As part of a well-organised weekend jaunt to Oxford, I took part in the Mostly Bookbrains Quiz in Abingdon on Friday night. I had cajoled, threatened and blackmailed some uni friends into coming along so we were a team of seven. Unfortunately we came no-hope, rock-bottom last. Never mind. I was quite proud of my own level of contemporary fiction knowledge; my esteemed team-mates’ specialities were mostly in the sci-fi and fantasy areas and these did not feature highly on the quiz! We had a number of team members who came along despite claiming not to know anything about books but then did know quite a few things… the illustrator of the Watchmen, who accepted the Laureateship that Philip Larkin turned out, recognising Jilly Cooper’s Riders from a blurb… so that was quite fun.
But I did get to meet quizmistress Gaskella (who recognised me straight away. Either I write like I look, or she had the foresight to check what I look like on my About page, knowing that I was coming to the quiz…) and also participant Simon from Stuck in a Book – whose team trounced mine roundly. The winning scores were amazingly high, and there were some excellent team names on display (the team at table Q styled themselves Quiller-Couch, after he who inspired Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legacy – and we were Les Quizerables, which I think is going to be my team name in every quiz I ever attend now!)
It’s not easy to get away from east London back to Oxford – I take almost every chance I get, but they’re still not frequent enough for my taste. The Physicist and I met at uni there and we still have a number of dear friends who live and work/study at our old college. Going back feels a little like stepping back in time to my naive and idealistic 19-year-old self, not aided by the fact that I still wear a lot of my Oxford sporting kit for casual clothing (well I’m not going to throw it out, am I!?) and so have no trouble at all fitting in as a student again when I’m there.
I visited Verity at the Radcliffe Camera library reading room, was astonished to discover that the man running the sandwich stall outside college not only remembered my name but also my usual order (pretty impressive, given that I haven’t been a regular for 3 1/2 years now), delighted in the gorgeousness that is my college, wandered a little in Uni Parks. The only nostalgia trip we didn’t take was to attend Mass at the Oxford Oratory, where we were married; next time.
There’s a Bridge of Sighs (a replica of the famous Venetian bridge) in Oxford; it’s said by Cambridge students that Oxford students look at it and sigh and wish they were at Cambridge. Naturally Oxonians say the same of the replica in Cambridge. I think they should all sigh reflecting on how lucky they are to live and work in such a truly beautiful place.
(Also – I bought a book at the quiz. How could I not pick up a copy of Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book?)