The Summer of Green and Gold

As our regular visitors already know, I’ve been a serious Anglophile since I saw When Knighthood Was in Flower, which was about the romance of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor, on The Wonderful World of Disney.  I was in the second grade at the time.  Thereafter, I was fascinated with knights and castles.  Fell in love with the Arthurian legends. Was interested in all things British–yet saw no problem with enthusiasm over the American Revolution as well.

ArthurMy parents were probably hoping this would ease up eventually.  At the same time, I’m pretty sure they thought English history was a more wholesome interest for me than the Legion of Superheroes. *g* They did get me a book of Arthurian legends, which I passed on to the boy, for Christmas a couple of years later. That’s it, pictured at left.

Anyway, time went by and my interest in knights, England, and castles endured.  So my parents made my dream come true.  They had me sign up for the summer program Davidson College co-sponsored with Mary Baldwin College at the University of Oxford.

I should add here that my parents didn’t have a lot of money to spare.  I’m not sure how they managed to pay for the program, but I didn’t think of that until years later.  At the time, I was just  delighted and thrilled and over the moon with excitement.

Our program was not based at one of the very old, very famous colleges.  It was based at one of the newer ones, which had a big, tacky mural that we all mocked on its depressingly contemporary dining hall.  But I didn’t care.  I was walking down streets that had been laid out hundreds of years ago and ran between buildings built hundreds of years ago.

I had a small room on the third floor (to us–they call it the second floor) of an old house (likely Edwardian, not extremely old, alas). My desk was under the window, and when I looked out, the sunlight filtering through the leaves made the bright green seem edged in gold.

My time in Oxford, when I look back on it, was all edged in green and gold.  That’s how I think of that summer.

I’ve been back a couple of times, primarily on quick research trips with the dh.  Those trips required us to cover so much ground, though, that there wasn’t a lot of time for poking around in any one place.

Until this summer.

He was invited to participate in a conference at Oxford, so I tagged along.  While he was in sessions, I revisited places I remember from my summer as a student there, which was much longer ago than it seems.

RadcliffeCam2016Our course of study was the history and literature of Tudor & Stuart England.  We had lectures four days a week and small-group tutorials with Oxford dons two days a week.  We wrote papers every week, and most of our research was done in the Radcliffe Camera of the Bodleian Library. So naturally, I wanted to see it again.

As part of our program, we had reader cards for the Bodleian, so we could walk past all the “private” signs and the tourists with their cameras and go on in.  There were always members of our group in there, ready to take a break and talk (quietly) for a few minutes. When I went back, part of me wished I could still do that, but those days are gone.

BridgeofSighs2016Near the Radcliffe Camera is the Bridge of Sighs, which spans New College Lane.  If you look past the bridge in the photo, you’ll see the narrow opening of St. Helen’s Passage.  It leads, with a couple of turns, to the Turf tavern, which was dates to 1381.  My friends and I used to go there and have a pint or a meal on occasion.

Turf2016I got a huge kick out of eating in a place that was so old. The food was pretty good, too. That’s part of the Turf, pictured at right.  I couldn’t get far enough back from it to get the whole building in the photo. The walls of New College loom over it, but I didn’t get a good shot of those, either. (In the photo, the yellow wall isn’t part of the Turf, nor is the gray one in the background.)

Eagle&Child2016The dh likes Oxford because of its children’s literature associations–Tolkien and The Hobbit, C.S. Lewis and Narnia, Lewis Carroll and Alice.  So he naturally wanted to visit another of our hangouts from that summer, the Eagle & Child pub.  Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams, aka The Inklings, used to meet there.  Here’s a photo of the pub sign.

By the way, I can’t share my original photos because they’re not digital.  I’d have to dig them out and scan them, and they were taken with a Kodak Instamatic, which means they aren’t as sharply focused as the pictures an SLR or even a digital point-and-shoot (or a phone) takes now.

MartyrsMon2016The Eagle & Child is near the martyrs monument, a Victorian tribute to the clerics burned at the stake near its site in 1555.  Queen Mary Tudor wanted England to return to the Catholic fold.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of London, and the Bishop of Worcester refused to accept her choice. The penalty for that refusal was, of course, death.  Hence the martyrs and the monument.

