I’ve been to Oxford before, but now I feel like I live here. More than two weeks with me, myself, and I, in a suburb called Headington, and I’ve gotten used to my daily routine. I know where the post office, grocery shop, liquor store and city centre are, and once in a while, I even leave the house for a meal or a pint. I didn’t know anyone when I first arrived, but I’ve made a couple friends, and had three visitors from London.
Other than that, I’ve been glued to my computer all day, every day in Oxford. To avoid becoming a crazy cat lady without cats and take a short break from writing, I spent last weekend in Bristol, Bath and Cardiff. I stayed in Bristol with a couple; Evelyn I met seven years ago on a ship bound for Antarctica, and she worked with penguins in the London and Bristol zoos. Now she works at St. Mary’s church, where I got an insider’s tour of the church’s bells, towers, and secret rooms.
Walking around Bristol, one notices graffiti everywhere: the influence and inspiration tied to notorious Banksy is obvious. I didn’t know the artist claims to be from Bristol, even though his real name is unknown. He claims his artwork through an official instagram account, and I saw one of his more comical pieces near City Hall.
We lucked out to hear the organist at Bristol Cathedral rehearsing when we were inside. We walked past canals and drank cask ales at a couple of pubs, The Hare and the Famous Royal Navy volunteer, and ate excellent enchiladas at Viva La Mexicana. We did some caving near the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and walked across it in the fog.
Bath was a charming day trip. We detoured slightly out of the way to visit Stonehenge, which is a lot more than just one pile of old, standing, rocks. We learned about a nearby prehistoric site called Woodhenge, and took some photos trying to do yoga on them, since you’re not allowed near Stonehenge.
Bath had beautiful buildings, all built in similar styles with the same stone. The older buildings, churches and the Roman baths were layered in hundreds of years of history and architecture. Tourists scoured for selfies in front of the steaming baths and inside the Bath Abbey, and we sauntered down the pedestrian streets past haut couture.
You’re not allowed to bathe in the original Roman baths, or even touch it, but I broke the rules and dipped my fingertips into a stream. It’s funny because there’s a sign beside that reachable stream saying “Warning. Do not touch the water. This water is untreated.” That makes me wonder, how many think naturally sourced water coming from deep down below is worse for you than the chlorine-filled tap water everyone drinks. They’re not warning you about the smell or temperature, but the treatment. I thought spring water that’s been boiled and steamed and filtered through the earth to surface with all its minerals was the whole point of bathing in it. Maybe some believe its dirty or acidic and wouldn’t dare touch it, but a few blocks away are two other thermal baths selling entrance for £30 or £40 to bathe in the very same water.
I want to write a book. Correction, I am trying to write a book, and the only way it seems possible is to be in a cold, grey, expensive British town somewhere where I know nobody. I know one guy actually, but he’s a penguinologist researcher on site in Antarctica until February, so he agreed to let me squat his house and punish myself in isolation while writing some hundreds of pages about me. It is as boring as it sounds, but some people (like myself) May want to read it one day.
I arrived January 18th, and didn’t leave the house for the first week, except for one grocery shop. The only non-book writing things I did were: take a bath, watch one Tarantino movie, and drink red wine. But it wasn’t so bad, January in Oxford… not compared to Reykjavik at least.
There are leaves on the trees and the parks still have green grass. Birds chirp every morning and when the sun does show its face for a moment, it actually gives warmth. The grocery shopping here is a fraction of what things cost in Reykjavik, but mostly I’m here because there’s noone to call or meet for coffee, and noone showing up to distract me. I feel like I’m becoming a crazy cat lady without the cats.
The wonderful thing about writing a 60,000 word book is it makes a 500 word blog seem like a piece of cake. But after a very productive week I decided to go to them if they wouldn’t come to me (people, not cats), so a weekend trip to Bristol is underway. A couple of days away from my computer screen should do me good, and I’ll finally hear the sound of my own voice when I speak to another human again. Can’t wait.