Woke in Oxford
The morning sun splashes its first colors on empty walls of his dorm room in Oxford, England. Jaxon, blinks and stirs under covers of comfort, conserving energy like a reptile warming in the sun. In the haze between sleep and wake his mind entertains a cheeky contrast. What an odd place to be. Thirty-five years ago, maybe…but now? Reputable fifty-four-year-old men don’t wake up in dorm rooms! He snorts, scaring away any lingering slumber, and stretches to check his phone. It’s 7 a.m. A jet-lagged yawn escapes as he struggles with the mental math; it’s 2 a.m. back home. He fans out the duvet, shifts to a seated position and pivots his spine, releasing a satisfying Crack!
Groggy and worn, he ruffles his hair, finding himself travel weary and uncertain. His feet throb from yesterday’s excursion and he’s unsure of his surroundings. Still, he smirks, as if enjoying a private joke. “Ahhh,” he exhales, contentedly. His grin grows to a smile, the kind that bubbles up, rising unnoticed until it warms the chest, crinkles the cheeks, and glints the eye. He sighs, “Oxford,” as if all the “what and why” are captured in one word. But he knows it’s not just the place. It’s adventure. It’s expectation. It’s learning and new experience. It’s all the juice of anticipation squeezed into this opportunity afforded him. And more… it’s knowing he’s here for a brief moment. A flash of existence. A time and place, here and now, waiting for him to embody all that it offers and bring it to life.
A Sensational Start
Yes, okay… it’s a bit sensational, but let’s have some fun, shall we?! (And… sorry if my italicized commentaries annoy you; it’s kind of my thing.) This blog is a narrative of my July 21-30, 2022, travels to Oxford University, England. The trip was made possible by a grant from Ferris State University for training in script writing. I’d like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to Ferris and the professional development grant committee for awarding me this honor and opportunity. I am deeply grateful. Please note: as an aspiring storyteller, the purpose of this blog is to share an account of my experiential immersion, not course outcomes. (In other words, some academic concepts are shared, but that’s not the point of this narrative.)
Thursday & Friday: Crafty Planes & a Mystery Bus
My journey began Thursday, July 21 with a 5 p.m. flight from Grand Rapids to Charlotte, NC, then on to London, England, landing the following morning at 9 a.m. The flights went smooth as ever; exit row seating, no one next to me, good food, good wine, and adequate sleep. Customs in England was a breeze. But…doh! The first snag came in boarding my bus to Oxford. All my documents said National Express (NE), but NE didn’t go to Oxford. Keep in mind, there are no help desks and no “officials,” except bus drivers, who are too busy, don’t know, or don’t want to help. It was a 45-minute conundrum of vexing uncertainty (that should be on a t-shirt). The time for my bus came and went. Finally, a kindly bus driver informed me that another bus line honored NE tickets to Oxford (no one I asked previously seemed to know this). Plus, it turns out, departure times are more of a suggestion, so it was okay that I missed my bus. Whew! This was a huge relief and soon I was on my way. The ride to Oxford took about 90-minutes. A bit frazzled, I slept.
By early Friday afternoon, I arrived at the lovely and lively Gloucester Green, a vibrant marketplace filled with vendors and ethnic food with wonderful smells (Japanese, Indian, and Thai). My poor free-wheeling carry-on bounded across cobblestones streets as my rock sack (English for backpack) weighed me down. A hot twenty minutes later I stumbled into the porter entrance of Keble College (KC), my home for the next week.
Keble College opened in 1870 as the first Oxford College of the modern era. Its exterior façade is made of high, imposing walls of brick. (Some say it looks like a prison; being from Jackson, Michigan, this didn’t faze me.) The interior grounds are stunning, featuring extensive grassy quads surrounded by four-story brick cathedrals “now widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic anywhere” (KC website). My single dorm room (yes, it’s a dorm room) did not disappoint. I felt like a character from Harry Potter. The room was cute and cozy, on the fourth floor (no elevators) with a spectacular view of the quad and clock tower (which clangs on the hour from 7 a.m. to midnight, Monday-Friday.)
