Archives for posts with tag: Shadowlands

Monday: Smiling in the rain and an informal date night

I rode my bike to class Monday morning. For Greek. In the rain. It was coming down pretty good. And I was soaked by about halfway to class.

Normally I would be terribly frustrated by this. I am not a fan of being in sopping wet clothes. Like many, I suppose.

But it didn’t take long for me to remind myself that I was going to class. That I’m studying Theology. At Oxford. That I’m doing something I thought only a year ago I’d never actually get to do. And yet, here I am. Wet or not. I’m living out my dream.

Tacos and cards

We decided to stay in Monday night. Rather than go to dinner at college. To have dinner at home. Just the two us. And to play cards. We made tacos. More mexican food. And they were great.

It was a bit of an informal date night. And I loved it. It felt like we were back at home. Minus the fact that we were always so busy running back and forth at home, from here to there, that we never actually stopped to do something like this. Just the two of us. And I’m so thankful for that time together.

Tuesday: Dinner with Lewis’ godson

I had a load of work to get done early on this week. An essay to read for and write. And a fairly large Greek exam to study for. And some Greek translation. Not much free time whatsoever, but we had been invited to join a small group of people for dinner on Tuesday night. At a French restaurant here in Oxford. Pierre Victoire. On a little, brick road called Clarendon Street, with stringed lights criss-crossing overhead.

CS Lewis’ godson, Laurence Harwood, was going to be speaking at the Oxford CS Lewis Society’s lecture on Tuesday night. Sharing memories from his childhood of growing up around Lewis. And he was going out to dinner with a small group of people beforehand.

As there would be only a handful of people at dinner, it’d be pretty tough to pass this up. With as much work as I had to get done, I’m normally one to say, “I’d love to go, but…”. Fortunately Jen told me I needed to go. She was right. As she almost always is. She decided to come with, too. And I’m so glad she did.

It was so neat to hear stories from this man about Lewis. About the Lewis others never get the opportunity to hear.

“I feel like the movie Shadowlands paints this picture of Lewis that just isn’t accurate,” someone spoke up during dinner. Speaking to Laurence. I can’t now remember who. “That of a standoffish scholar. One who doesn’t allow anyone to get close to him. And one who particularly wouldn’t want to be around children. How does that compare with how you remember him?”

“Quite right. It’s awful. I always loved it when Jack came around,” Laurence told us. (Lewis went by “Jack” with all of his close friends, by the way).

“As children, we’d be playing games when he’d come over, and he’d get right down there with us. On the floor. At our level. He was genuinely interested in what we were playing, and he’d play with us. Not in a condescending way. He’d always beat us, of course, but we really enjoyed him.”

Laurence told us about how you could feel it when Lewis entered the room. Or Jack. That he was just one of those people with a powerful presence. But not in a bad, or scary way. That, even as a child, Laurence thoroughly enjoyed Lewis.

He told us how his father (a close friend of Lewis’) would always mentally prepare before Lewis arrived, knowing the mental battles that would ensue. And he told us how, even as a child, he’d love to listen in to the conversations. Not because he followed a word of it, but because of the sheer passion that would pour out from it. And how he loved being around the energy.

Laurence told us how Lewis never pushed his faith on him. That, even as a child, Lewis never bought him a book, subtly implying what he should believe. “Even though that was his role, as my godfather.”

And he told us about the letters Lewis would write. That he must’ve written more than 200,000 during his lifetime. How he’d spend a couple hours every day. Responding to those who wrote him. And how, as a child, Lewis would often include illustrations in his letters. To make a point. If, for example, Lewis wrote about a book he was writing that had a bear in it, he’d draw a picture of a bear. Not in the margin, but right there in the middle of the paragraph. Laurence told us how he’d always look forward to receiving these letters.

It reminded me of my grandpa. It seemed like something he’d do. Or used to do. For me. As a child.

Laurence shared a slideshow with us during his lecture. Old photos of Lewis. And he could tell a story for each. One of the photos was of Lewis sitting on a hill with his good friend Owen Barfield and Laurence’s parents. The photo is still hanging on the walls of Eagle & Child.

Laurence has a book out. I didn’t manage to get a copy. I wouldn’t have mind having one. Signed. But they were gone by the time I managed to make it to the front of the room after his talk.

We made it home around 10 that night. After dinner. And the talk. Me walking my bike. Jen walking beside me.

Jen skyped with her family. I made my way upstairs to study. I had a Greek exam the next morning. 10:00 quickly turned into 1:30. After feeling I had crammed enough, I made my way downstairs. To make my second dinner. Leftover tacos.

