Tuesday, 31 August 2021

In Oxford as a tourist

Over the weekend, we visited Oxford as a family on a purely non-academic visit.  I spent several years of my life studying there quite a long time ago (arriving in 1992) and I've only been back on a few occasions which mainly involved going only to the physics department for work reasons.  

This weekend we visited some friends who have just moved to Oxford.  It was strange going to parts of town I hadn't been to in so many years, and it brought back many memories.  I've always had a keen affinity with the fact that the etymology of the word nostalgia is a negative medical condition, like neuralgia, and being thrown back to memories of my past is usually an experience with at best mixed emotions.  But, actually, I found it enjoyable, being there with three of my children, answering their questions about my time there and some of the landmarks.  30 years is nothing to the buildings of central Oxford.

Visiting friends who lived out towards Headington - a perfectly manageable walk from the city centre - made me realise what a small ambit I had of the city when I studied there.  My world was centred round my college life. both study and social, and the half hour walk to South Park or beyond was too distant to really contemplate.  I'm sure there were students there for whom that wasn't the case, but my psychogeographical memory of Oxford is rooted very much in the life of an 18 year old who has just arrived, blinking, at University, and very different from the 47 year old man with a family, visiting some friends in a city they have moved to.  

Despite walking past it most days for a couple of years, I never visited the botanical gardens in Oxford when I lived there.  I went there this weekend, and enjoyed it very much.  Here's a picture of me, with Kit (my youngest) in a sling, in the botanical gardens, with Magdalen tower in the background.