It was early afternoon. I knew if I stopped, sleep would take over. The weather was cooperating with full sun and mid-70s. So, with excitement and my Tilly, I hit the streets. My goal was to simply wander, soak in the scene, and ultimately, find the building where class would be held. I rambled the busy streets of Oxford for nearly three hours. Old buildings and older streets greeted me with names like Wellington, Worcester, St. John, Folly Bridge, and establishments like The Red Lion, The White Rabbit, Lamb and Flag, and Eagle and Child. (The English seem to have a fondness for animals). Exhausted, with overly sore feet, I retreated to my new residence and crashed like a hefty sack of paidrins (English for potato).
Saturday, July 23: Getting Oriented
Uncharacteristically, I slept in and allowed myself a lazy morning to recoup from jet lag and the previous day’s walk. After completing my morning routine, I stepped out again to do a bit of shopping and site seeing. I found myself in the covered market, near downtown. It reminded me of a miniature version of Faneuil Hall in Boston, filled with treats, clothing, and kitschy souvenirs. For less than 10 pounds, I found a clever little leather wallet featuring sunshine peeking through clouds on a blue background, perfect for light travel.
Around 2 p.m., I made my way to Rewley House, the location of OUSSA: Oxford University Summer School for adults. After checking in, I settled in with coffee and flipped through the info packet while enjoying the quaint garden patio of the interior courtyard.
At 4:30 p.m. a short orientation took place in the lecture theatre followed by a brief gathering with my instructor, Shaun McCarthy, and five classmates. McCarthy runs Hooligan Theatre Productions. He’s had more than a dozen plays and radio dramas produced, and he’s been an adjunct instructor with Oxford University for fifteen years (in England, they’re called “tutors”). The evening at OU concluded with a lovely dinner, good wine, and stirring conversation with new companions.
Afterwards, I strolled to the oldest pub in Oxford, The Bear, to meet with my friend and Ferris colleague, Tim Powers. He was there on a Ferris grant as well, taking a workshop in life drawing. We caught up over a pint and reveled in our good fortune to have this opportunity.
Sunday, July 24: First Day of Class
The day started early with my morning routine of rolling and stretching followed by a fine breakfast at Keble College. The dining hall looked like a scene from the Harry Potter films (it’s ranked ninth in this article of colleges that look like Hogwarts). In fact, most of Keble College makes me feel like I’m in a spinoff of the movies: Harry Potter and the Bishy Chronicle.
Class started promptly at 9 a.m. and tutor McCarthy began by sharing his reflections on our pre-course essays. “Beware of characters that are only what they do,” he warned. “Try to make them fresh! Give them life!” He explained that “agency” drives character. Agency is basically the process of making a character real; giving them choices, flaws, decisions, goals, values, and motivations. A character’s agency generally moves from weakness to power. Shaun explained a lot of storytelling concepts in script writing, like the difference between action (which moves the plot forward) versus activity (hogwash!), and jeopardy (introduction of conflict), and the insighting incident (particular moment of conflict). Interactive class discussion continued until 10:30 a.m., which it turns out, is time for “tea and crumpets!” We were served complimentary tea-coffee and a variety of cookies from the common room, connected to a charming outdoor patio.
Casual conversation ensues where we share personal life events, while discussing social, political outlooks. The entire cohort consists of about 80 adult students from places near and far. Most Europeans are politically astute, interested in talking about the Jan. 6 hearings and other world events. It makes for brilliant discussion.
