My town and my gown: from boogie boards to bicycles

Kathleen Farmilo suggests that a long-haul flight is not the only thing separating Oxford from Adelaide

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Photo: Flickr

Whilst Oxford is known for its historic buildings and cobbled streets, one of Adelaide’s most famous attractions is colloquially named ‘The Mall’s Balls’. These are, literally, two giant metal balls stacked on top of each other in the middle of our shopping mall. This, I think, gives you a pretty accurate insight into the differences between the two cities.

Adelaide was founded in 1836 as Australia’s first non-penal colony (big up), yet still manages to be the murder capital of the country (slightly less of a big up). Despite this setback, it’s also frequently listed as one of the top ten most liveable cities in the world. This pretty much captures Adelaide: comfortable, beautiful, safe (notwithstanding the murders), and a little bit boring. Oxford, whilst eminently beautiful and mostly safe, is the opposite of boring, despite an alarming amount of time spent in the library.

One marked difference centres around the food on a night out. Ali’s kebab van is a haven of hummus and grease after another long night trying to fit in with the edgy crowds of Cellar. For my friends back home, a kebab van doesn’t come close to the unparalleled joys of a late night Macca’s run. But though I do occasionally hanker for a 3am Zambrero’s burrito (sorry Oxford, Mission Burrito pales in comparison), the £1.50 ‘St Anne’s Special’ has definitely found a new place in my heart.

Adelaide is also nicknamed ‘the City of Churches’, but we’re not really sure why. Somehow the Seventies architecture of the Anglican church near my house doesn’t quite match up to the All Souls’ chapel. Indeed, in this sense, ‘the city of dreaming spires’ seems slightly more impressive. I would, however, trade all the college chapels in the world for slightly closer access to a beach. Frolicking in Port Meadow has its merits, but it doesn’t really compare to the surf at home.

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I will commend Oxford for its wildlife. I don’t think I’ve seen a single spider since I’ve been here, and that alone has made the move worthwhile. The trauma of possum-mating season is also behind me, as is the fear of being terrorised by homicidal magpies during spring. Also – no snakes! The novelty of seeing carefree students wander through the long grasses of Port Meadow with bare feet will never wear off. The compulsory ‘Snake Bites 101’ lessons we had to take in health class now seem slightly less relevant over here. All in all, it’s quite nice being able to go for a leisurely stroll around University Parks without the imminent threat of a wildlife attack.

Despite their obvious differences, the most striking similarity between Oxford and Adelaide has to be the tourists. If you’ve ever been to Cornmarket Street on a Saturday, or been trapped behind a throng of tourists on the way to a lecture, you’ll know all too well what I mean. The classic ‘I Heart Adelaide’ vests usually found on the sweaty, sunburnt English tourists roaming the streets back home are nowhere to be found. Instead, every time I venture into the city centre, I’m thrown into a heaving melee of school students in Oxford University hoodies. The days of being asked to point out the nearest place to buy sunblock/hats/more sunblock have been replaced by giving directions to the Rad Cam.

There are lots of things I miss about my town – the beach, the koala who frequents my backyard, not being asked whether I’m from New Zealand. But during term time, I’m happy for sand to be replaced by cobbled streets, and boogie boards to be replaced by bikes. Plus, I finally get to make the most of my extensive jumper collection.