Saturday, December 08, 2012

British High Tea, A Piano Concert & Libraries - Living the Good Life!

Bodleian Library 

For the last seven days (Week 9), the start of what some may consider a "term break" or "holiday", the ALSLA group at the University of Oxford has been writing essay outlines for our exams (one for each course) - due at midnight last night (for no feedback or marks, but apparently for our own good). Hence, my week was spent days in beautiful libraries like the Bodleian library pictured below, and nights buried in my laptop at home, realizing how difficult it is to narrow the scope of extremely broad questions into a plan for a 2500 word masterpiece. When I have a teensy bit of time over the next few weeks, I will take a proper College and Libraries tour (as a self-guided tourist) and post a slideshow of the beautiful buildings in this historic city. You can only enter the room with the ancient books above (Lower Reading Room) if you have no bags or items with you. Reminds me of a library in the Professor's house in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe!

I do have to steal Claire Chang (one of my classmates)'s cartoon here (on the right)...this depicts the week perfectly!

Kellogg College's piano concert was a great evening out Tuesday night, as we listened to some very talented pianists at the college (and reminisced about playing the piano when we were kids and giving it up. Seemed to be a common theme at the event). It was really nice to hear some Chopin though -- and a couple catchy jazz tunes! Perhaps one day, when I own a home again, I'll take this up again. Maybe it's like riding a bike and, after a 10 year gap, it can still come back to you? The program of pianists is on the left!

This Saturday afternoon was especially great, as I went back to kickboxing and enjoyed high tea with Juliet at Old Parsonnage Hotel. (Yes, this is the high tea post you have been asking for!) The hotel is a very antique-British looking and reminds me of the Antiques Roadshow that was always on at home during the holidays when I was a kid, as part of regular day-time television. The red walls, oil paintings, comfortable armchairs and selection of "high tea", "very high tea" or "light tea" (ironically the contents are not "light" at all, but wonderfully and deliciously caloric clotted cream, jam and scones). Juliet and I chose the latter. As promised, loyal readers, I had tea (Juliet had a cappuccino). I must say there was nothing spectacular about the tea --pretty normal darjeeling! The waitress explained that the  "house" tea, called Old Parsonnage Blend, was a regular tea mixed with something called Lapsang Souchong, which she described as "smoky".  As the Brits would say, that sounded "dodgy", so I had a regular darjeeling. 

The clotted cream, jam and scones, reminded me of a trip to Cambridge and Cheddar Gorge when I was 12 years old (I honestly can't remember which place had the clotted cream). Back then, and today at Old Parsonnage, it tasted like heaven, creamy, smooth, fluffy and yet not too sweet.   Obviously, this heavenly food cannot be on any healthy diet --so this was a definite cheat meal! 

More importantly, this was a rare and wonderful opportunity to actually have a conversation with a classmate about something other than "work/studying". (British people call studying "work"). We spent three hours in the cafe, enjoying our first break of the season.

Juliet at tea
Sapna at tea

Well, speaking of "work", now that the essay outlines are roughly sketched, I'm off to read more literature, re-work the plans into something distinction worthy (or close), and simultaneously come up with a brilliant methodology for my dissertation! Ha, tall order, I know. I will say though, that I am very excited to be here -- and to dive into my research, dissertation, and (hopefully) new career. Oh, and of course, to visit London a few times during the "break", visit a Christmas market and experience a British holiday season!

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