First trip to London
Happy Birthday Matthew Tindall
Tonight's event, in the residence of Canada's second most important ambassador, comprised about 300 Canadian graduate students. The residence was quite lavish: richly endowed with artwork and the various trappings of high class hosting facilities. The project of meeting and mingling with dozens of Canadians from Oxford, Cambridge, the LSE, and elsewhere was a daunting one for me, but one which I think I rose to dealing with fairly well. I met a few interesting people from the Environmental Change Centre at Oxford. In particular, Andrew Robinson from Trinity College, who worked for the UNEP and is working on a master's here now. Hopefully, I shall see them again.
On the bus ride out, I sat beside a Canadian woman who studied French previously and who is now studying law, with an aim to practicing in the area of shipping. In a few days, she is heading to her flat in the south of France, where she will be spending Christmas with her boyfriend. Despite her assurances that it will be extremely cold, I think there are a great many people languishing back in Oxford who will envy her the journey. Hearing her plans made me doubly glad about being invited to London for Christmas with Sarah and her mother. I enjoyed speaking with my co-national about points of law, language, and education - while heading southeast to London.
We disembarked at Marble Arch and soon found the High Commissioner's residence. As I said, the inside was quite opulent. I suppose that is unsurprising given the importance of Anglo-Canadian relations over the short but broad sweep of Canadian diplomatic history. I spoke with the Commissioner himself for a while, as well as with several members of the Canadian diplomatic service. Chris Yung was there, as were Emily and a number of the Rhodes Scholars who I met at the outset of the year.
After a few hours of mingling, the staff stopped serving drinks: a message for postgraduate students to leave as unambiguous as firing tear gas. Despite a brief attempt to relocate to a nearby pub, I soon ended up shivering at Marble Arch, waiting with Sheena and Emily for buses back to Oxford. They were picked up fairly quickly by an Oxford Tube, but I huddled a while yet while waiting for the X90. I would have liked to do more in London, but there is little that a person can do to access a city when it is rainy, strange, and dark. As I observed on the homeward bus ride:
How hostile, how alien a dark strange city in the rain. The solidity of buildings and the alienation from our huddled fellows all remind us how we are to be jolted and feared, rather than embraced.A bit grim, I know, but it was a chilly and unpleasant night in the period after which it became a solitary one. I was hoping to derive some motive energy from the great metropolis of London, rather than scamper back, spurned, to the small town of Oxford. That said, it was worthwhile and enjoyable to see what an extensive mass of grad students Canada has dispatched to England. While it does have the unhappy impact of reminding you how unexceptional you may well be, you still cannot quite help being impressed by it. (I really do hope that I manage to find some way in which I am properly exceptional, after all, before I leave here.)
The collective of experience of life now is such as to conjure intense questioning. Education is not just that investment of time and money that yields more money in the future. It is a wrestling with history, with isolation, and with our own limitations.
Self doubt is the main concern now. It's a thing that you can seek to defeat - building walls of false confidence around yourself. Alternatively, you can plunge right into it and pray that you will emerge wiser on the other side. That process can only be attempted along with the realization that we can falter and drown.
One piece of unambiguously happy news, in closing. Tomorrow morning, at 11:00am, is the final STATA lab. I hope that I shall never launch that most reviled of programs again.