A Journey’s End (Part 1)

My last day in Oxford began with an interview. At 10:30 I collected a  video camera, a notebook, and a pen and headed to Regent’s Park College to interview Dr. Pamela Sue Anderson, a prestigious philosopher at Oxford. I first met Pamela at a Critical Theory and Spiritual Practice graduate seminar which was focusing on the writings of Michelle Le Doeufff variously paired with other philosophers (i.e.: Heidegger, Irigaray, Arendt). Dr. Anderson immediately impressed me with her brilliance, excitement, and compassion. After the last seminar of the series, Dr. Anderson kindly invited the students to join her and the other tutors for dinner in the hall at the faculty table. I of course accepted and had the pleasure of pre-dinner tea, delicious food, champagne and chocolates and more tea for dessert–oh, and wonderful conversation!

On the day of the interview Dr. Anderson came to collect me at college reception. She led me to the Senior Common Room, where faculty snack on tea and biscuits in leather chairs around a fireplace. We chatted about my travels and being away from home while I poured myself some tea (she chose coffee and I made a mental note to cross the tea or coffee question off my list). Then we walked past the dining hall and up the winding stairs and through two locked doors (the kind that need big ancient keys to open) to her office. I set up my equipment and began. The interview lasted about an hour. It’s good that I go into interviews with few expectations, because they generally tend to be blown out the window. Dr. Anderson was insightful about a number of issues–mostly surrounding the life of the woman academic at Oxford. I won’t go into much detail here; you can find out more by watching my documentary, which I will be editing this summer. Suffice it to say I was again impressed with Dr. Anderson’s accomplishments and her experiences, particularly at such a traditional institution.

After the interview, I left a bit overwhelmed with information and decided to grab some lunch. I ordered a Greek salad pita at a sandwich shop around the corner. Their first question was, of course, “with butter, mayonnaise, or both?” Oh, England. After a moment of disgusted silence on my part, I replied, “neither”. Next on my list was trashing, an Oxford post-exam tradition. It involves covering students in eggs, flour, feathers, champagne, glitter, silly string, face paint, etc. as they emerge from their three-hour long exams. I have some hilarious pictures of this that I’ll post later. I was on my way to meet another visiting student to celebrate the end of his exam. Normally visiting students don’t take exams, but he was an unfortunate exception. I only brought champagne–for drinking, not dousing–because he was borrowing his clothes. Students taking exams must wear proper subfusc or else risk being fined or barred from taking their exam. Finally he finished and we headed happily to the Turf Tavern to celebrate.

The Turf is famous for many things, one being the place where Bill Clinton allegedly didn’t inhale a certain something. I will certainly miss the turf. From birthday celebrations to open mic nights, or just stopping by for a friendly pint, it’s a great place to go. It’s situated at the end of a winding alley, completely hidden from the street. When we walked in it was about 2pm and filled with celebrating students, subfusc in stages of disarray, champagne spilling everywhere, red carnations squashed, still pinned on chests signaling final exams. We were greeted by friends with gaping smiles and soon found ourselves in the midst of a cheery bunch of music students singing My Heart Will Go On. I did my best to surreptitiously catch this on camera. When I left, I had been kissed by two strangers, sprayed with champagne, ketchup and vinegar–from a food fight–and had a good number of laughs.