Friday, June 15, 2012

conspirators, collaborators

Staying at St. Hugh's was fairly comfortable but more than that, it was a pretty illuminating look into Oxford dorm life. We had breakfast downstairs in a large hall with 3-4 long, long wooden tables. A nice gentlemen escorted me through the breakfast line, and the food servers stood at attention as I passed through. This was not the Wasatch Elementary cafeteria line, with the slop of chili onto a bun and a little slip of jello. These people meant business. Efficient and polite, and so, so attentive. Secondly, I didn't have a bathroom or a shower in my room, so I showered down the hall in a communal shower. I felt like I was in Lord Jim or Brideshead Revisited or something Oxfordian like that. Not having a bathroom in my room was an obstacle for a nocturnal urinator like myself, but I solved that problem smartly and efficiently. I won't tell you how, but it's kind of gross and involves an empty water bottle.

I feel compelled to report, officially, that H&M is OVER. And so is Lush and any other place we have in Utah now. Nobody wants to go into H&M anymore. It's like the Gap. The new awesome place is called Primark. It's this giant warehouse of super trendy and awesome clothes guaranteed to break down in a month or two. It's perfect for people like me! The students have been hounding me for days to check Primark out, and so I did. I was pleased by all of my options of sherbet colored trousers!

I wandered for a bit along the Oxford Covered Food Market, and enjoyed looking at



This man REALLY playing Adele's "Someone Like You" on the saxophone

More meat

And then I really needed some wifi in a bad way. I felt cut off from everyone and everything. So I headed to McDonald's. And I felt immediately guilty because I've promised people like Kelly Oram, people who I love and/or respect, that I would stop going to McDonalds so much. But I swear I was just there to steal the free wifi. Until I realized that Nick, Topher, Alayna, Steven, and Lauren were there, too. So I stayed and had a Big Mac (ashamed) It was a gross one, definitely, but the company was great. Alayna, Lauren, and Topher had gone dancing the night before, and they gave me a full recap. Alayna demonstrated how Oxford girls dance (like scarecrows or something) and then Topher claimed that the only people who approached him to dance were men, except for one cute girl whose opening line to him was "Hey! I have those same trousers."

We moved along Cornmarket Street and decided to stop for some gelato. This gelato was not served with a smile, and when I ordered one scoop and said "I'd like ONE GIANT SCOOP" I was responded to with this face:

Not that this has anything to do with anything, but here are Nick and Steven exfoliating:

After this we visited the Ashmolean Museum, which I've never been in. I walked through an exhibit called "The Capture of the Westmorland." It was really interesting. It sort of involved looting and booty. In 1779 an armed merchant ship was sailing from Italy to London with a bunch of artists, aristocrats and art dealers on board. Also on board: crates and crates of precious art, books, and 32 wheels of cheese. Two French warships took the ship over, sailed it back to Spain, and then disbursed the art all over the continent. So it's become this mystery, this sleuthing case, to try to reassemble all of the stuff that was stolen. People are still working on finding everything. This exhibit displayed many of the items that have turned up in the last 325 years. I'd like to help them find stuff! Doesn't that sound exciting?

We boarded the coach back for home. I talked to Kate McPherson for a bit and then I was out like a light. I woke up as just as we hit High Street Kensington. So, smooth trip for me there. Good to be back, even though the rain clouds were starting to gather.

I don't normally go on dates with married ladies, but Whitney Smith Cripe is so much more than just a married lady; she's an event. She's also good friends with Lisa, who encouraged me to be her chaperone for the night. And I was happy to. We initially were going to eat at the Creperie until Whitney let slip that she'd really like to see a show, and you donts gotta ax me twice!!!! In a flash we were on the tube and headed to the National, where we picked up tickets to see The Collaborators with Alex Jennings and Simon Russell Beale.

We had a little time to eat, but Wagamama's had a giant line and Yo! Sushi was only presenting lonely bowls of rice in the rain, so we settled for EAT, which is a giant sandwich shop. It was sad initially to not get some restaurant food but only until we realized that we could stretch our pounds to get all this food (as pictured above.)

Collaborators is set in 1938 Russia, and it's about Mikhail Bulgakov, a playwright who was commissioned by Stalin to write a memorial play for his 60th birthday. It's full of secret police, slow-mo staging, and ethical dilemmas. It's also incredibly funny and poignant. I loved it. It was almost cartoonish in pace and energy and it's a story I had never heard before. I actually think it would make a terrific film and the director, Nicholas Hytner, who directed The History Boys and The Madness of King George,  has a great knack for transferring National Theatre shows onto film. Alex Jennings, who was in The Queen, Babel, and Wings of the Dove played Bulgakov. He was brilliant. So fun to watch. And even more fun was Simon Russell Beale, who I've seen in lots of shows over here and a few films (most recently My Week with Marilyn.) He's always electrifying on stage.

It was fun palling around with Whitney, and I even bumped into Tiffany Stern at the intermission! She asked me if I was starting to feel like a local. And I realized that yes, sometimes I do.