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that after 650 years things aren't the same. But some things are. The map at the front is quite clearly this city—the roads leading in and out are the same, they cross a river that's in roughly the same place at the same points, and nearly all of the churches marked still stand. Where the landscape has changed in in the Colleges—those that have appeared, particularly those on sites which at the time were ecclesiasitcal houses, and those which have disappeared. The disappearance includes the loss of hostels from the scene, but is most keenly felt in the fact that the protagonist hails from Michaelhouse, one of the establishments swallowed up by Trinity. I think the landscape of Cambridge in 1675 would be more alien to him than to me.
the_elyan From: the_elyan Date: November 5th, 2007 07:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Oxford is a fiction, and the city named Oxford is just its suburb"

[Peter Sager]

[not too heatedly]
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: November 6th, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
newc1248. I ought to be able to remember yours, but I can't. pem10something?
_swallow From: _swallow Date: November 9th, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
(This entry is fascinating; thank you!)
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