Thursday, 22 April 2010

3 a.m. Eternal

I drove my son back to Oxford yesterday, and as it was a pleasant day (in contrast with the treacherously snowy day at the start of last term) I took the opportunity to revisit some old haunts from my own student days. Pointless, really. That now quite remote past -- a time before personal computers, mobile phones, the internet, and even before such old-fashioned things as CDs and mixed-sex colleges -- seems almost as irretrievably historical as the 13th century when the college was founded. Just one day after another and, gadzooks, suddenly everyone is wearing shoes!

But some things seem eternal, and here is one of them.

That chunk of green glass set into a worn flagstone -- battered and chipped like a flint -- lies in the library archway that links the front and back quads of my college. It looks like the crudest lens you ever saw, and allows some dim light into the cellars below. It's one of my favourite things, and I am glad to have finally photographed it. Those cellars were sometimes a venue for illicit adventures in the small hours, and hopefully still are, but as I am not obliged to incriminate myself I will remain silent on that subject.

It was a rather sad visit, too, as one of my old playmates from those days -- who seemed a force of nature and with whom I had sat in the back quad only last year, and had hoped to do so again this year -- is now very unwell, bravely fighting a brain tumour. Just as time cannot be turned back, so can the future suddenly seem more uncertain than we had imagined. In the words of an old joke, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

And, talking of uncertainty and impermanence, here is a shot I took this lunchtime of the Faraday Building, slated for demolition, which I mentioned in the previous post.

Scary, or what? It is equally unsupported on the other side, too. Why it hasn't blown over in a strong wind, or collapsed on a day when the teaching was all happening on one side of the building, is a mystery. To walk in its shadow is to feel the need for a hard hat.

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