Thursday, September 30, 2010


My latest Oxford discovery: punting down the Thames! This afternoon a group of us walked to the boathouse by Magdalen Bridge and rented three boats for an hour. For those of you who don't know, punting is the pastime of riding in a narrow, flat-bottomed boat propelled by a long pole that pushes against the river bottom. Very Venetian.

I found it absolutely beautiful, floating down the calm waters, gazing up the banks across green lawns and up through overhanging branches. Someone had been smart enough to bring some crackers and cheese, and we all leaned back and ate in the mild fall air. Ducks swam alongside our boat, darting to nibble up the cracker bits we tossed into the water - one curious female must have followed us for ten minutes! Canadian geese dotted the banks, too, and a small flock flew into the water and crowded our boat around one river bend. The sun even ventured out a few times, and almost everywhere we could look back and see some Oxford spire or rampart towering into the sky.

Now, all this sounds very idyllic, but punting is much harder than it looks. All five of us in my boat took a turn, and for my part I found it impossible to make my boat cruise on straight! The long rod felt unwieldy in my hands, and no matter how hard I tried I kept swinging the boat around in circles! The Oxonians (Oxford students) that passed us in other punts were certainly laughing at us. Still, it was very, very fun. Maybe I'll make it out on the water again before the weather turns too cold.


  1. A series of random reactions:

    Wow, punting! How rustic. Pride and Prejudice flashbacks, although I don't remember any punting in it. Isn't the Thames pretty dirty though?

    I can't believe Oxford students are "Oxonians." Ah, the Brits. I have a prof here who says "Oxbridge" (I think) and it threw me for a little loop.

    Life here's pretty crazy, I kinda have class for a great portion of the day...but it's fun. Weather's been bipolar—it went from 90 degrees to 60 in a week. Didn't lottery into English 92 so I'm auditing a CompLit poetry class. Not too bad, so far. The prof's "thesis" of the class is that poetry functions by making things "present" to us, sensually and temporally. It brings what's near very close to us, even giving it a physical presence through sound or invocation that's separate from its meaning. That rhythm and rhyme central to poetry make time loop instead of the straight line that it usually follows, allowing us to bring past to present to future.

    except one of the texts explained rhythm as "time-objects in the proper sense" having "form, that is, the simultaneity of self-reference and outside reference." ugh.

  2. The Thames is pretty dirty down near London, but here not as bad. Though the water can be slimy/murky in places... gross.

    Yes, they say "Oxbridge" a ton here! As in, Oxford/Cambridge. Oh, those Brits. I should do a post about the funny things they say.

    Haha your poetry class sounds intense. Hopefully in a good way overall! Just analytical, not involving any kind of creative writing? I almost wish I'd signed up for a creative writing tutorial here, the landscape keeps reminding me of Pride and Prejudice/Jane Eyre/etc. Which I WILL be reading while I'm here. So excited.