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.

Baking is good for the soul

So it seems I am no longer a student. The proof is everywhere: I am the reluctant owner of an Oxford alumni card, I spend most days trawling the internet in search of an Actual Real Job and the government no longer gives me any money. And to cope with the lethal combination of little idea of what the immediate future holds, and a huge amount of time to dwell on that uncertainty, I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. So, today I did something for the first time, I baked bread from scratch AND it was edible. It’s amazing the sense of achievement I got from making these french bread rolls, but I guess it’s the little thing in life.

I followed a recipe from the lovely Mel at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, a blog which I’ve become addicted to recently. This lady knows a hell of a lot about everything cooking related, and she has become like my cooking experiment fairy godmother. Within the post on the french bread rolls which you can find here, she has also linked to a tutorial on yeast which I found invaluable being a bread beginner, and with her expert guidance I am now the proud creator of 12 admittedly imperfect but incredibly beautiful bread rolls. (Well, 11 now.)

Russian proverb: ‘With bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree’. I guess all I need to do now is find a pine tree.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

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.

Winter in Oxford

Britain is a place where we have had to resign ourselves to doing most things in the rain, but it’s often difficult to find the motivation to spend unnecessary time outside when the heavens open. When it comes to a toss up between a pair of wellies and a cup of tea, I think most of us are prone to choosing the latter.

These photographs are from a wintery, wet and windy few days during Michaelmas term in Oxford. During an incredibly stressful term I found taking a wander and looking for ways to capture the little things here and there incredibly relaxing. As cliched as it may sound, there really is nothing like taking the time to look for the amazing and the unexpected in the seemingly grey and uninspiring world around you to give you a sense of the bigger picture. I’m all for roaring log fires and hot soup as the wind blows a gail outside, but try not to let the wintry months limit you entirely to the living room. You might be surprised at the beauty you find.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2013.