Oriel College, Oxford

Well, the rain flowed today, and so did everything else, by which I mean we seemed to be guided as much by coincidences and mistakes as by our plans for the day. I left the Hopkins conference an hour early by mistake, but that provided enough time this morning to stumble across an Enterprise Car Rental office willing to give us the family rate (my daughter Roo works for Enterprise in San Francisco) for tomorrow’s exploration of the Cotswolds. But the office was closing in 20 minutes. We flagged a cab that got us there with five minutes to spare. The Renault Megane was great, but it had a manual transmission. So my initiation in left-lane driving bore the added challenge of shifting with my left hand. I asked a postman for directions to Oriel College, then lurched down one-way streets and alleys before ending up, lost again, at the Visitor’s Bureau. While Darlene was inside getting a map, someone knocked on my window and I was sure it was a bobby with a parking ticket. Instead it was Jed Jones, the Royal Postman, who remembered our car and had walked over to try to help us again. We finally made it to Oriel, where the staff unlocked the lane in front of our dorm, and the Megane is safely parked for the night.

In the midst of these Hercule Poirot-style bumblings, Darlene and I each stumbled across new creative leads. She found a book of fish photos that she hopes to work into future quilts, and an inspiring poster of Marilyn Monroe on a bench lifting dumbbells. She also discovered a place for a sumptuous tea. I was struck by a profile of the late Edward Said in The Guardian and then in Blackwells happened upon his last book, Humanism and Democratic Criticism, which I bought on a hunch that it may contain new approaches to book reviewing.

The final banquet was held tonight in Oriel’s main hall, which after dark seemed even more like a scene from Harry Potter’s Hogwarth, with stern portraits glaring down at us from the high walls, including a huge illuminated rendering of Her Royal Highness herself.

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