Turning in at 2:00. It’s becoming a terrible habit.

Thursday: small group

We made it to small group Thursday night. At St. Andrew’s Church. Just down the street from us.

It was the second time we went there. The two of us.

We talked with a girl over dinner who moved here several years ago. She told us this was the first church she visited after arriving. And how she hasn’t been anywhere since. She told us she wasn’t a fan of the whole church shopping business. I nodded my head, telling her I could respect that.

We’ve been to one other church since arriving. We went to a small community church with Lyndon and Mim last weekend. Before joining them for lunch at their home afterward. We had a great time. The food is always so good. And those two are just amazing people to be around. It was Jen’s first time meeting Mim, and the kids. She loved them.

But I really haven’t felt like visiting many other churches. There’s one Rob and Vanessa go to I wouldn’t mind checking out. But, I guess I feel like, church is about more than just the message, you know? I feel like I’m realizing it’s really what you make of it, if that makes sense. I’m realizing it’s probably more about finding a community and being a part of it than what you get out of it. Than about how it tastes.

This church is made up of a group of people. Broken people. Not perfect. That church is the same way. Maybe a little better looking people. Maybe a bit more well off. But still broken. This church may have a decent speaker. That one might be a bit better. But I feel like, maybe that’s not the point. I don’t know. Sorry if I’m taking a bit of a tangent here. I guess it’s just, we walked out of church that night, and I couldn’t help but think how grateful I was for the community we had found.

Two girls had prayed for Jennifer that night. Separately. Not because they had to. But because they wanted to. They prayed that this transition would go smoothly for her. That she would be comforted. That she would know what it is she’s supposed to be doing. That she would build friendships here in Oxford. And, afterward, one of the girls gave her a hug. Eleanor. The one from Ireland. The one that got me with the Sleepless in Seattle joke.

And, I don’t know. I guess that just took me back a bit. That we could come all this way. So far from home. And find people who want to care for us. Who genuinely want to help and love us. And I don’t know. I guess that’s the beauty of the Church, in a way. That we can have a family so far from home. No matter where we are, that we can find someone who has received from Him the same love that has been poured out onto us, and who want to share that love with us. It’s nice to be recipients of that kind of love.

Walking home, I told Jen how thankful I was for that. She agreed.

Friday: A story in Greek, drinking from a fire hydrant and a date night with Jen

I’m about ready to break up with my bike lock, I’m afraid. Or Justin’s bike lock, for his bike, I should say. It’s been neglected for quite some time. It’s beginning to rust a bit inside, I believe. But it’s terribly frustrating. I find myself spending more time trying to lock it or unlock it than I actually do trying to get somewhere. It took me five minutes to ride a mile and a half to class this morning. It took me eight minutes to unlock my bike lock.

I arrived in front of the exam schools for Greek right on time this morning. Then I literally watched Rhona arrive several minutes later. And Lyndon several minutes after that. All the while I struggled to get my bike lock to release so I could lock it up and go to class.

It was dreadful. The sweat was beading up on my forehead and dripping off by the time I was through. I wasn’t sweating when I arrived.

But then I get out of class and it works great. The first time. It’s like that terrible girlfriend. The one who treats you horribly 99% of the time, but then that one day, she smiles at you. Or says something nice. And you think to yourself, “Okay, I’ll give her one more shot.”

It’s funny, because at home, I wouldn’t think twice about buying a new bike lock. But here, the idea of spending £25 on a new bike lock. Well, that’s groceries. Ridiculous. This girlfriend may be around for awhile.

At the end of this life

Rhona was telling a story when I arrived in class. I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is the majority of our time in Greek. Anecdotal stories. But I liked this one.

She was talking about a man who had served in the first World War. About how he had literally come from nothing. And how he had worked hard, making a name for himself after the war. As a businessman. And how he managed to do quite well for himself. And how he was able to take care of his family.

Rhona told us about how, when he had grown old, he began to lose much of his memory. And his general awareness began to fade away. So that his family had trouble talking with him as they once did. But the one way his family was still able to connect with him was by reminding him of this fact. How he had taken care of them.

She told us how his daughter would visit him. How she’d bring him a cup of tea and say, “I am so thankful for all you’ve done for our family. You really have provided so much for us.” And he’d smile. He’d remember. And they’d connect over that thought.

Rhona finished the story, pushed her index finger down into the Greek textbook she had been holding open in her left hand and said, “Right…” as she seems to do when she transitions from her stories back to Greek.

