This is the second in my irregular monthly postings on life in Oxford as a 65 year old graduate student in the University of Oxford Faculty of Law. You'll find #1 here.
In no particular order of importance:
The French disease is a problem in Oxford. No, not that French disease and not any of the other canards heaped on France. It's hayfever and allergies due to ragweed pollen, on account of that @!@$#%^&&*!!! plant reaching England over the past 5 years, apparently from France and thriving because climate change has made England warmer. Over the past few years, except when I went east of the Rockies in North America for a visit, I'd been able to forget what it's like to not have to live on antihistamine - they're supposed to be non-drowsy, now, but it depends on what one takes and how much one needs; to still have one's nose blocked and running at the same time; to always need to carry extra tissues; to have sneezing fits that left me feeling like I'd run a kilometer; etc.
The solution, once upon a time, was to spend the season that's only called autumn, here (except by North Americans) in hockey rinks or find an air conditioner blowing extremely cold air and stick my face in the air stream. Both options were readily available in Toronto. Oxford's weather has turned cooler now, so the hayfever-allergy situation is improving. A few more days of cool enough nights - it was a bit over zero C last night - should do it.
Toronto. Ah yes, the city with 2 "t"s in its name, even if Toronto radio and television sports announcers, and far too many people not from the 416 usually can't remember that. The city that people not from Toronto often deny they're from if the issue of "where one lives" arises in conversation in Canada. As in "No, I'm from Barrie; or Orangeville, or Richmond Hill; or Oshawa; or Oakville or Burlington; or Barrie; or Sudbury; even, shudder, Hamilton. Oxford? It's interesting how many Hamiltonians claim to be from Torontonians.
At least in Oxford, at least at the central HSBC - I suppose unless the bank needs you more than you need it - new customers need to make an appointment to open a bank account and that appointment is often weeks away.
There are cows in the Christ Church meadow, in the heart of central Oxford. But no horses. Or sheep. So, if one needs a picture of a horse's posterior for analogical or metaphorical purposes, one may have to do with a cow's. They're attractive cows, I gather, as far as cows go, with big horns (males and females, I believe) but they're still not horses.
On the matter of horned equines, the coat of arms on my college crest has 3 unicorn heads. However, I've yet to see a headless unicorn or, come to think of it, any other time: not even on Halloween which, by the way, isn't celebrated with the vigour it is in Canada and the U.S. I didn't see any children out 'trick or treating'. Maybe there were some, elsewhere, but if so they weren't in my area. However, Halloween costume parties still seem to be common enough.
There was an "H" themed get-together a week or so before Halloween in the JCR (junior common room) of my college. This being the UK, graduates, professors, fellows, etc., are all entitled to go into the JCR, without invitation. The process doesn't work in reverse; i.e., access to the MCR and SCR. (Middle Common, Senior Common Room.) I went in not knowing the theme-thing. I wasn't wearing anything obviously indicating some sort of "H" word status. When challenged, being my usual quick-thinking self, I claimed to be attending as a human being. (The joke would have been better had I been fully gowned in my former employment's court attire.)
Speaking of attire, there's some humour in the fact that I've had to upgrade my wardrobe to meet the demands of Oxford graduate student life. That includes a tux.
It's remarkable how many (fluent in English) Oxonians - even some Canadians (usually not including Torontonians after I've begin my 2 ts shtick), after hearing me speak, think I'm some version of NYC area American.They're usually abashed and somewhat disbelieving if corrected. In their defence, if I'm not careful, there is a slight echo of an American initially east comedian nebisch who shall remain nameless. I don't have any explanation for that. I'm taller and still a better hockey player, too.
There's a neighbourhood in Oxford called Jericho. It's a "become / becoming very gentrified, posh" area. Renovated row house units sell for high prices because professionals want to live in the area to reduce their commuting time. Torontonians should think of older versions of, say, Cabbagetown or Parkdale. Vancouverites? Try Gastown and once seedier residential parts of East Vancouver along East Hastings. Jericho used to be, I'm told, Oxford's red-light district. It now has more upper-crust entertainment areas.
In law, in North America, the legal academy has various "law and _____" disciplines: law and economics; law and literature; law and women's studies, etc. Here? It's law and drinks.
I still haven't made it into the Oxford version of a hockey arena - it's about a 2.7 km away from wear I live. I've likely been within a kilometre but haven't (yet) felt the tug.
Do I miss Vancouver? I miss family and friends, of course. But otherwise? Not really. There's more interesting to do here, for me at least, in a day than there was in a month in Vancouver. You want music, especially classical? Almost any time, any where. (Based on the notices on various notice boards, the modern varieties are equally available, elsewhere.) Same for theatre.
I have reader status at the Codrington library. Groucho, once he'd seen the place, would have wanted to be a member even though there's no longer a password which, in any event, probably wasn't ever "swordfish".