Class resumes at 11 a.m., continuing our lessons in script writing. One of Shaun’s stories I enjoyed was about believability, called, “Jumping the shark”. Too often, scripts go in directions that are completely unbelievable (there’s a whole genre of this called, Pirates of the Caribbean). As an example, he cited an episode from Happy Days where Fonzi jumps the shark. Evidently, in the entertainment world, this episode epitomizes the implausible (Why? Just because he’s waterskiing in a leather jacket?!) At 12:30 p.m. we break for lunch, returning to the dining hall near the lower-level patio. Lunch is a generous buffet of deliciousness shared with my six classmates and tutor. As part of the OU model, the afternoon is used for writing and-or research. I take this opportunity to do some writing. At 4:00 p.m. Shaun and I meet for our first one-on-one session. He offers further input on my pre-essay and is interested in hearing about my objectives for the week. We conclude, agreeing on a framework and theme for the final assignment; the script of a scene of an original play I’ll create throughout the week. Alrighty then! (I’ve never written anything like this before.)
Afterwards, Shaun and I meet up with a couple classmates and rambled, once again, to the oldest pub in Oxford, The Bear. After a few brews, Shaun gave us a walking tour of the beautiful 46-acre meadows of Christ’s Church.
Did you catch that? 46-acres in the heart of Oxford! The sprawling meadow is bordered by two rivers, Thames (Isis) and Cherwell, home to many of the famous college rowing teams. We strolled the 1.2-mile circular dirt path that leads to the canal and frames large, grassy pastures with pedigree Old English Longhorn cattle. It felt (and smelled!) like I was back in rural Michigan.
We returned to The Bear pub (see what I did there?!). My buddy and fellow colleague, Tim Powers, was waiting for us, determined to find a place for fish and chips. Shaun and my classmate decline, opting for another establishment. Tim and I walked, meandered, strolled, and generally sauntered… but the place was closed when we arrived. Using “Yelp!” I found something nearby, but it was crazy difficult to find!
We were finally led down a narrow, dark, side street that seemed kind of sketchy. It looked like a dead-end, but just when we couldn’t go further, there was a small archway leading left to a fantastic old pub, called Turf Tavern. It was packed, but we lucked out! It was the same place Shaun and my classmate went! They had a table and we joined them.
Sixty minutes and a beer or two later, Tim and I were munching on ginormous servings of fish and chips. Here’s the description: Ice Breaker Pale Ale battered Atlantic cod, Whitby scampi, pickled onion, bread & butter, tartare sauce, curry sauce, triple-cooked chips, garden peas, £17.79 You betcha! A whole lotta delicious! It was a great way to end the first full day of class in Oxford, filled with a boatload of learning… and cod!
Monday, July 25: A Sculptor Walks into a Bar
One of my good fortunes is my morning walk to class, which I’d like to share a little about. From Keble to Rewley House is an easy 12-minutes, but it crosses a pretty busy intersection. This can be a bit unsettling because traffic patterns in England are exactly opposite of home. It takes some mental adjustments to ensure I don’t look the wrong way and step into traffic.
Flanking both sides of this busy intersection are two places of local legend: The Eagle and Child and the Lamb and Flag. The Eagle and Child is at least 400 years old (I can’t find the exact founding date) where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien met as part of a group called, The Inklings. They often met for lunch on Monday or Tuesday in a private area called the Rabbit Room. It was here, in 1950, that C.S. Lewis shared his draft of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
The Flag and Lamb is where the group reluctantly relocated after renovations in the 1960s demolished the Rabbit Room at The Eagle and Child. Sadly, both establishments are closed and being renovated, expected to reopen in 2023. Some of the locals expressed concern that the Eagle and Child will be turned into a micro-hotel. (Ugh!)
In class, a major topic of conversation was our final assignment; the script of a scene from an original play we create. Here’s the set up. The scene must have three people. One is a friend; the other two are a couple. Two of them are in a room together. The third enters with an object that changes the dynamics somehow. Ready…? Go. Write a scene. That’s it.