I still have no idea what the context was for this story. Probably a Greek vocab word of some sort. But I liked it. I think that’s what we all want in a way, isn’t it? To be able to look back at the end of this road and know that we made a difference. To know that, somewhere along the line, our life had an impact on another life. Or lives. And to smile at the thought of it. I know that’s what I want.

Drinking from a fire hydrant

It’s the end of week five of classes here. Crazy to think. It’s gone by so quickly. Four more weeks and this term will be done. And we’ll be getting ready for Christmas. Hard to believe.

School is a frantic pace here. Unsurprisingly, I suppose. But you can see it on people’s faces. Tired. Lots of yawns in class. Baggy eyes. People don’t want to respond to questions like they did before.

But, oddly, I’ve found myself feeling better about things. I’ve felt like I’m beginning to adjust to the pace. You arrive here and quickly find yourself stunned by the pace. Wondering how you’ll ever keep up the sprint, when it seems like you’re running a marathon. You find yourself certain you’re never going to be able to do it. That you’re going to fail. It feels so overwhelming. But then you just do it. You realize you have a pile of work to get done, and not much time to get it done in, but you do.

And I think it’s probably that way with most things in life. We all have things that seem impossible. Or overwhelming. We find ourselves wondering how in the world it’s all going to work out. But then you just go after it. You get your hands dirty. And it works out. But if we never get our hands dirty, then our fears are right. It will be impossible.

It’s a bit like drinking out of a fire hydrant, being here. The workload. You can feel bad. And get frustrated. Over how difficult it is. Because it is. And it seems unreasonable that someone doesn’t turn it down just a bit. Or you can realize everyone’s drinking out of the same fire hydrant. And it’s not going to slow down when it comes to your turn. You simply do as much as you can and find contentment in that. That’s how I’ve managed to keep my sanity in it all, at least.

I received my first perfect exam in Greek this morning. From the exam I took Wednesday morning. After staying up until 2. Sorry if it sounds as though I’m bragging, it’s just, when I arrived, I was getting only a handful of questions right. Literally. Four or five out of 25. It’s nice to feel like you’re able to get a decent drink from the hydrant every now and then. I’m sure I’ll be drowning again in only a few days.

Dinner from a truck and Romeo & Juliet

We had a date night in Oxford tonight. Jen and I. Jen noticed the other day that Romeo & Juliet was playing at the Oxford Playhouse. And I had been wanting to eat out of a food truck parked in the city center. So we put the two together and we had ourselves a date night.

I hadn’t realized it before, but the name of this particular food truck was Husein’s. Can’t say it didn’t give me a bit of pause. But I was still excited. Jen has always refused to eat from the taco trucks back home, even though I love them. So this was a treat.

A woman was waiting for her food when we arrived, so we had some time to look over the menu.

And it’s a good thing. The menu was all over the map. They had everything. Pizza. Kebabs. Burgers. And egg burgers. I’m still not quite sure what an egg burger is.

Jen went with the burger and chips. I decided to try the Kebab. Which isn’t what we’d think of by a kebab back home. No meat on a stick here. Which I was disappointed to find out.

Hot chunks of chicken and lamb were served on a warmed piece of naan bread. Then they piled on mixed lettuce and cabbage and onions. A couple tomatoes and pieces of cucumber. And then a good dose of tzatziki sauce to top it all off.

We found a seat beside a large statue in the middle of the city center. On the stairs. Cars passing by on either side. Under the dark night sky, lit up by the shops that lined the road.

I had no idea how I was going to eat my pile o’ kebab. But I did. It was messy. Not quite as messy as a birth, mind you, but pretty messy. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

I told Jen it was pretty good, but the Alternative Tuck was still the best deal in town. She agreed. I told her I got thinking about it this week, and I realized I can’t remember the last time I ate something other than paninis from the Alternative Tuck for lunch.

She nodded.

“It’s the highlight of my day,” she said. “It gets me into town.”

I’m not alone.

We wrapped up our food and made our way down the street to the Oxford Playhouse. Just a few minutes before it was scheduled to begin.

I figure if you’re going to take in a Shakespeare performance, England’s not a bad place to do so. The accents made it seem, well, like it was supposed to be performed, I guess.

It made me remember when Jen and I visited England last summer. And when we toured London. We got to see a small church hidden down a terribly tight lane. It was the location where Shakespeare’s work was first performed. For the Queen. With Shakespeare himself playing the lead role. It was pretty unbelievable.

Tonight’s performance was a pretty modern take on the story. The dialogue was the same, but the characters looked like they were straight out of London. Mercutio wore Chuck Taylor’s. Romeo wore his jeans tucked into high tops. Juliet wore a flannel button up shirt over a pink dress, over black tights, with high, dark-colored lace up boots.

