Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 73: Christchurch Fellow

On Tuesday I had the pleasure of visiting (and meeting) another of my supervisors, a fellow at Christchurch College. I believe I have mentioned Christchurch before, one of the oldest and wealthiest colleges. Built in the 1500s by Cardinal Woolsey, it boasts one of the most beautiful halls in Oxford (also the inspiration for Harry Potter's hall), many famous alums, including John Locke, Carol Lewis, George Fox, and John Wesley, and a grand, immaculate courtyard.

Presumably, if you are a fellow there, you are top of the top. (I guess it doesn't mean too terribly much, however, because if you, a fellow at Christchurch, are in the top 10 percent of Oxford academics, who rank in the top 1 percent in the country, which ranks in the top x percent in the world, the numbers become very, very small and the differences hard to guage...) In any event, I have had a difficult time meeting with this fellow--this was my first time--but I was pleased to offer him a finished product, my essay for the term, about which we could discuss. He liked it, and I somehow felt quite pleased.

I was pleased and possibly amused in part because of the situation of his office in one of Christchurch's beautiful quads. Once I entered the code (no, I won't tell), entered the staircase, made my way up stairs that were so old, the stone had to be replaced in the middle, and read his newly-painted name atop his double wooden door (as in, there is an outer and inner door - why I don't know), I was frankly shocked that something so clearly exclusive and distinguished as his office could be so entirely messy. Not only were the hundreds of books--not a one--put properly on the book shelf (doesn't it take the same effort to lay them down the wrong way as to put them upright?), but there were journal articles littering the entire floor within a 4 foot radius of his chair. For an Oxford office (or set of rooms - a sitting room backed by a bedroom I'm not sure he used), it was well-appointed, with proper wall paper, light fixtures, and furniture that wasn't entirely shabby. But it was as if the dirty fairies came in the night to wreak havoc and the clean fairies couldn't bother to get up.

He also - this was particularly delightful - sat in his chair with his legs over the arm of the chair, sideways. I had to try hard not to smile at this, but I think he was closing his eyes most of the time, so he wouldn't have seen anyway.

I look forward to my next visit. Perhaps I should offer to clean.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! I've had this experience time and again in Oxford, and in other offices, academic and professional, for that matter. But many (amazingly) think it's not as easy to place the book upright on the bookshelf as it is lying down, especially if you intend to go back to it - a funny phenomenon, but once they get into the habit their memory serves the book/other item being in a certain position, in a certain place.

    On the other hand if one's books could be placed and replaced in an orderly fashion, would that free up even more memory space for more original ideas?