A ways up the Woodstock Road from the martyrs monument is the pub where our group most often hung out that summer, the Royal Oak.  It commemorates Charles II hiding in an oak tree to escape Cromwell’s troops (the Roundheads) after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.  I understand there are a number of Royal Oak pubs scattered around England.  Below are a photo of the pub, taken from across the street, and one of its sign.







And before you ask, no, we didn’t spend the whole summer drinking.  But you could say we enjoyed the pub culture of our host country. 🙂

Visiting the places again made me remember the people.  Some of them were my classmates at Davidson, some were a year or two behind me, and some were from Mary Baldwin. Many of them, I haven’t seen in years.  But I thought of them as I walked around Oxford.

I didn’t go into the Royal Oak.  Knowing I wouldn’t find friends there, as I once had, made me decide not to filter the memory through a different, present reality.  For that reason, it was just as well that the Radcliffe Camera was closed to me.  I wouldn’t have found my buds there either.

The places were important, but the summer wouldn’t have been as much fun without the other students who shared it.  Wherever they are, I owe them one for that.

What about you? Is there a time in your life that you would revisit if you could? Or a place you’re obsessed with seeing? 


Aug 12 2016, 12:37 am 20 Comments


20 responses to “The Summer of Green and Gold”

  1. Caren Crane says:

    Nancy, what a wonderful trip! That it was a stroll down memory lane just makes it that much cooler. I have one trip I would love to recreate, a spelunking trip utook with my Campus Life group from high school (now called Young Life). It wouldn’t be the same without my goofball friends from high school, though. Not at all!

    As for longing I wish I could revisit Adelboden, Switzerland and the surrounding area. I actually have a friend who was an exchange student to my high school in Charlotte who lives in Thun. It’s the most gorgeous place! Would love to visit him and his family there. That would be a magical trip!

    • Thanks, Caren. You make a good point about things not being the same with different people. They can still be fun, but not the same.

      I would love to see Switzerland someday! I hope you get to visit your friend.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Campus Life was a fun group, wasn’t it, Caren? We had that at Mars Hill too. (College for me…as my HS didn’t offer it)

      Switzerland is SO amazing. I only got to spend a couple of days there and I’ve always wanted to go back. :>

  2. Pissenlit says:

    That summer sounds absolutely lovely! Except for the weekly papers. Me and writing papers don’t get along.

    I’d like to visit the UK and I’d like a leisurely exploration of Canada, from West to East(with some interior camping, not just the cities).

    • Pissenlit, it would be fair to say that our diligence level about the papers dropped steadily over the course of the summer. *g*

      The dh has been to Canada, but I haven’t. I would love to see Quebec, Toronto, and the Canadian Rockies. And Vancouver because so many SFF TV shows film there.

      Do you do a lot of camping?

      • Pissenlit says:


        I live in Toronto and I’ve been to Quebec twice. Oh, and I’ve been to Alberta once but I was maybe 2.5 or 3yrs old so I only remember bits and pieces. I’d love to spend some time in all of it! 🙂

        Sadly, not any more. I used to go once a summer but the last time I was camping was back in…2000? Now, it’s more like a cottage trip or two each summer.

        • Your camping record beats mine. The last time I went camping was right before I graduated from high school. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something I ever got in the habit of doing.

          Assuming I ever make it to Toronto, what’s one thing I should be sure not to miss?

          • Pissenlit says:

            Wha…you…uh…but…I…well… Goodness! Worst question ever! 😀 There’s always so many things going on that it would probably have to depend on when you’re here and what you’re interested in. Some events that I find nifty include the Canadian National Exhibition, The Word on the Street, Fan Expo Canada, the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, Nuit Blanche Toronto, Doors Open Toronto, Toronto’s Festival of Beer and The Toronto Christmas Market. As for places, I’m particularly fond of the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario and Black Creek Pioneer Village(for their brewery! And their Christmas by Lamplight program & dinner is spectacular). Oh, and if you’ve got a twisted sense of humour like mine, go up the C N Tower, wait till the glass floor is covered with people, make your way to the centre of it, lightly jump and watch everyone scatter. There may have been some maniacal laughter. *cough* 😀

      • Jeanne Adams says:

        Oh, Pissenlit, I LOVE that list of things to do! Grins. Also, in terms of Canada, I so totally want to go to Banff and Lake Ann. WANT to go. Badly.

