Monday, April 28, 2008
I went to Oxford this weekend. That means spires, cobbled lanes, book shops and lots of clever sods cycling about in loafers and mismatched shirts. It's elegant, rich with history and tradition. And packed with posh people.
I felt clever just meandering through its streets, as though the brilliance of the sunlight bouncing off church windows was enough for my IQ to soar by at least 20 percent. It's a timeless place, which might explain why some of its students haven't arrived into the 21st century yet, seemingly lodged in a moment somewhere between 1985 and 1998. Voluptuous 18-year-old girls toss their long locks and strut, minx-like, in ruffled skirts and white heels. Every one of them is pretty, with the kind of glowing skin one only gets when one's daddy earns over 300k a year. Perfect and shiny, they pout with red-lipped confidence.
These are the kind of girls I loathed at school. They had horses and upturned collars and got into The Smiths in 6th Form because they'd finally clicked on, five years too late, that Morrissey was actually cool. In turn, I got ousted from the Duke of Edinborough Award project (selling hairbands) for having a 'bad' attitude, and never got to read my favorite Carol Ann Duffy poem in the poetry show because it was about the Holocaust and had the word 'piss' in it. Ah, poor me. I championed the cause of the fully-fledged, chip-on-shouldered outsider and never went to the balls or rowing or indeed any of the things on offer at my rather posh school. I took Ecstasy instead.
It's funny how old memories re-surface. Oxford resembles a much larger version of my school. But what I find walking thorough its streets is not what I found at school. The tradition, the rules, the ethos suffocated me, left me feeling a fraud.
We stayed in a suitably unglamorous B&B, to contrast with the elegance of the city. Three facts about Bronte Guesthouse - it won the National Hanging Basket Of The Year Award in 1995, it had a sock (yes, a fucking sock) hanging from the bedroom ceiling, and there was a particularly disagreeable something or other lurking under the bed.
I didn't want to leave. I wanted to move to Oxford and do an MA in Creative Writing and grow my hair again and start wearing flouncy skirts and saying 'Yah' a lot. Actually, that last bit isn't true. However, for all my reactions to the upper-class privilege that's so present in a place like Oxford, making it cloistered, perhaps, from reality, there's a part of me that adores it. It's more than just because it's pretty. It has serious, weighty myth.
I got back and found on the internet that the deadline for applying to the Oxford MA had gone. Damn. I could just see me in that black cape.