My Favourite Window

December 31, 2016

Feeding My Soul

Shall I sum up the year with twelve photographs as I did last year? 

Won't it be difficult to choose just one from your overseas trip? asks Lady Mondegreen. I especially liked that one you posted on Instagram of the early morning sunshine slicing through the garden gate into the grounds of Christ Church College.

Yes, those early morning shots are one of the up sides of across-the-world jet lag. A stop-over in Dubai seems to ease the effects of jet lag for me. A cheap hotel by the airport made for an adventurous couple of days.   

I should have planned my cash needs better for Dubai but I got by; people-watching in the Mall of the Emirates.

In fact I should have planned my cash needs better for arrival in England! During the weekend of my arrival I had to stoke up on my B and B breakfast in the dining hall at University College 

and then survive on airline snacks, and wild blackberries from the canal towpath 

until my sister-in-law loaned me money enough for dinner. Once I could get to a bank on Monday morning I was back in the modern, touch button, digital world. 

Touch button? The middle of this year was when - in time for my overseas trip - I upgraded to a smartphone. Most of these photos including this one of The High on my first evening in Oxford, were taken on my touch screen Samsung Galaxy Note 5. 

One of the deep pleasures of being a visitor back in Oxford is that
I can indulge my senses and find intellectual stimulation at every turn without the distractions of household responsibility. The awful photo below reminds me of the Bodleian Treasures: 24 Pairs exhibition. I was carrying 'Frankenstein' in my bag (and had been reading it for quite a few months) when I came across a page from Mary Shelley's handwritten manuscript of the work. 

Although I couldn't capture detail it describes the moment when the monster first opens an eye...  Mary's husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley annotated Mary's text in darker ink, which is just visible. Without the published book in my bag this would have been just one of many remarkable exhibits but the serendipity of my own pairing made it my favourite item in this exhibition.

So many breathtaking experiences including the harpsichord concert I attended in Exeter College Chapel. From the stained glass windows illuminated by the setting sun to the gilded iconography and the harpsichord itself this was a sublime experience. Kha Ming Ng playing a programme of caprices and fantasias added his own impromptu introduction to one piece: when the college bell struck 9 o'clock just as he began to play a new piece, he allowed the bell space, using it to count himself in - superbly appropriate improvisation.

But I had a loose end to tidy up while I was in England and when I arrived in the country, three years after the event, these draft badges were waiting for me to select a final design 

With help from graphic designer, Wayne Batistic, and the craft of George Butterworth, badge maker, I finally got these out of my head and onto people's baldrics. Once I'd chosen one from the four offered, George mass-produced my order alongside the badges for this year's Saddleworth Rushcart event.

Before I joined other New Zealand Morris dancers for the latest English tour, I had more visiting and travelling to do. I even dabbled in a little creative writing. Another exhibition at the Bodleian - Shakespeare's Dead - gave the public an opportunity to write a sonnet. I didn't quite get it right, but inspired by the exhibition's theme of death and memorial, and also the difficulty I had seeing the artefacts in the dim light, I did produce my own memorial piece.

Dead is he who brought me first to this fair city
To wed where now the cranes swing and reach across the past.
Around the world I've come, eager for old ways underfoot,
But find my feet, my eyes, my breath are failing fast.

In 1989 the Oxford Registry Office - where Elwin and I were married - was in the Westgate Centre right on the edge of the current, massive re-development of the Oxpens area. 

Later, near Aylesbury, with my friend Claire of The Prodigal blog and Magical Journeyswe wrote together experimentally, using her tutoring format. Over the years we have written to each other, but never before with each other. Hopefully we can do it again sometime.

At Durham I stayed in another university college hostel - there it is in Durham Castle on top of its hill... and then I had to climb the ever ascending stairs in the Keep to reach my room! I loved being up there so close to the Cathedral and museums and not very far from the town and river below. Climbing the stairs? Not so much.

And then it was time to join the Great Yorkshire Morris Tour, which took our New Zealand group through a whirlwind week of Yorkshire highlights. I observed my birthday at the Saddleworth Rushcart day - one of England's revived festivals that celebrate traditional seasonal activities with arcane customs and ceremonial pomp. John, this year's 'Jockey' on the rushcart enjoys the best of two worlds.

From his home in Hanmer Springs, he travels back to his Saddleworth roots for this festival every year.

The Great Yorkshire Morris Tour brought together some of the group which had formed the Lammas Tour as well as new tourists, and looking at this photo I'm reminded there was a good following of Australians and English groupies too.

All too soon it was over, and so was my holiday. Sitting killing time in my hotel room at Manchester Airport, I played around with the concept of the mirror selfie. At home I would never have time to dabble in self-portraiture but here is what I discovered I could do with my stylus and S-note application.

Sixteen photos and one digital drawing! 
Well this ceased to be a yearly round-up the moment I began. Instead it's just a tiny bit of my August 2016 travelogue!