I went to Oxford last weekend, the first time I’ve gone back since I graduated (over 3 years since I finished finals and left, 2 years since graduation now). I was almost dreading it, apart from meeting up with Leonie, Thomas and Helen of course, as arriving in Oxford always used to provoke very strong feelings in me – mostly positive – but I thought that I would feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when I returned.
So I got off at the train station along with a couple of Eton boys who were scoping out the potential of the place as a future abode. Walked towards the town centre. Past the puffa fish restaurant. Down George Street. Felt nothing (George Street still a bit of a dump). Saw the modern language faculty library from a distance. Down Broad Street (still feeling somewhat detached). Went into Blackwells to use the loo. Wandered round the modern language section. Same medieval French texts on the shelf (good old Chanson de Roland). Weirdly familiar but didn’t make me feel anything. Walked towards college. Came down Merton Street. Heard the Merton chapel bells ringing. Into college and round the gardens. All very pretty and lovely, but I didn’t particularly feel anything – it didn’t feel like a place where I used to live.
And Oxford is small. I think someone might have shrunk it, because I’m sure that when I was 18 it wasn’t that tiny. The buildings are all little (most of them no more than 3 stories high) and it only takes 10 minutes to walk across town. I blame Martin and his weirdy chemist ways.
Anyway, I had a lovely day in the end, but mostly because I met up with friends, went for lunch in Gino’s, found the (newly opened) Primark (largest one I’ve ever been in!) and went for coffee in Blackwells. Lovely. But I didn’t feel nostalgic and the magic I remember has gone as the people I cared for who lived there have moved on. Although it was nice to go there for the day, it is now just an ordinary place for me.