Thursday evening. Eighth week. My head has finally stopped spinning after a tumultuous Park End (I think). A crinkled pastry bag is tucked under my elbow. I elegantly sit down on the landing of my college’s only building which predates the Russian Revolution (yeah Hilda’s!), lovingly refurbished with institutional blue-grey carpet which must be hiding a multitude of bacterial sins.
This landing is currently the locus that’s fuelling my body. With fuel comes growth. Although I’m not sure I’ve grown many inches since October, this landing, coupled with yummy food and great company, has probably been the site of my most productive (emotional) learning this year. So, this column hopes to bring you earnest musings from an (at times) foolish twenty-year-old. And maybe some culinary inspo from my college’s resident ‘Ottolenghi-in-waiting’ (a self-awarded title, sadly).
Firmly positioned in the corner of the landing, I begin to inhale a creamy and decadent crosstown doughnut (it was the end of term; needs must). I glance up at this evening’s guest. My college daughter. Her azure eyes still twinkling with that fresher glow, she sighs before exclaiming: ‘Never, ever, leave your bike unlocked outside the faculty on the weekend!’
Whilst this doesn’t seem like a particularly revelatory thought – to not leave your belongings unattended – this throwaway comment lingered with me as much as the flavour palette of Crosstown’s Chocolate Truffle Doughnut still dances on my tongue six weeks later.
The notion of a silly fresher leaving their unlocked bike out in the world, putting all their faith into their newfound city, has a vague naivety to it that intrigues me. The fact I’ve spent less than a year actually in my university city, and yet have amassed friends that I feel I’ve known for years appears both bewildering and paradoxical.
Existentialism aside, I would have never built these friendships, without putting just a little bit of trust in the hands of complete strangers – leaving my metaphorical bike unlocked as it were.
With it being the month of new beginnings, maybe those who feel a little too settled in the Oxford ecosystem and those who feel that Oxford still isn’t quite ‘home’, should have a little faith and welcome in some new characters. Leaving your ‘bike’ locked only limits your narrative. It can be all too easy to fall into a comfortable routine of library-lecture-bar-bed. Trust me (a stranger!!) and disrupt your daily ritual. January is too dreary after all.