The Town was swathed in fog when I left last Wednesday to go South, and it is still cloudy and gray now that I have returned. On Wednesday, I stood in six train stations and rode six trains to go down first to Oxford, then to Stratford, to see Julius Caesar with Chris. I had seen the RSP perform Julius Caesar four years ago, but only remembered it being very modernized and very weird. This time, however, it was set in period. The use of projector screens to create a hall-of-mirrors effect was spectacular; live music combined with synthetic sounds, confetti, and further projections did only the very best to create a suspenseful atmosphere. It was a very dark play, very bloody. I was struck by the complete lack of comedic relief. Brutus (Sam Troughton) and Cassius were both brilliant. Apparently Chris and I both forgot that Caesar dies before the end of Act III, and kept trading glances as the suspense built up and as he died before intermission. The play is almost more about Brutus than it is about Julius Caesar. I loved the costuming. I still don’t know where the wolf children at the beginning were hiding the fake blood.
Kat and I stayed in the Vines in Headington. The kitchen has been remodeled, but the poster of Noah’s daughters-in-law holding the dove that Sarah and I left behind has been framed and is hanging in a doorway. Thursday, I walked into town alone, taking the Marston cycle path, curious whether my feet could remember the way. Memory is such a funny thing. The three days I spent in Oxford I didn’t get lost once, and my sense of timing between places was accurate. I spent most of my time with Chris, or Kat when she wasn’t at the Perelandra conference, or alone. We heard evensong at Christ Church Cathedral and had lunch in Christ Church meadow. We went to exhibitions with free admission. We sat in Balliol college. We heard the opera adaptation of Perelandra. We ate at the Eagle and Child, twice. I happily had lunch from G&Ds, the Cornish Pasty shop and the Oxford Sandwich Co. I saw a book that Elizabeth I translated and bound, embroidering the cover herself, as a gift for her stepmother Katherine Parr. I saw the blackboard on which Einstein wrote out the proof for the expansion of the universe. Chris and I did not go punting or play croquet, but we continued our ADD conversations at breakneck pace, and we fed ducks in University Parks. I had tea with Jill and the happy little bundle of energy that calls herself Annie. I saw a couple OBU students staying in Crick for OSP. I read The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Blue Sword in Christ Church meadow, Keble College, a couple cafés, and the back garden of the Vines. It was a good trip.
This morning we got on the train, and during the course of four train stations and four trains, we saw the low rolling hills of southern England transform themselves into the Borders and then the rocky crags of Scotland. Here are buildings made of earth and stone, though not drab, not with the brightly coloured doors, blooming rosebushes and brilliant green of living things. I saw a swan with cygnets and heard the cry of seagulls.
I love Oxford. I miss Oxford. I hope I get to go back soon. But I also like Scotland, so being here is good, too. I don’t think my holiday was quite long enough to want to come back so soon, but I am here now, and it is back to work in earnest tomorrow.