Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Kerala and Oxford

The strange thing about wandering around Kerala with a group of people who were all strongly connected to Oxford was the way that we all shared Kerala but Oxford was a foreign country to me.

I've been to Oxford and, having got over its similarity to Cambridge and Bath - which I knew better (they're all posh, in-yer-face historic and much appreciated by tourists) - I decided some time ago that I quite liked it, almost despite the dreaming spires. But I can't claim to appreciate the intricacies of the private views, ironmongers and other esoterica that my fellow travellers came to converse about as we got closer and closer to going home.

Funny the way that conversation progresses, given three weeks. First, it's all superficialities - the things we enjoy; the things we've just seen; the things we've left behind to come out here. Then it dances on and we find ourselves enmeshed: we can stop being so polite; we know what to say to one person and not another; we live together through a range of moods and circumstances (including some early morning occasions we'd never countenance at home). Last, we start to pull away again and our thoughts return to where we're going back to.

Which, for most of the group, was Oxford. And for the two that no longer live there, there was still the pleasure of shared recognition that calling up images of familiar places and events can produce.

But, as I listened, I got bored.

Then, back in Tooting, I am having breakfast with a friend. And although we are ostensibly meeting to talk about our recent trips, we come instead to be discussing The Time Traveller's Wife. And we've both cried over it (apparently that's natural behaviour if you're a girl and reading that book). 'Cos it's rather beautiful and, in my case, has all sorts of resonances about knowing your future so you don't get it wrong (whatever that means...).

And I thought no more about it till now.

This weekend past, I happened to be visiting Oxford to see someone that I'd met at a conference in the Lake District and who had nothing at all to do with my trip to Kerala. She urged me to move to Oxford. It's the kind of thing people do.

And I am walking back to the station, past the dreaming spires, and the words come to me: 'Some have Oxford in their past, but maybe I have Oxford in my future'.

And I have no book that unfolds in non-sequential time to help me sort this out. Just a sense that something pivotal happened in Kerala and that, if time can hinge, then maybe my connection with Oxford just hadn't happened yet when the chat about the ironmonger took place.

I should have listened more carefully.


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