The Friday Frame {17} Monkey Nuts

On a recent visit to Oxford — almost a year to the day since I finished finals — we rapidly found our way back to our favourite pub in Jericho, the part of town near college. They have a huge barrel of monkey nuts that you can help yourself to, and tall plastic cups to carry them back to your table.  Cracking the husks and shaking out the nuts is a great way to pass the time, merrily showering yourself, your companions and the gingham tablecloths with flakes of dusty shell.

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All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Blenheim, Burgers and General Bumbling

Once we’d finished our exams, we found ourselves in the unfamiliar situation of being in Oxford with two weeks to go before the end of term and nothing in particular to do. Being in college with no essays to write and no exams to revise for was very weird, but with every intention of making the most of it, we set out to enjoy our last few days of university in the sunshine. I love a good list, so here are my three favourite things that I got up to in those last few weeks, with lots of photographs.

1. Blenheim Palace

I’ve loved visiting historic homes since I was little, and Blenheim was really interesting: it’s the birthplace of William Churchill so that’s a big focus of the exhibitions, but the guided tour also included lots about other residents of the house. There were collections of Churchill’s letters and diaries, giving an insight into his personal life and not just his well- known wartime persona. I was especially taken with the story of his life long love affair with his wife Clementine, including how he was so nervous about proposing to her that she had to be taken on a ride around the palace grounds by another member of his family while Winston worked up the courage to ask. Given that the main image I’ve always had of the wartime leader was of a rather gruff, forceful man, it was nice to see a different side to him. It made me like him more.

His iconic World War Two speeches were also playing throughout the exhibition, and although I don’t tend to think of myself as especially patriotic, his speeches, and the amazing sense of unity which they inspired, really get to me every time. The grounds were also amazing, complete with their own lake, a huge stone bridge, a chapel and a rose garden.

2.  Burgers

One of the places I’ve wanted to visit since I got to Oxford is Atomic Burger on Cowley Road, a burger place famous for its American style burgers, fries and milkshakes. I’ll admit that things like ‘Diners, Drive- Ins and Dives’ on the Food Channel may have contributed to me wanting to try it! So when my brother came to visit for a few days we headed down there, and we definitely weren’t disappointed.

My brother had ‘The Garfield’, which was basically a burger with lasagna on top: the menu describes it as ‘so wrong but oh so right’, which just about sums it up! I had the ‘Audrey Hepburn’, which was topped with a fried egg, bacon and an onion ring, plus fries and the BEST strawberry milkshake I’ve ever had. My boyfriend had the ‘Dead Elvis’, which was topped with Swiss cheese, American cheese, bacon and onions. He also went for the ‘Dirty Fries’, which were loaded with beef chilli, aged cheddar sauce & jalapenoes: he was pretty much in heaven with those.

So lunch was awesome, and the surroundings made it even better: the menu describes those behind Atomic Burger as pop culture junkies, and that sums up the place. A TV plays loads of old music videos, the cornier the better, and the walls are filled with geeky sci- fi memorabilia. My brother said that eating there was like being in ‘Pulp Fiction’, which he reliably informs me was a positive thing. They also had cool ketchup/ mustard bottles: tick, tick, tick.

3. General Bumbling

What do students do when they finish their exams? Go to pubs. Lots of pubs. Well we did anyway. One of my friends has a pub crawl poster with about fifty pubs on which she’d been ticking off gradually throughout our degree, but in the last two weeks she went on a one woman mission in a bid to visit every single one. We also spent a lot of time lying on the quad in the sunshine, sleeping, and going to formal dinners. At times it was quite emotional, since we knew this was the last time that we’d all be in Oxford together, but I really tried not to let it all get too much. I knew that once I let the emotion overwhelm me I’d be useless, and I really wanted to make the most of my last few days. The photographs below are from a lunch I had with two of my best friends in a beautiful pub by a meadow just outside Oxford. It was quite a long walk there, which we spent setting the world to rights and laughing a lot: exactly what friends are for.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Escape to the Cotswolds

Picture the scene: it’s just over a week before history final exams begin. The most exciting thing that happened all week was finding that someone had stuck googly eyes onto the picture of the Greek philosopher in the library. You’re beginning to try to draw elaborate mind maps in your sleep, and all of your major life decisions revolve around transforming yourself into the ultimate revision machine. Bed at 10pm is completely necessary, and smoothies with spinach in (i.e. that taste like grass) have become your fuel in a desperate bid to avoid caffeine crashes.

Then, suddenly, your boyfriend tells you that his parents have offered to take you both away for a few days to the Cotswolds, the beauty spot just a few miles down the road. But, he continues, that would probably be far too stressful: can we really afford to take the time off at this point? Er, YES? Anything to escape the dreaming spires of expectation, colour-coding and mountains of books.

And so we ended up taking a weekend away at the perfect time. Here are some photographs from our mini-adventure: hum the theme tune to The Great Escape as you flick through them and you’ll get a sense of the thrill we got from sneaking away from Oxford in the height of revision season.

On the first day, we were in a small village called Burford when we emerged from one of the shops on the main street to be greeted by a strange sight, even by rural English standards. 17th century soldiers and musicians appeared to be marched down the centre of the road wielding peace flags. A man standing outside a shop selling an alarming range of different sized baskets (think, hot air balloon size) met our confusion with an explanation that it was ‘Levellers’ Day’. We were none the wiser, but when I googled it back at the hotel it turned out that the parade was commemorating an incident from the English civil war, when three Leveller soldiers were executed in Burford churchyard by Oliver Cromwell. The Levellers were a revolutionary group who advocated civil rights and democracy, and every year Burford plays host to a procession and series of debates relating to freedom and democracy in honour of these men.  You can find out more here.

After a night in the beautiful Dial House Hotel a walk around the grounds of Sudeley Castle was the perfect way to spend a sunny morning: it was just beautiful, the perfect antidote to dusty libraries set against a clear blue sky.

By the end of a lovely, sunny weekend we were feeling much better, and returned to Oxford as ready as we ever would be to face the dreaded spectre of the Final Honours School, but more on that to follow.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.