We’ve seen some interesting behavior since coming to Oxford, partly because we look on things with foreigners’ eyes, and partly because Oxford gets a lot of visitors from all over the world. Oh, and also because Britons sometimes act a bit odd.
– When in London several months ago, Sydney and I were amused to see a couple gleefully trying to get close to a squirrel so they could take a picture of it. Grey squirrels (an American import to the UK) are apparently not either native or introduced to Eastern Asia, so visitors from that area get very excited about them here. Today, while out with Nathaniel, I saw a similar couple fascinated by a squirrel in the parks. The young man reached out his hand as an offer to pet it, as if it were a dog, and then, when it sensibly jumped up a tree, made a real effort to catch it. Thankfully, the squirrel was as adept at escape as they usually are, so I didn’t have to see the man get a nasty bite for his efforts. But, really??
– There is a pedestrian-only street near us filled with shops that also gets a number of performers playing for money. As we walked by we’ve seen a guy with a battered euphonium, lanky guys and girls with guitars and sorrowful voices, teenage rock bands, a gentleman in top hat and tails playing an upright piano (which was on wheels and shaded by a large umbrella), and a brass group playing New Orleans jazz. I really like the surprise of seeing who might be there on any given day.
– I am regularly asked by tourists to point the way “to the city.” I’m a bit perplexed by this, because we’re usually standing right in it, but I’ve come to realize that they either mean “the university” (equally difficult to point to, since it’s spread all over, much of it behind high walls), or “something that looks like the skyline of the major city I’m from.” My only luck with the latter is pointing them to the shopping malls, which seems to suffice.
– This weekend there seem to be a lot of things going on in town, including graduation ceremonies and dozens of school tour groups. So I’ve seen variations on Oxford gowns (including the long-winged doctoral robes and funny hats), proud mothers in elaborate hats and fascinators, and large clusters of students all wearing the same brightly colored backpack. Yesterday, while walking down an ordinary road in town, I also walked around a bride and her photographer (I didn’t see the groom).