Oxford Myths: Some common misconceptions dispelled

Well, I said I’d be back eventually, and here I am. The three month interval between the last post and this one is due to the unwelcome intrusion of an eight week term in which I was supposed to be producing thirteen essays (amongst other things) whilst somehow retaining my sanity. I’ve compromised, in that I wrote twelve essays and have emerged, if not intact, then at least only slightly cracked.
Rather than a boring account of the daily events in my life as the dreaded Library Hermit of Somerville College, I thought I’d give a few snapshots of Oxford life in the process of dispelling some myths you might have heard about the city of dreaming spires.* Without further ado, here are some cartoons and their associated text. 
            *You definitely won’t have heard them, I made them up. In fact, they’re the brainchild** of a lunchtime conversation with some other jaded finalists about the fact that it’s interview season, and therefore fertile ground for spreading lies. I encourage anyone who’s currently helping out with interviewees to spread as many of these as possible among their naive young charges.
                           **I also realised after drawing the cartoons in this post that I definitely owe a debt of inspiration to Andy Riley’s Great Lies to Tell Small Kids, although I promise it wasn’t a conscious thing…
My best (true) portrait fact is that New College hall is currently undergoing repairs, which meant that naturally the college had to purchase a million-pound marquee complete with floorboards, wood panelling (yes, you read that right), and fancy photocopied replicas of all of the portraits in their frames. 

This is untrue, although it would make History of French lectures infinitely easier, if no less interminably dull. However, for those who haven’t got first hand experience of the confused parade of penguins that is matriculation, the ceremony itself is a real thing. It’s essentially graduation in reverse, outfits and all, and they insist on conducting it in Latin, resulting in a lot of very confused state-school pupils such as myself. It was alarming on coming back from my year abroad to find that this year’s fresh young wearers of sub-fusc (the gown, cap – which you’re technically not allowed to actually wear – and ribbon etc.) were, in many cases, even younger than my brother, and that I recognise a sum total of about 20 undergraduates in a college of 400.



If only this were true. Sadly, while the benefits of tiny class sizes and regular tutorials is something I will certainly not be taking for granted after experiencing the French university system, it’s impossible to get to the end of term without a serious case of cotton-wool brain from the sheer amount of work there is to do. My summer’s gallivanting in Berlin probably didn’t help with the excessive workload, given that I could have used it to read some of the tens of novels on my reading list, but the term always takes its toll even on the best-prepared student. Common symptoms of end-of-term-itis include extreme clumsiness (Rosie, my flatmate, walks into doors now), the inability to formulate a sentence, and general physical deterioration including spots, wrinkles and greying skin.  *the last word on the top line is ‘honed’ – sorry about the scrawl
This one definitely isn’t true. Just don’t look up when you walk past Somerville at night. *winks*
I’ve had all my tutorials on Voltaire in Jesus College this term, resulting in a delightful source of terrible puns about having to “hand in my essay to Jesus” etc. On a related note, I’ve finally chosen an author I get on with, and have become worryingly obsessed with Voltaire, especially since I read the (apparently completely unfounded) ‘fact’ that he drank 50-72 cups of coffee a day.
Somerville library is pretty much my new home, and as such I object to the Young People who like to use it as a venue for coffee mornings, sports discussion groups and the like. This always seems to happen either very early in the morning, or very late at night, both times at which nobody would choose to be in the library and at which I tend to be on a bit of a hair trigger. I have on occasion actually asked them to be quiet, something which would have been unheard of before I became a deeply middle-aged, self-righteous finalist.
This could be true; I guess I wouldn’t know if it was. So actually, let’s assume that it is. It’s possible to order a book from “closed stacks” (which are apparently somewhere in Swindon) and for them to arrive in a library of your choice within hours, which strikes me as suspiciously efficient for a university that regularly schedules French lectures at the same time as each other. 
That’s it for today, but hopefully there’ll be more to come after Christmas if I get my act together and do enough work to justify some babbling on the internet. This is not altogether likely, given that the main activities of my vacation have so far been playing the piano, sleeping 14 hours a night and watching the entirety of Firefly; although this year is a far cry from the oppressive leisure of last year, it would seem that old habits die hard. In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas.
Bonus picture: A stuffed badger with tag reading “A Stuffed Badger, £295”

One thought on “Oxford Myths: Some common misconceptions dispelled

  1. Pingback: True(ish) Facts About London | Just an anglophone

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s