Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Most Epic of Weeks, Part I: Badders, Weddings, Yellow Pants, and Gypsies

My deepest apologies for being INCREDIBLY remiss in updating the blog. All of last week seemed to get lost in a blur of post-Badminton highs and a desperate shuffle to get work done before my best friend from Stanford, Clare, (who is studying abroad in Paris this term) came up to visit for a weekend of Royal-Wedding-pub-crawling-ball-going-May-Morning insanity. Needless to say, I didn't find a convenient hour or so to sit down and write things down! So here's what's been going down:


(How do you describe a man like Mark Todd? He's beyond legend and quickly approaching God - such an inspiration)

When I made my "Britain Top Ten" way back in December, I believe I called Badminton "the meccha of the sport towards which all lesser competitions look." After now making my first pilgrimage to the event itself, after so many years of watching and reading and hoping, I stand by that assessment 1000%. It was unbelievable, and I spent my four days in the Cotswolds in a haze of great sport, beautiful horses, the most heart-achingly idyllic British countryside I could imagine, and more horsey shopping opportunities than I could possibly know what to do with.

(The town of Badminton - unbelievably idyllic British beauty)

(Tweed Attack!!!)

To make it even more exciting I had press credentials, and so got to live the good life, eating catered lunches in the hospitality tent and getting access to things like private tours of the courses and the ability to stand in the main arena for the conclusion and prize-giving. This meant that I got to be literally a few yards from my all-time riding hero, Mark Todd, as he jumped to victory as the oldest winner in the closest Badminton in history. It felt unbelievably special to be there for that moment, and I'm just so thankful for the entire weekend. It was definitely hard to come back to the "real world" (as much as Oxford could EVER be described as real!!) on Tuesday morning!

(Badminton House)

(My 'shabby' view of the competition!)

The Royal Wedding

The Royal Wedding was another stalwart item on the "Britain Top Ten," and it goes without saying that it provided a significant amount of distraction in the few precious days that I should have been working in the lead up to the weekend. I'd already bought a huge amount of Royal Wedding tat (as the Brits call it), from the thimble to the spoon set to the paper doll kit, but still couldn't get over the displays that every window on High St suddenly seemed to be putting out for the occasion. To make things even more exciting, Clare was set to arrive on Friday morning and so was going to be there to join in the festivities.

(Seriously enjoying the "Kate + Will 4 Eva" at the bottom)

I flip-flopped about a thousand times about going into London vs staying in Oxford, and unfortunately work finally made the decision for me (which is a bummer of a reason to decide something if there ever was one): I had to get up early on Friday morning to finish a paper and then simply HAD to do some reading afterwards, so going into London wasn't going to happen. Fortunately, Corpus was having a viewing party in their auditorium, which Clare and I hustled to the second she arrived in the city, arriving just in time for the vows. We had altogether far too good a time making a running commentary of the entire ceremony, much to the chagrin of the possible Tories sitting next to us. I also admit I had a very hard containing myself when they starting playing "Jerusalem" (aka Hymn 110, the song we sang at the end of every single chapel and all-school function at Middlesex), and definitely sang along loudly despite numerous sidelong glances from the British kids around me. A serious prep-school-ftw!! moment =)

(Ok, this picture has very little to do with anything, but I think it's a hilarious testament to the extent to which the Royal Wedding is an international phenomenon. This photo was taken by a friend of a friend at a hippie music festival in South Africa - check out that William and Kate banner!! Amazing)

Afterwards Corpus, in the spirit of the celebration, decided to stage a wedding for the two college tortoises out in the garden. I have no idea how they came up with this idea, but as my general reaction to most things British is still "... I don't get it," I've learned to just roll with it. There were definitely top hats and tailcoats present, as well as scones and a lovely view of Christchurch Meadow from the back of the Corpus garden. It felt very Oxford in the best possible way.

(High Tea at the Rose = super classy times)

Clare then followed up the celebration with our own High Tea Extravaganza at The Rose, which is the super-classy tea place down the street from the Stanford house. They serve an entire menu of loose-leaf teas that even I, as an only occasional tea-drinker, find addictive, and pair them with warm scones fresh out of the oven and generous servings of clotted cream and strawberry jam. Nommmm.

Yellow Pants and Gypsies

After a brief dead man's nap (both of us had been up since 4am, after all, for various reasons), we hit the town again for a tour of some of Oxford's more famous pubs. We got out too late to get to our first choice dinner option of classy Japanese fare and so ended up grabbing a quick dinner at a possibly embarrassing fast food establishment (ok... it was McDonalds), but quickly made up for that streak of Americanism by heading over to the Turf, which has got to be my favorite looking pub in Oxford. You have to walk down this incredibly twisting and narrow alley to get there, and then it has a thatched roof and the ceilings are so low inside that people my height have to duck to avoid beams. In other words, it's basically an honest-to-god Hobbit House. It's also the place where Clinton, as a Rhodes Scholar, allegedly smoked but didn't inhale: classy.

Clare and I met up with another friend from the Stanford program there, and as we were wrapping up we ran into a few kids from Corpus, including the legend that is JW. Despite being actually from the Netherlands, JW has got to be the absolute poshest British person I've ever met, from his clothing to his phrasing to his straight-from-the-House-of-Lords accent. I'd already pointed him out to Clare because he'd been one of the most over the top tailcoat-wearers at the tortoise wedding, and he now completed his legend status by showing up in yellow pants and layers of pastel oxford shirts and a pink sweater-vest. I haven't seen such prep since high school. Awesome.

After a moment of brief introduction, we noticed that one of JW's friends had a substantial cut on his face, and that JW himself had blood splattered on those bright yellow pants. We quickly asked what happened, and it turned out that the boys had gotten into a scuffle with some Travelers (British gypsies) in the northern part of town when they'd tried to "move" the Travelers' caravan. Listening to JW describe what sounded like a rather serious situation in his categorically offhand accent had to be one of the weirder things I've ever heard. It wasn't until we pointed out to him that he'd gotten some blood on his yellow pants that he showed even the slightest agitation, and then proceeded to ask everyone in earshot different strategies for getting stains out of colored pants. When we told him cold water was his best bet, he left at once to remedy the situation. I'd never seen him move so quickly. Like I said: legend status.

We then visited The Cape of Good Hope (aka the place where they sell Früli, the strawberry beer) and the Cricketer's Arms before calling it a night at around midnight. This has ended up being a bit of a novel and I've got a tutorial to get to, so I'll continue with Saturday and the rest of the weekend (Exeter Ball! Sunset-Sunrise partying! May Morning! Clare's first bangers and mash! and so much more) either later today or tomorrow.

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