Now, there are several notions that go along with this like character development, plot, subplot, and so on, but the original direction is simple: create a scene. We have 15-20 minutes and I struggle. It’s like walking up to a comic and demanding, “Say something funny!” My first idea is about a depressed businessman and a Celtic fairy named Anáil. A Celtic fairy? Seriously? No. My second idea is about John Denver and his wife. He's excited, coming off the ski slope after writing Annie’s Song, but she’s cooking dinner, and doesn’t have time to listen… Huh? WTfrick… then, I’m reminded of direction a prof once gave me, “Write about what you know.” I ponder this and another thought comes to me. What if I wrote about a sculpture artist, his wife, and their business partner. Hmmm… that might have legs. Well, sorry Mic and Susan. Yup! You guessed it; you became characters for my final assignment (Ahhh! I might let you read it someday!).
Needing a change in scenery and some creative inspiration, I visit the Three Goats Heads, a cool little downstairs bar with outside seating near the main shopping district. Knowing outside seating is premium, I found a lovely spot at a small (tiny!) table, ordered a pint, flipped open my laptop, and began working. Shortly thereafter, the bartender delivered a message along with my fresh brew, “Sorry mate, no laptops allowed inside the bar area.” I’m a bit shocked. He continues, “No phones either.” The reasoning, he kindly explained, was turnover. People with laptops and phones stay longer and order less, taking space from paying customers. “Sorry mate, it’s company policy.” A little dumbfounded at having my plans dashed, I asked about outside seating. “You can move, but no laptops outside either,” he replied. Alrighty, then! I packed up, moved outside, sat at a four top (the only space available), and read a book while finishing my pint. It was a good book.
Wanting to actually get some writing done, I took up a recommendation from my travel buddy, Tim, to visit a pub on the eastside of town, The Punter. It was a good walk, nearly 40-minutes, but worth it. The pub is adjacent to a slim canal with long, narrow boats called “punts.” According to my new, pleasant, stay-as-long-as-you-like, bartender friend, Dave, the name of the bar is a double entendre (word-phase with two meanings). Curious, I asked him to explain. Dave said, “A punter is the bloke on the back of a punt, guiding it with a long stick.” (Think of the gondolier-gondolas in Venice.)
Intrigued, I asked about the other meaning. “Punter is also the name of customers who frequent a bar,” he happily explained. Well, there you go! Color me cultured with a fun, new turn of a phrase. We continued the conversation, discussing semantical nuances of a “punter” in American football, as in, not the kicker, but the punter. I’ll say! It was a jolly good chat!
Following this lovely encounter, I sat outside at The Punter for about three hours, writing and drawing a sketch of a scene for my upcoming novel, Jaxon’s Crossing. It was a good exercise and very helpful in creating an accurate vision for a proper description (thanks, Helen!). And…I did order food and bevies, so as they say, “Good on ya, Dave!”
Having put in a good day’s work, I retired to Kebel College for a quiet evening of Disney+ in my dorm room (John Carter for the fourth time!).
Tuesday, July 26: A Day of Turf’s & Tempest
It’s a new day in Oxford! So far, the weather has been practically perfect in every way; partly sunny with mid-to-high 70s. This is great for two reasons: 1) the week before, a heatwave came through with temps near 100, and 2) my fourth-floor dorm room doesn’t have air conditioning (and heat rises!). Also interesting, the windows don’t have screens. You simply open the window and whatever comes in, comes in. This was true in Rome, and I suspect many other countries (Belgium and Paris too). The good news; very few bugs come in and the birds seem to stay away. Of course, at night, I start thinking, but what about bats?!
