Notes from Oxford

UPDATE: £54 to fill up the rental car. That is $108! Not to my liking. And, for the record, I do not think that a similar approach of raising fuel taxes will help the US in any way. But that is another debate for another day.

Starbucks coffee in England is lousy. Through a week and several cups (most E’s) we did not get a single decent cup from Starbucks. And they didn’t have half-half or “single cream” for those who like a little cream in their coffee. (I take it black, but E takes it white, very white.) This wouldn’t be a big deal if Starbucks were a native company, but this is Starbucks! American capitalist imperialism catering to American tourists needs and addictions. How they haven’t capitulated to mass protests of caffeine and dairy crazed Yanks is beyond me.

Cafe Nero’s coffee is great. It could be the two shots of espresso they include in every cup of regular coffee (you have to ask for only one shot) but this stuff is good. Black gold.

The weather is the same as always. Grey, damp, with mild outbreaks of sun. Still, it makes being in the basement of the library palatable.

The Bodleian is the greatest and worst library in the world. It has everything, they just won’t let you near it. Actually, that isn’t really true and this isn’t my complaint from this trip. I was able to get at everything I needed easily and quickly and my library card was reactivated in mere minutes. But my colleagues were complaining that they are not allowed to have more than 3 (three) books at a time out of the Bodley. That is, assuming they are circulating books in the first place. These are senior faculty! And they are not trusted with more than three books at a time. Wow.

But the staff at the OI are great. It was as if I had never left and they were incredibly friendly and helpful. Great stuff. There was only one real shocker returning to the OI (Oriental Institute) and that was the smoking lounge was closed! Turns out the entire country went smoke-free on July 1. Now I don’t smoke very often, the occasional pipe and even more occasional cigar, but when I was a grad student it was a rare opportunity to chat with certain senior faculty. A casual conversation in that smoke filled upper room was a great treat for me. *sigh*

Water pressure? What is this thing that you speak of? I had forgotten about “Power Showers,” these necessary little add on turbine-type devices necessary to give your shower pressure on the scale of a light drizzle. Anything less and…well you take a bath. That and two faucets per sink. Someone in the plumbing guild needs to let builders know that they can now install a “mixing” faucet that allows both hot and cold waters to mingle and come out of a single faucet head. It is magic!

Great people. Above all we have had a fantastic time and everyone we have met, old and new, have been wonderful. We were expecting a certain amount of anti-American sentiment, but we have found nothing but very cordial and helpful people in restaurants and stores.

Most of all, it was great to see old friends and visit old haunts. We only lived here four years, but it was the first four of our married life and it still looms large in our hearts and minds. The visit back did nothing to diminish that.

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