230 Zenbakia 2003-11-14 / 2003-11-21


A basque in Oxford


Menu 5essi4es1onononononononononGAIAK    > >    2003/11/14-21 A basque in Oxford Xabier Ezeizabarrena, Basque Visiting Fellow, Oxford UniversityTraslation: Xabier EzeizabarrenaPhotos: http://www.oxford.gov.uk/oxford/leisure.nsf/pages/parks.html Michaelmas Term 2003/04, week 1 I arrived to Oxford just before the official startpoint of Michaelmas term and I do have already to assume my first homework. In fact, I am committed with myself to write down a little story on this experience. I should recognise previously that it was an original idea of Demetrio Loperena & Mr. Felix Doods, a well known lobby player before the UN who attend in San Sebastian to my goodbye hours, and promoter, among other projects, of the future inclusion of a Basque rugby team within the 6 Nations Cup, which may become with the Basques included, a 7 Nations Cup, number in any case much more interesting either esthetically or politically. Anyway, our departure point cannot be other that Oxford itself. The city of "Town & Gown", as a meeting point of British, European & worldwide academics and intelectuals of any sphere and colours, in that unbelievable rainbow which is the world. Likewise In the mighty mile done by Roger Bannister under the castle windows of Christ Church College in less than 4 minutes, but from the particular scope of the world represented by Oxford in the UK, so as in the whole Europe. This the story of my dreamed time at Oxford; this is the story of a dream that came true. In Oxford, there are 3 official terms of academic activity: Michaelmas term, Hilary term & Trinity term, chronologically located. But their dates are not relevant and do not make exactly the usual trimester. The important thing, therefore, are not dates, but what is happening in this excentric university town within and out those dates; within and out the seminar rooms; within and out the old taverns; within and out each one of those singular minds that live in this place, ruled by a certain and strange spirit of tradition, formalism and social and academic controlled anarchy. During Saturday morning I arrived to St. Antony´s College, entering through a tiny door similar to those ones of romanic monasteries, just along Woodstock road. Inside, I have been taken for another new student, until, once recognised by the porter on duty, he has given me my personal mail at the Pigeonshole inside the porters lodge. By the way, they informed me as well of a Sunday meeting to take place at the odd hour of 10pm, in order to know about the future plans for training of our rowing team. It seemed that they were interested of having a Basque involved so I promised them to attend to the meeting, inside the Hilda Besse building in the same St. Antony´s. Hence, few minutes later I had a second and unexpected experience. From St. Giles boulevard I have heard the rumour of a sacred melody, undoubtedly coming from a young choir inside the church. When I came into the church, they have given me very politely a couple of salm books, while I have been invited to sit down in front of the father and, of course, persuaded to sing. Everybody was indeed happy with my contribution and I have done my best tone. Michaelmas term, week 2 My second week in Oxford would insert yourselves in dreams I you let your minds fly around Oxford streets, monasteries, churches or meadows. In a short space of few apples you may find yourself entering at Edmund Halley's house whereat he discovered his comet; you may visit the Ashmolean, the oldest museum in Britain; wash your lips and mind in the same tavern where J. R. Tolkien designed his well known trilogy; or why not?, have even a swim at the meadow where the mathematician Lutwidge Dogson defined the formula for plane trigonometry. Along High Street, for many people, the most beautiful in England, one may follow the steps to the College of certain people like Samuel Johnson, Adam Smith, Jonathan Swift, Roger Bacon, Oscar Wilde, Graham Greene or Indira Gandhi, among others. But Oxford is in history much more than all these great names. The chronicles quote that during the XII Century some students from the holy orders pretend to travel to Paris to follow their studies; their project was not suitable for the King Henry II, and therefore their plan was directly banned by his royal highness. As a preliminary solutions all these groups decided then to meet together in Oxford monasteries, which was then only a commercial town on the Thames river, 55 miles away from London. Michaelmas term, week 3 During the last days I received the first official letter from St. Antony.s rowing team. The mail talked about a first outing to the river Thames. Actually, the mail was telling me to attend at 630h to the hall of St Antony.s in order to proceed afterwards to the river at its wider area in Oxford. The mail did not clarify if the reference was for the morning or afternoon, so I just requested on that issue to the trainer whether the reference was am or pm. In seconds, my email received again the moment for the meeting: 6 AM of that my second Friday at Oxford. I have no other remedy but to attend to my commitment and get ready to live the ever dream experience of rowing at Oxford. At 6 AM of this unforgettable Friday, I took my bicycle after a tiny breakfast and proceed happily through Banbury road to St. Antony.s during fair night, then leave the bike beside the monastery and face in front of my sport event, years after leaving my teenage times for basketball, athletics or tennis. In fact, it was 630 AM, there were not a single person at the College nor in the whole North side of Oxford, apart from our rowers prepared to flirt with the river. My hopes were clearly fulfilled. We started running in group at the mentioned hour in due course to the .Boat club.; we finished with Woodstock road, then cross St. Giles, Cornmarket, Hight street, Sant Aldates, and finally helm West at Christ Church College. In this point, Oxford becomes a sort of open landscape free for any sport or farming purposes. Actually there are several cows hanging around, while some of them are still sleeping on our way through the yards, fences, and an impressive tree way of different woods which connect our way to the wide part of the Thames in Oxford. After warming for a while, the first difficult task is to bring out the boat from the narrow and long garage, which is full of different college arms, flags and, of course, rowing instruments of every single colour and sizes. Once we were handling with the boat in the middle of the garage, all rowers followed the orders of the cox, that is indeed a boss out and inside waters of the Thames (Isis, by the way, in pure Oxford terms). - .Now, guys, two inches up.;- .On your legs at three.,- .On your shoulders at four.;- .Onto the water at three.. The crew, together with the cox, of obvious army origins, is composed by my friend from Tomsk, Markus, from Goteborg, Michael, from South Wales, a north-american called Shasha, Diego, from Buenos Aires, Jonathan, from Cape Town, Ernst, from Hamburg and myself. I would not like to be very clear on what happened while we were on the waters of .Isis., but when we were really rowing all together, that boat seemed to be flying above the waters; I can only add as well that we came back to college also running, and that I do know very well right know which is the meaning of our old Spanish phrase on what happens when someone just .puts in the stroke.. Back home, even my daughter Sofia noticed my exhausted body and soul; hands and bottom in fair decomposition, but indeed, inside, but very in my inside, I feel myself much younger.