Today started pretty typical. Shaun, my tutor, shared material on advancing a plot, providing sub-text, and developing character relationships. We had insightful discussion regarding genre and expectations. Think of a country-western film, or action-adventure. What do you expect to see? What do you expect to happen? For every genre, there’s a pattern. For example, in a romantic comedy (rom-com), there’s something called the “meet-cute” where two main characters meet for the first time and clash (think of When Harry Met Sally). Although this wasn’t entirely new information for me, it was helpful as I consider my current novel, Jaxon’s Crossing. See if you can figure out the genre:
During the coffee and crumpets break, I tracked down Shaun to flesh out some details of the script I’m writing for this OU course (completely different from my novel, mentioned above). My concern was about blurring the lines of reality and fiction. The story script I’m writing about the sculpture artist, wife, and business partner isn’t real. The characters are changing from who they are in reality. (Am I supposed to keep it based in reality, or let it morph?) Shaun reassures and reminds me. “Your Mic in the story is not the same Mic in life,” he explains. “The character is now serving a different purpose, your purpose; the purpose of the storyline.” He explains that characters evolve to fill a role. (Btw, I’m not trying to write a biography.) He encourages me to “Go’on, mate! Let it run!” He says to trust the process and let my plot drift where it will. It might have started in reality, but the final piece will be fiction. This gives me the motivation I need, allowing me to crank through a great deal of my script that afternoon.
Early evening, Tim and I caught up again at Turf’s Tavern and he’s landed us tickets for William Shakespeare’s, The Tempest, by Oxford Theatre Guild. After a few short pours and dinner at Turks, we head to the venue. The show was performed outside, in the back forty of University Park, a 74-acre recreation area that’s kitty-corner from my place, Keble College. It was a magical production!
The actors fully utilized the natural landscape, entering through clustered trees, exiting through huddled shrubs, with fairies and guardsmen randomly strolling about. I loved every minute. The Tempest has some of Shakespeare’s most memorable lines like, “The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance” and “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows” and, of course (my favorite), “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep”. Wow… written around 1611, nearly 410 years ago. Sweet dreams, indeed!
Wednesday, July 27: What's the Word?
The morning walk to Rewley House is beginning to feel normal and also fleeting. Four days in; two days remaining. You may already know this; Oxford University (OU) is the oldest English-speaking university in the world, with evidenced teaching dating back to 1096, more than 900 years ago. OU’s motto is: “Dominus illuminatio mea,” meaning, “The Lord is my light,” which are the opening words of Psalm 27. Surprisingly, the University of Oxford is not really one specific entity like we think of it in the states. OU is a collection of nearly 40 unique colleges, each with their own special discipline. Geographically, OU is spread throughout the city, much like the University of Michigan. Among the horde of retailers, pubs, and restaurants are endless academic buildings and cathedrals, most linked to the University.
In class, we toyed with a new scenario. Two people in a car. Stuck in traffic. One of them is making them late for...whatever. Ready? Go. Write a scene. Again, 15-20 minutes. This time we focused a bit more on character development and what questions an actor would ask, like, “What’s my motivation?” or “Where am I coming from?” We basically create a psychological profile on the fictional characters we were working on (thank you Enneagram!). It was a really helpful exercise to bring in depth of character. Oh! And, by the way, my script presentation is scheduled for tomorrow morning.
By this time, it’s 12:30 p.m. Feeling pinched to complete my script (and needing more ‘creative inspiration’), I grabbed my laptop, did a quick stop and drop at my dorm, and headed to the nearest pub, Kings Arms.
Summoning the spirits of The Inklings, I found the perfect spot; a single seat in the private cutaway of a window. I order a pint and my first (and last) hamburger of the trip. For the next hour or so, I write, I sip, I nibble. After lunch, I pack up and head back to Keble where I continue to write. By 5:30 p.m., I finish. My script assignment is done and I’m ready for tomorrow’s presentation.