        Of course, I want to see PEI as well, for the usual reason. Grins.

        And Nancy, like you, I want to see British Coumbia, for the same reason. Haha!

  3. Jane says:

    Hello Nancy,
    I would have spent a lot time enjoying the pub grub. Not sure if I’m obsessed, but being interested in archaeology is a reason I would love to visit sites like Petra and Pompeii and Herculaneum.

    • Hi, Jane–The pub grub was actually pretty good. Ample for the money and filling.

      I’m interested in archaeology, too. I’ve wanted to visited Pompeii ever since I read the Classics Illustrated comic book based on The Last Days of Pompeii. We saw a museum exhibit on Petra once, and it was fascinating.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Nancy and Jane, I’m with you on Petra. Also want to see Herculaneum. Actually most of Rome is on my bucket list. Snork!

  4. Helen says:

    Hi Nancy

    WOW what a lovely post it must have been amazing to go and visit remember memories and make new ones 🙂

    There are so many places that I would love to re visit and we are off on a road trip to re visit next week we did a road trip to South Australia for our honeymoon and we are off again next week although we are going a different route this time the destination will be the same this time we are going for RWA conference 🙂 perhaps we will re visit the wine district of The Barossa Valley

    Have Fun

    • Thanks, Helen. I did enjoy walking that ground again. Oxford was a lot more crowded this time, which was a surprise, but it was still fun.

      Your trip sounds great. I hope you enjoy the conference.

      Australia is another place I’d like to see one day.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Ditto, Nancy! We need a serious Bandit Road Trip to see Anna and Christine and Helen and Barb in Australia. Grins.

      Helen, have big fun on your trip!!

  5. EC Spurlock says:

    What a wonderful gift your parents gave you, and what wonderful memories to endure a lifetime!

    I have often wanted to go back and revisit my own alma mater, the only town I’ve ever felt at home in; but I have heard that it has changed a lot, and I’m not sure I could handle that. I’d rather just keep the memories.

    • EC, it really was wonderful of them. I know they must’ve scrimped to pay for it, though they never said so.

      I know what you mean about your alma mater. When my parents moved into a retirement community, they asked if we wanted to buy their house. I love my hometown, but it, too, has changed. I felt as though I would always be expecting it to be the same, only to run up against differences. So we passed.

  6. What an amazing trip, or rather trips as you were able to go back and revisit your old haunts in Oxford.

    The years I spent at the Mozarteum in Salzburg were some of the most amazing of my life. I had always dreamed of visiting Mozart’s birthplace and his grave, but to study and work within rock throwing distance of his place of birth and in a city that meant so much to him was incredible. And my fellow students and fellow singers made it all the more fun and memorable. I would love to return one day, but as you said, it will be very different without my friends. There was a little cafe across from the Mozarteum that served the most wonderful stews and homemade bread and they always gave us seconds for free because we were singers and students. And seeing my photo in the shop windows the week before and during the performances of the operas I was fortunate enough to perform – that is something I will never forget.

    Of course, the three years we lived in England when I was a child are without a doubt my brothers’ and my favorite memories of our childhood. I returned when I was in undergrad school, but only for a few weeks. I so want to return for an extended visit!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, Louisa, that must have been just the most amazing adventure to live in Salzburg. And England ain’t too shabby either! Heehee.

      The stories you’ve mentioned over the years about your time there are so colorful in my mind.

      I think a Bandita Road Trip to England might be in order as well…

  7. Jeanne Adams says:

    Nancy, what a lovely visit to Oxford! You made it come alive in so many ways, in just that brief post. How fun to visit the old haunts. Like you, I’m sure I wouldn’t have gone in to some, just knowing the friends who made it special wouldn’t be there.

    As for me, the place I want to go above all others is Scotland. Been wanting to go since I was 8 years old and read Witch of the Glens, a long out of print book about a young girl escaping the witch trials. Grins.

    In terms of where I’d love to return to, that would be Paris. I took a high school trip there and I would love to go back and visit and see the things that my adult self is interested in that my teen self kinda took for granted. Grins.