Dissertation deadlines and the like have, to put it mildly, affected the Christmas spirit around here, but we’ve gotten a few nice surprises from Oxford to help us along. On Friday Sydney and I enjoyed our first night out together, with the help of a babysitter. I accompanied my tux-clad husband to the Christmas dinner in Merton, his college, and we had a nice time. Lots of people to meet, lots of food to comment over, and lots of lovely rooms spruced up for the occasion, including Christmas trees in the courtyard and in the hall where we ate.
Academia is a bit different over here, with people from different disciplines mingling at meals, and then joined by distinguished guests with ties to the college at formal occasions. Unlike the holiday occasions we’ve attended in the States, the philosophers and English types don’t simply stick to their own kind and have done with the rest of the world. Here one is required to master the art of small talk; I was amused to hear Sydney’s physicist colleague explain his work (accompanied by two or three jokes) to a lord on one side and the wife of a philosophy professor on the other.
We woke up the next morning to snow, fluffy stuff which gradually grew to more than six inches over the course of the day. I was invigorated by the light and freshness the snow brought. K and I amused ourselves by watching people in various forms of winter dress make their way down the unploughed streets and sidewalks. Since only about a quarter of the roads are being ploughed, and since all of the major English airports (and several of the European ones) and many train and bus services are closed, it really did feel like a holiday. We took walks in the park, where I was grateful to have had a lot of experience treading snowy paths. I tried to interest Katherine in the snow and share my enthusiasm with her, but she was much more interested in simply looking around than in getting down to play in it.
It looks like the snow is here to stay for awhile, with regular refreshing falls scheduled over the next week and consistently cold temperatures, so we’re planning to enjoy the extra quiet it brings to the town of Oxford. And we’re not going to starve: we still live just down the street from the grocery store, and we’re expecting a huge box of vegetables to be delivered today.