Feeling accomplished, I quickly change and hoof it to Christ Church ready to participate in an event called Evensong, with fellow classmates. On my way, I pass hordes of people, mostly tourists. They’re everywhere. Clueless, unaware, and inconsiderate of other’s space (not me, of course), I’m getting annoyed. Then, for the first time, I see them; the homeless. Not many, but clearly a small group of downtrodden on the same block as Christ Church. There’s one man in particular who catches my eye. He’s visibly dirty and covered with hundreds of odd little bumps all over his skin, forehead, nose, cheeks, neck; everywhere (like acne, but way worse). Plus, his face is slightly distorted. His hands are awkwardly curled in front of his chest, like he’s reining an imaginary horse. He’s moving in my direction, and from this short distance, I see he’s skipping and smiling. He passes by, bouncing and prancing like a child, humming some happy little tune and grinning like he’s swallowed the sun. Then, it hits me. A wall of the most dreadful body odor that literally makes me cough. Instantly, I’m overcome with a slew of mixed responses: repulsed, disgusted, deeply saddened, laden with guilt, sweetly blessed by his presence, and horrified, all at the same time. I don’t know what to do. There’s nothing to do. I watch him parade away. The moment flickers like a flame, and I continue on, finding my people waiting at Tom’s Gate outside Christ Church.
Christ Church is one of the most famous of the famous places in Oxford. It was founded in 1546 by King Henry VIII. It’s a unique combination of church and university with nearly 600 million pounds in endowments and less than 700 students annually.
Alumni and associates of the college include William Penn (founder of Pennsylvania), John Locke, Albert Einstein, kings, prime ministers, and royalty from other countries. Most important to me, it was a site for the Harry Potter films. As it turns out, Evensong is a mass, sung by a world-famous choir. Imagine you’re in one of the wealthiest institutions of grandeur in the world listening to airy sounds of angelic hymns. It was a site to behold; beautiful, for sure, but… Well, after my experience just outside these very walls with the prancing homeless man, the word that kept coming to mind was, opulent.
I’m not trying to be political or ungrateful, but the stark contrast struck me hard. Life is just so freakin’ unfair sometimes and I find that very sad.
However, things carry on and the moment comes as quickly as it goes. My next adventure was already upon me in a text from my travel buddy, Tim. He’d found the perfect restaurant to celebrate the nearing conclusion of our time in Oxford. Btw, one of the quirky things that happened was unexpectedly running into Tim on the streets of Oxford. I mean, it’s not a small place and it happened at least three times! One day I was coming out of a second-hand store and there was Tim, looking to grab a snack. This evening, we were walking toward the same restaurant from different parts of the city and ran into each other on the way. Very serendipitous!
This is probably a good place to say, it was a wonderful thing to have a good friend to share this adventure with; especially since it was his idea! The place Tim chose for dinner was Gourdans, one of the top places in town for steak. Holy cow! (Sorry, I had to...) Gourdans did not disappoint. I won’t bore you with the details of our sumptuous repast (it takes them three days to make their au jus!); let’s just say it was (what’s the word I'm looking for?!), opulent?! (Well, dang...)
Thursday, July 28: A Scene is Born (or... Washing Oxford Blues)
It’s presentation day! I wake up feeling great and ready for the day. On the way to class, I skip breakfast and stop at Gail's for an almond croissant. Now, let me just say, it was good, but Gail's is nothing compared to GR's very own Wealthy Street Bakery.
Four of six students present, taking the full 2-1/2 hours of morning of class. I go last. The process was simple yet thoughtful. We previously shared our scripts electronically. Shaun, our tutor, and other classmates volunteer to read as moderator and characters, freeing me up to listen intently to the proceedings. This may sound arrogant, but it was a real delight to hear the play scene I’d written come to life. Not because it’s great, but because five days ago the idea didn’t even exist. Now, this creation was being manifested before my ears. Of course, it wasn’t perfect; that wasn’t the goal. The reading took about 10 minutes. The following verbal critique and discussion took about 40 minutes. Fellow participants offered suggestions, questions, and ideas I’d never considered. Compliments were given. Changes were advised. And the script I created and released into this little world, became better for it. What’s more, by powering through the learning curve and the dip, I’m better for it.