I've not yet seen a hockey game on TV or streamed one. I do, though, visit various Canadian internet sport sites so that I can keep abreast of things and, of course, listen or read about this years' Stanley Cup winning MakeBeleafs. If the Cubbies can win the World Series, then anythings possible, even a Leaf victory in the Stanley Cup. Of course, they'll have to get by the British Columbian roadblock occupying the net for the NHL team that hails from Montreal; however, miracles have been known to happen. (Some of us are old enough to remember 1967; even to have watched the parade down Yonge.)
I've still not gone to watch the game called football (because it's played mainly with one's feet: fancy that) every where in the world except North America. One reason is that, while I enjoyed playing the game, watching it? If cricket is baseball on valium, the what is football's relationship to hockey?
Our class matriculation picture was taken a few weeks ago. What does it mean that, just as the photographer took the picture a stray - it had to have been a stray - sunbeam lit up the upper right side of my head so that it looks as if I'm bathed in light? And that the photographer, who took a number of pictures, decided to send that version to us as the class picture?
I'm saving up conspiracy theories, "Illuminati" jokes - my sister and her husband at least concede I look "smart" - and the occasional use of the reminder that, after all, I was born within a short drive of the place that became known as Armageddon in Greek-language versions of ancient manuscripts, And about an equal distance from another place on the other side of this multiple metaphor (physically, too.)
What's it like living in Oxford? Well, if you take away all of the older buildings that help give Oxford it's character - no take away all of the buildings - all of the culture that makes Oxford Oxford, and all of the people except the (fortunately) not too common or not obvious (if common) hipsters; so that all one is left with is the bucolic, green, countryside; and transplant that onto the western coast of Canada a few klicks north of the US border, you have Vancouver. Except that it would be greener. And a bit more humid, I suspect.
When I get to the venture in areas of comparative law in Oxford, I find that there's no comparison to Canada: as in, generally, no-one bothers to mention Canada (if the scholar is not already Canadian) unless he or she is specifically writing about Canada so has to mention Canada, or has a partner who is Canadian, or can't find anything else to use (say either Upper or Lower Slobovia). That applies to both common law and civil law scholars. Now, while it's true that, in conference on causation in tort in Aberdeen in 2009, I warned the audience that they'd do better pretending Canadian law didn't exist, I never expected to be that effective.
At the rate I'm amassing metaphorical, or virtual, "round-to-it"s I'd be soon swamped. Fortunately, I've been able to get hold of a few of the round-to-it's still rare, though real, round tuit. These creatures tend to inhabit areas also frequented by drop bears. That explains why they're not well known. Pictures will be posted in due course on my blog.
One of the advantages of aging and surviving - perhaps I should have reversed that phrase as one doesn't age if one doesn't survive - is that you meet people who once knew people you still know. As in former students or current or former professors of this law faculty. Occasionally, when that happens, one is able to convince the new colleague(s) to send a suitably vague "hello remember me, this is why I'm writing" email either on their or your communication device. Done properly, it elicits a who? what? where? amused level of puzzlement from the recepient. It helps, of course, if the message is towards the end of a [.....] and drinks function.
As a friend found out to his chagrin some twenty years ago, there's always a possibility that when one goes into a bar in a city in or not too far from one's home town, the woman one starts talking to at the bar is there with one's daughter. I don't have to worry about that problem in Oxford. On the other hand, as in most (I'll assume) universities (just as in, say, Olympic athletes residences) where new groups of people meet to establish relationships, there are, shall we say, public (for the most part "vertical" (again for the most part, at least until the alcohol kicks in) bonding rituals and "horizontal" (sometimes eventually but not necessarily initially) bonding rituals. I've indulged in some of the public, vertical, rituals. For example, I've acquired a St. Hilda's tie, bow tie, and scarf.
Finally, on Brexit after last week's UKQB judgment that, not surprisingly, parliamentary sovereignty trumps Crown prerogative. Who'd have figured that could be an issue in 2016, except perhaps to the current UK May-Tories who seem almost as astute on the scope of judicial duty as, say, the once Cdn Harper Tories. Astute as in, does anybody who is calling the shots remember history? Maybe read law or at least listen to somebody who understands the subject? Shades of the Harper era: the May-Tories, and the dog-whistle tabloids are accusing the judges of exceeding the bounds of judicial authority etc. etc.
For those who are interested, the reasons are available
R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union 2016 EWHC 2768 (Admin)
I've written briefly about it here and on Slaw. Nobody has seen fit to comment.
That's enough for now. Oh, yes, just in case you were wondering: I have found time to think about and work on what it is I'm supposed to be here, in Oxford, to do. It helps, just a bit, that I'm not starting from a blank slate. (With a full deck is a different question.)