Sunday, 17 January 2010

Cornish Pasties and Arabian Nights

On Friday, I rambled around Oxford and sampled my first traditional Cornish pasty. In search of a phone lost on a bus (Danielle left hers on the seat on the way to the dinner at St. Hughes), I practically inhaled the hot, flaky delight of beef, potatoes, turnip, and onion and took joy from the fact the pasty shop sign featured Harry Potter Cornwall script. My companions and I dipped in and out of little artsy shops, tried not to gape at street musicians, and soon entered the part of city centre where many of the Oxford libraries are located.

"This is a dream, right?" I asked Colleen, "This isn't's too beautiful to be real, and I'm not here, really." She laughed and assured me we were truly there as I gazed in open-mouthed wonder at the exterior of the Bodleian.

Later, down Crowley Road and quite turned around, we experienced one of the ethnically diverse parts of Oxford. Rows of squashed together buildings (um, fire hazard?) of varying colors, devoted here to a Greek cafe, there to a Polish market. The sidewalks were packed with people in robes, strange caps, turbans. All speaking languages that made my head light with effort.

Perhaps this clash of smells and sounds contributed to our getting entirely lost...two hours later, our footsore and slightly limping band of three called a taxi from a free "car hire" phone in a Tesco (so useful!). Our return to Logan House allowed us just enough time to don theatre-going clothes and walk to The North Wall Arts Center in Summertown.

As for the Arabian Nights, ah! British storytellers worthy of medals, immersing the audience in the tales of Scheherazade, queen of Persia. Sandwiched between Betty and a boy from Holland whose name is pronounced Hi-eh, I marveled at the storytellers' use of hand gestures, witty words, and music. During intermission, I spoke with Hi-eh - we each divulged our favorite Disney movies (his being Fantasia and Bambi) and discussed The Golden Compass. At one point, Betty interjected to question him about Amsterdam's having legal weed and prostitution. I listened, amused. Moments later, our Dutch friend went to the bar for a drink and came back bearing orange-juice bottles for the four of us. Very sweet.

Only at St. Clare's here in Oxford would I start my day off with Cornish pastry and end with Persian folktales and a Dutchman buying me a beverage. Love it.

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