After lunch, my OU requirement for writing and research was complete, which meant a little extra time to stroll the town. I’m not a fan of big crowds, so after a couple hours, I head back to Keble. My plan becomes: do laundry and try to snag last-minute tickets to a local production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Sounds perfect, right? I start laundry at 3:30 p.m. and my clothes are still in the washing machine at 6:00 p.m. (What the heck?!) Well, evidently, I pushed the wrong buttons (I do that sometimes). My poor clothes were stuck in an eternal washing pattern. I’d check every half hour and even tried to cancel the cycle (I couldn’t find the plug). No luck. By the time they were dry, it was around 6:45 p.m. and I missed the play. Not only that; my beige zip-off pants turned light grey! Ugh.
The good news? In Oxford, there’s always a nearby pub to drown your sorrows. I grab my book and head down the street to King’s Arm. It’s completely packed, but I luck out in finding my favorite little private window nook. I settle in with a plate of comfort food and my last taste of authentic fish and chips, topped off with a nice cold pint. Cheers!
Friday, July 29: The Final Scene
I can’t believe it’s the last day. At least I have clean clothes. Breakfast at Hogwarts seems a little sweeter. The walk is a little slower. Traffic seems more normal. And the final presentations of classmates go as planned. We end our session critiquing scenes from one of Shaun’s favorite rom-com films, Before Sunrise. Ironically, other students don't like the film, so it’s a funny, quirky ending to an otherwise insightful, amenable week. Lunch comes and goes, uneventful, as does the afternoon.
Evening dinner is our final reception and sendoff. It was a little bittersweet. One classmate, John, left early to enjoy time with grandkids. At dinner, we were all awarded ‘certificates of completion,’ while reliving some our favorite moments over sinuous wine of good spirits. I’d like to share a little about each of my five classmates and their script ideas.
Angelica is a mid-50s, multilingual professor from Germany. Her play was based in outer space, about a married couple with a robot friend who use to be their servant. The man was addicted to a space drug supplied by the droid. By the end of the scene, they were setting off on a quest to save the world. Faith is a 20-year-old from Lancaster, Pennsylvania who hopes to 1) attend Oxford to become a novelist, and 2) be married to her boyfriend soon. Her script idea was incredible. It was set after the civil war, about a woman with Alzheimer’s living with her son’s fiancé. The son returns after five years of being gone, creating all kinds of family drama. Christine, mid-60s, is community volunteer from Palo Alto, California. She based her script on a book called, Blessings. The main character is an elderly woman who is being robbed by two men, former classmates. Christine is a widower, formerly married to a French businessman and there was more to her than she let on. (Photo below L-R: Joanna, Christine, Faith, Angelica).
John, late-60s, is a quick-witted intellectual from northern England. He’s a former hospital executive and self-proclaimed agnostic-atheist. We really hit it off; I thoroughly enjoyed his broadminded intellect. His script (to his surprise) became a predictable farce about a man cheating on his wife. It was very funny.
Joanna is from LA, California; a self-admitted new ager who was very well read and works in entertainment. Her play was about a husband and wife on a pirate adventure with the wife’s sister. Shaun, our tutor, you met earlier. He was a wonderful, colorful, storyteller who somehow brought us all together; people from different parts of the world with completely different outlooks.
After dinner, we all moseyed back to The Bear for one last tribute to Oxford. We recounted stories from the week, teasing each other about our fictional tales. Tim was also able to join us, now part of the crew. As the night wore on, classmates bid farewell one-by-one, until it was just Shaun, Tim, and I. Shaun, ever the storyteller, continued to regale us with tales of his adventures in Bristol and Italy, where he was working on various projects. After a bit, he parted too.
The last night in Oxford ended with Tim and I, toasting a farewell in the same place it began on our first night.
“A toast to The Bear! A toast to the beer! A toast to Woodbridge Ferris, without whom, we wouldn’t be here!” Farewell Oxford… thanks for the memories!