After researching in London I went to Oxford for the Romance in Medieval Britain conference. I arrived two days before the conference so I could do some more research in the Bodleian and spend time with my travel-partner-in-crime Chris R. — of Portugal and Cyprus fame — and Oxford is our ‘home base of operations’ so to speak. As usual, we saw a play: Hamlet, performed by Creation Theatre, but otherwise we were both working. We walked into town together through the fog before parting ways at University Parks.
Whereas Chris went on to Wycliffe, I went to the Bodleian Special Collections. After walking around the outside of the Radcliffe Science Library, wandering through the maze, trying to get the change machine to work (and only having a £20-note, oy), and getting my bag stored in a locker at last, I went into the reading room, committed my name to paper and gave my Bod card over for ransom, and in return was handed the remaining printed fragments of the 1510 edition of Melusine.
I was expecting only two fragments… but there were six! I took as many notes as I could, and the Bodleian Special Collections will be seeing me again, once I have a better idea of what it is I’m looking for. Can’t you see why I love my job? How couldn’t you love a woodcut illustration of Geoffray with the Great Tooth fighting the giant Guedon?
One of the things that makes Oxford my home away from home is the number of friends I have there. I took a break in the afternoon to wander around Merton College grounds with my friend Tristan, and the two of us returned to Special Collections for our respective topics. Of course, tea in such lovely gardens filled me with deep envy. I wish my university had beautiful, perfect gardens, too…
Chris’s sister came into town the first day of my conference, so I made my way to the Hardins’ house to spend the rest of my weekend there. It is always a pleasure to stay with them, to catch up with Justin and Jill and see how the kids have grown. (Annie is four! We had lots of fun playing.) So although I didn’t stay in college accommodation at St Hugh’s, I think I got a better deal because I could stay with friends!
The conference itself was fun. As always, once I get over the initial terror of the first coffee break, I’m able to mix with the other delegates. I met a few other postgraduates and reconnected with a few I’d seen at the last RMB conference in Cork. My supervisor, Rhiannon, was there too, which meant that I got to meet some more of her ‘cohort’ (I call them ‘the grown-ups’) and got to sit at the ‘grown-up table’ at the conference dinner. I remember my last RMB conference and how overwhelmed and shy and terrified I was of all these Very Serious Academics, only to now be in the third year of my PhD and looking forward to conferences like this because it means I’ll get to see them all again. I’ll see a lot of them again later this year at the British Branch meeting of the Arthurian Society.
St Hugh’s College gardens also did not help assuage my college-garden-envy:
Oxford has trees! I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed walking around Oxford (and London) being able to identify most of the trees I saw, thanks to Out of the woods by Will Cohu.
And when the conference was all said and done, I slipped away to have a picnic in Christ Church Meadow and finish reading Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik, as is my wont. A visit to Oxford isn’t complete without a G&D’s bagel sandwich enjoyed in the meadow.
Can you tell that I love Oxford? I hope that someday I can live there, again.