Collections are over, Oxford’s wetter than the North Sea and the transition from Hollyoaks addict to workaholic is not going smoothly. Time to get out, says Cassie Lester.
You may have only been back a few days – a week, tops – but the dreaming spires may already be looking a little shop-worn and less desirable than when you were safely back at home. And yet you’ve got seven weeks left to go; so treat yourself and take a few breaks. After all, the city’s not going anywhere, except maybe underwater. The easiest break from endless reading lists is the obvious shopping trip, with Bicester village only 15 miles away (and still in the sales!). Buses go every half hour so it’s great for last minute, ‘got to get out of this place’ snap decisions. Unfortunately they don’t accept Bod cards for student discounts so you might just have to press your nose up against shop windows like little orphan children in a Dickensian Christmas. Don’t fancy shopping? Even with your overdraft magically erased by the wonder of the thrice-yearly student loan?One of the good things about Oxford being such a tourist hub is the plethora of ways to get in and out of the city.  You’re probably unlikely to be using Oxford’s airport for your cheapo weekend breaks – only available for private planes, apparently – but there are a handful of bus and coach companies willing to take you down to London for a day trip. From there you can catch the Eurostar and get out of England (returning before Monday lectures, presumably) or just enjoy our glorious capital. Steer clear of all the cultural stuff; you left Oxford to escape that, remember? It’s no sunnier or less wet in London but you can make believe you’re scuba diving in tropical climes at the London Aquarium, try on priceless jewels at New Bond Street’s luxury emporiums, take a night off from Filth and blow your loan on expensive cocktails in new nightclubs. If you’re prepared to spend several hours on a bus  just to get a break from Cornmarket Street, go check out the opposition in Cambridge. Although obviously inferior in every way, Cambridge does have an H&M, not to mention big, open parks – known as ‘pieces’ – that would be nice to sit in, presuming they’ve sent all their bad weather our way.Oxfordshire itself has a lot to offer, albeit in a Midsomer Murders kind of way. We’re incredibly close to the  Cotswolds, and to truly live out the mini-break fantasy, go for a drive to Great Tew (befriend someone with a car first, obviously). This village, which seems to have entirely avoided modernity or change, is a picturesque retreat from Oxford’s often oppressive grandeur. The roads are uneven and free from tarmac, back gardens take the shape of vast rolling fields, and their chickens really are free ranging. There is even a notice board in the centre of the village on which Great Tew’s residents commune with each other – they probably haven’t heard of mobile  phones yet. If embracing nature isn’t your thing, and free ranging chickens don’t turn you on, perhaps eating them will. Great Tew boasts The Falkland Arms; a beautiful sixteenth century building still run as a traditional pub. It has flagstone floors, oak beams and inglenook fireplaces too, and provides the perfect setting for dinner – slow cooked lamb shank with rosemary and garlic served on a bed of mash, for example – and award winning whisky and beer. On a Sunday at eight, traditional folk music adds to the rural experience.One useful piece of advice, however – if you plan to dine, and not just to look at Great Tew – is to book in advance at The Falkland Arms. Certainly the location is beautiful, but I now know rather more about it than I’d anticipated, since my ill-prepared boyfriend tried to restore his romantic credibility with a scenic walk, after finding the pub entirely booked up when we arrived at a prompt 7:30.
There it is, the world on offer; glam up those January blues any way you like. Don’t fancy any of the above? SAD and essay crises sapping you of the ability to move? You can always buy yourself some exotic looking pot plants,  switch on all the lights and pretend your bed is a deck chair somewhere in Barbados. Whatever your route, don’t be afraid to escape.