This weekend in Oxford was Summer Eights, one of my favourite weekends of the year. Last weekend was my 10 year school reunion, something I’d been looking forward to for a couple of years. Neither is that important – I’m in touch with the people from school I want to be, and the ones I’m not in touch with it’s generally because I have nothing in common except having been educated in the same place. And Summer Eights will happen again next year.
But still... between the two of them, I’ve been a bit gloomy about being away for the last couple of weeks. My boys from St Hugh’s won blades, the girl who used to cox M1 and is now coxing the women executed a beautiful t-boning of Queens, and, best of all, Pembroke ended 8 years in the wilderness by reclaiming the women’s headship. It’s not the big one for me – my headship ghosts were mostly laid when the men took the torpid headship this year – but it’s a big deal, with smashing boats and Pimms and sunshine and burning a boat in the quad. As if to rub it in, today was the hottest Summer Eights on record, with glorious 30 degree temperatures in Oxford and less dust than last year after a few weeks of rain.
It’s also something that I can’t talk about with colleagues. Rowing is niche even in the UK, though I could probably explain to a British person why I miss it so much. But the people I’m hanging out with here don’t know what Pimms is (and think it sounds disgusting), they don’t understand about duck tape, and most of all they don’t understand that when you live in a country where it rains most of the time, then the windows of sunshine are extra joyous, and none of those are things I can explain. The other point is that the gloom isn’t just about those two things – it’s also about the reminder that there’ll always be things I’m missing – weddings, christenings, 30th birthdays, Henley, the cricket, trips to Cornwall or Wales – without even getting on to the day to day niceness of England in summer – the Isis, the Perch, the river, and running in Oxfordshire.
What I’m trying to remember is that in January and February in Oxford I was going loopy, bored in my job and with my life, and terrified of waking up in 20 years time stuck in middle class, middle aged inertia. If I were still in Oxford I’d have enjoyed eights and a trip down to Dorset, but none of those were reasons to stick around. The work’s more interesting here, I’ve learnt loads already, and in many ways I can’t really remember why I was so apprehensive about leaving since it was so clearly the right thing to do. I’m glad I spent enough time in the UK after my masters to remember that it is home, and I can’t imagine being based anywhere else, but at least for the next year or two I’ve got no particular intention of going back. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to going back to Dakar, where I’ve got some Brits I can talk to about home stuff, and I’m desperately looking forward to a trip home in July and August.