I flipped the calendar last night for the second to the last time here in Oxford and it sort of stopped me in my tracks. It seems now that the time went by fast, when I know that in August and September the days were so long and heavy that I thought our time here would drag on and on and sadly so. My friend Natalie reassured me during those days that reaching the halfway point of any extended time away from home would signal a change in feeling. She couldn't have been more right. I clung to that thought in September and I owe her a lot of thanks for articulating that notion clearly at a time when I felt I could hear so little. Some healing time and two trips to Europe have bookended the intervening months and brought me suddenly to putting up Christmas lights.
"What do we still need to do?" Chip and I asked one another this morning. We have some "must dos" left:
1. Evensong at Christ Church
2. A Christmas dinner at a restaurant
3. Lunch at the Trout
4. Christmas shopping at Harrods, John Lewis and Carnaby Street in London
5. Ashmolean Museum
6. Lunch in one of trendy Jericho's restaurants
7. Train ride to Bath for Christmas market
8. A pint of beer during the day, in the sunshine, by myself! at the Head of the River pub---OH WAIT DID IT!
Checked off the list just hours ago, it was 12:20pm and I had about an hour of sunlight left--no kidding, the sun hugs a very shallow arc these days and a glimpse of the actual ball of fire requires a trip to elevated ground outside the hours of 10am-2pm. On my way home from the grocery store, I glanced down to the Head of the River patio--bright sunshine on the picnic tables. I made a beeline for them, rolling my little shopping trolley down the wheelchair ramps like the nutty old lady I'm becoming, grabbed the table most likely to stay in the sunshine over the next hour and ordered a pint of Fuller's and a bowl of soup. For three months I have walked by this patio and on sunny days seen people having beers in the sunshine and thought "I need to do that." After four days in a hotel with my adorably cuddly, close knit, claustrophobically (spellcheck suggested "catastrophically" which also fits) clingy children, a pint alone today sounded particularly good. Only my shopping trolley for company, I parked it across from me like a dining partner, confident that the weather would keep the raw chicken fresh. The temperature...aah, yes. 5 degrees-ish C. But when something's on the list, you have got to play through the pain. My only quick translation from Celsius to Fahrenheit is 37 to 98.6, which most health care experts like myself can tell you. But 5? Roughly, refrigerator temperature, which is why it now makes sense why the shopping trolley looked so happy. Not exactly impressive to my Wisconsin friends, but with no ski hill in sight and only wearing my fleece jacket and pashmina, I felt like quite the robust little Englishwoman. I turned my face to the sun and tried to soak up any meager UV light that might have made it through the atmosphere. By 3:30pm, it looks like this, so I feel fortunate to have grabbed that hour of sunshine today. Back to the list tomorrow. Almost time for tea, which is a good thing as I need to reinvigorate myself from my midday beer.