Social

Two long tables in the room upstairs at The Mitre in Oxford were full to the brimming with interesting people tonight. A variety of characters moved from one to the other, playing a game of musical chairs (without the music) or participating in the Mat Hatter’s tea party (with beer replacing the tea). The Mitre’s function room was a tad too big, spilling over as it did into two large rooms as big as the restaurant and pub downstairs, so to keep it simple everyone did the natural thing and crowded around as small a space as possible. Cozy. Cosy?

History, English Literature, Classics, PPE, Law – these and others were present. There was mingling, commingling and intermingling that was frankly hard to keep track, including several cross-college, cross-year, cross-subject friendships preexisting the event or else created on the spot. Enthusiasm was in high demand and was willingly supplied as a remarkable amount of gossip, nostalgia and new information passed between talking heads and gesturing hands over (sometimes precariously) clutched glasses.

The high ups were spotted going downstairs twice for pints. Two of the middling-lows went out for a smoking break with a has-been-also-current. Everyone has their vices.

Presses roll, people reel, pubs rule, please read.

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Mid-Week 1

 

My new favorite place is the Oxford Union Bar. It’s also a cafe. Their coffee is cheap, the chairs and couches are squishy and comfortable, and the strangest types of people walk in and out. The bartender is a blonde woman with a tattoo of something on the back of her arm. I’ve yet to tell what it is, because it’s always just peaking out of her blouse. She and the other bartender seem to have a comfortable working relationship. They chat behind the bar a lot, although the echoes caused by the strange acoustics of the high ceilings prevent me from properly hearing what it is that they’re saying. I have a feeling they’re not students, that they’re Oxford locals. It must be extremely odd, to live in a university town and to work in its offices and facilities and yet to have either no interest in attending it or else no financial or educational opportunities leading you to attend it. I suppose most Oxford locals who want to attend university tend to try to get as far away from the city where they grew up as possible anyway.

I’ve also found out that some of the stereotypical old English men, who talk in posh accents and have eccentric and bizarre conversations, still exist. When I was at the Union bar with a friend last week, I saw a man in red pants, suspenders and flyaway white hair tufting off the sides of his head. He was with another old man who was taller and rounder. They were joined eventually by yet another old man with a long Dumbledore beard and a brown coat. The last addition to their group was a surprisingly youngish man who was neatly and very typically dressed. They ordered the fancy food on the menu and sat at a table together for their lunch. I had to go before I could eavesdrop on their conversation for long, but I could tell that the older men all had ridiculously posh accents, reminiscent of the royal family.

The cold weather is wonderful. I’m incredibly happy to be back in zero degree weather. New York has acclimatized me to it, and I don’t think I can bear to live anymore in a place that doesn’t have seasons, or at least a significant change of degree between summer, autumn, winter and spring.

It’s mid-January already. 2013. Happy new year and all that.

Airport Awkward

Today I am flying back to Oxford. Israel’s airport is up to par these days, in comparison to what it used to be. There are, ostensibly, three terminals, though you’ll only ever see one of them, but since it’s called Terminal 3, it gives the illusion of the place being bigger than it is.

Once inside, there is a cavernous space, meant to remind you how powerful, important and very international Israel is. The ceiling of the departures hall disappears above in a glassy peak that reminds me of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, except that there aren’t any beautiful supports. It’s a big shout of “Look, Ma, no hands!” Which pretty much sums up how a lot of things go down here. There’s a big culture of what we call “partach” – I can only describe it as an old television set being repaired with lots of brown tape by a smiling man who charges you for fixing it and tells you it’ll be okay, it’ll be okay.

ANYWAY – that is where I will be later. At the airport. Clutching my copy of Catch-22 everywhere I go so that I don’t have to look around too much. Because there’s going to be someone there, someone who is a friend of a friend and who will be on the same flight as me. Someone who I have met only a handful of times and whom I don’t feel like needing to make small talk with.

Is there anything worse than making awkward small talk when you’re traveling and feel like just zoning out into your book? I am not sure there is.

A New Year, Friends, Social Media – Woo

In five days time, I will be returning to Oxford, having stocked up on sunshine, medications, motherly hugs and friendship-time. It’s a shame that the only one of those that I can carry with me back to England is the meds.

If I could put some sea and sun in a jar in order to peak into it on particularly blurry, damp, dreary days, I would. I would scamper around the Tel Aviv beach, no matter how silly I looked, and catch sunbeams and whiffs of sea until I had a tidy little row of glass jars to pack in my suitcase.

With modern technology, it’s arguable that I can stock up on friendship-time and the voiced equivalent of motherly-hugs over Skype or email or whatever, but the truth is there isn’t anything quite like putting your arms around someone, just as emails can never convey the exact sentiment r gush of love that you wish they would.

Ironic, is it, that I’m writing this on a social media platform of a kind that I could never take advantage of in days of yore? Not at all. I am extremely grateful for the advent of social media. Moreover, I am not one of those to moan and groan that the old days were better and that the future holds horrors beyond measure. While the future terrifies me sometimes, it is only because of irrational ideas like the loss of books, which, thankfully, I don’t think will actually happen in my lifetime (so I can selfishly try to not care about that particular fear),

The fact is that with my (only partially freely chosen) lifestyle, involving several countries as it now does, I simply wouldn’t have been able to keep in touch with the friends I have if the internet didn’t exist. But it does, and so I am able to keep my flesh and blood friends through the 0s and 1s of networks I only partially understand the concepts of.

The important thing, though, is balance. As long as I can hug someone for every Tweet I get and have a conversation for every blog post I read or write, I’ll continue to be happy. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is a choice that is in my power to make.