Getting “Fresh” at Oxford

Freshers’ Weekend at Oxford

Last weekend, the town of Oxford was filled with young Freshers cavorting in their traditional black capes, celebrating their official matriculation to Oxford University.  The students had already begun their education at their various colleges, but they had not yet become an official part of the overall university.  Their antics mimicked those of college freshmen everywhere.  Wine bottles dangled from gangly boys’ arms while aimlessly roaming the streets, loud toasts and boasts filled the bars as pints clinked in foamy gusto, bright enthusiastic faces were filled with smiles and covered in pimples!

The students’ experience appears to be quite ordinary.  It is the buildings that contain this mayhem that are extraordinary.

The weather was clear and crisp, and the leaves were turning from green to red, signaling the start of a new academic season.  That distinctive clean smell of Fall in the air always reminds me of going back to school, even after all these years.

We toured the colleges of Somerville, Balliol, New College, and Exeter.  The golden stone exterior of these old buildings creates an imposing fortress of towers and old walls that run throughout the town.  From the outside, they appear rather sterile.  However, hidden within are lovely gems, inner sanctuaries of beautiful courtyards and ornate chapels.

Endless rows of bikes border the main street.  Unlike London with its constant cantankerous sounds of traffic, Oxford is pleasingly peaceful as people pedal past rather than drive.  We walked beneath the Bridge of Sighs, modeled after the one in Venice.  Here the matriculating masses lined up for pictures, often leaping into the air while their capes flew up around them.

Best of all, we bellied up to the bar at The Turf Tavern, the local watering hole.  We followed a cobbled path along a narrow ancient stone-lined alley.  We knew we were on the right track when the smell of stale beer assaulted us well before arriving at our destination.  Empty kegs were haphazardly piled outside the bar, adding to its ambiance.  Cheeky signage confirmed that “Here Bill Clinton drank but did not inhale.   Another sign posted a list of famous drinkers to walk onto the turf, so to speak: Oscar Wilde, Margaret Thatcher, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Hardy…a venerable crowd.







What struck me most as I looked around at the exuberant young people was that these Freshers were closer to my daughters’ ages than my own.

I’m not so “fresh” anymore.

I’d like to believe I have begun to ripen and have a long way to go before things turn rotten!


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