But the performance was actually quite good. Apart from Juliet. I told Jen she reminded me of Kristen Stewart. She agreed.

“I didn’t like her,” she said. “She wasn’t how I pictured Juliet.”

“Too flighty,” I suggested.

But it made me realize how brilliant Shakespeare was. And why his works still draw crowds. He really was amazing with words. I enjoyed that part of it, for sure. Listening to him paint a picture of the dawning sun. Or describe the pain of losing someone you love.

And his works are so unlike modern works. Leaving you hanging. Feeling so unresolved. Not neat and tidy in the least bit. A bit like life, I suppose.

We decided to wrap up the night with a stop into G&D’s for ice cream. Not a bad way to wrap up a great date night.

Things are changing

I love our walks home. Jen and I together. Not driving. But walking. Sharing the cool night together. Feeling the pavement underfoot as we catch up on life. And all that’s been happening.

Things are changing quickly here. The leaves are falling from the trees. The same richly colored leaves that provided cover for a streetlamp only a couple weeks before…

…have now fallen to the ground. Leaving the skeletal tree limbs to stretch out into the night sky. And the streetlamp naked to those passing by.

Things are changing so quickly, it seems.

The Dream Giver

Steve told me the other night he’s reading a book he gave me two Christmases ago. The Dream Giver. He’s re-reading it. With Jamie.

It’s a great read, if you haven’t already. Not the kind of book I’d normally pick up for myself, but I read it because I trusted Steve’s thoughts on it. The first part of the book is a story. About someone who decides to follow their dreams. A “Nobody” from “Nowhere.” That’s the main character. And the story is about all of the obstacles he faces as he steps out in pursuit of his dream.

I remember reading this book and thinking how it was a great story, but that it must’ve been written for someone else. I simply wasn’t the type of person to have dreams. And I certainly wasn’t the type of person to go after my dreams. And yet, here we are. In Oxford. In pursuit of a dream. It’s still so hard to believe.

Thanks for daring me to dream big, Steve.

I was invited to CS Lewis old home not long after arriving here in Oxford. After only a matter of days, really. For tea. Just a small, private group of Lewis fans. And I’ve been looking forward to it ever since.

Cole set it up for us. He lived there at the Kilns last year. So he still had the connections to make this happen. And after hearing Jen & Steve would be here on the day of the tea, he made sure to let me know they were welcome to join us as well. Great guy.

Monday: The lion guy, tea at the Kilns & a formal dinner

I’ve been surprised to find that CS Lewis isn’t a bigger deal here in Oxford. Being where he lived and taught and wrote for so many years. I’ve brought up his name as the reason why I’m here to several people, and, on a couple occasions, I’ve been met with faces that looked like they had no idea what I was talking about. Not every time, but on more than one occasion.

One person thought I was talking about Lewis Carroll. The author of Alice in Wonderland. Carroll also studied here at Oxford. At Christ Church. He was a brilliant mathematician, apparently. I’m sure they were scratching their head on that one for a while, trying to figure out how Lewis Carroll would make me want to study Theology.

I don’t know, maybe it seems funny to some people. You can almost see the look on their face. Almost as if to ask, “Wait, the lion guy, right? The one who wrote about the kids who went into the wardrobe? That one? That’s why you’re here?”

Yep, that’s the one. But I never actually read the Narnia series. I’m not a big fan of fantasy. I have a terribly limited amount of time to read and a massive list of books I’d like to read. And so when I do finally find time for it, I want to read something a bit more meaty. I want a big steak. I don’t have much room for dessert on my plate.

No, for me, Lewis is the man who, in Mere Christianity, put his arm around my shoulder and said, “You don’t have to feel like a fool for believing this stuff.” And that was the first time I ever felt that way. The first time I ever read him. During my sophomore year of college. My first time around.

Lewis took a logical approach to dig through the beliefs of the Christian faith. Using analogies and reason to talk about things like whether Christ was just a man or something more. And that was so foreign to me. That approach.

As I read through his pages, I found myself encouraged, that I didn’t have to leave my reasoning at the door to approach this stuff. The stuff of the faith. In fact, I felt like he encouraged me to dig into the faith in a way I never had before. For he’s the one who put my hand in the hand of the Lord’s and said with a smile, “Go for it. Go the whole way, and don’t feel like you have to apologize for it.”

And as I did, I felt my relationship with Christ grow deeper. I felt my faith open up and awake in a way it never had before. Probably because it was the first time I felt like I could put both feet in. And, ever since then, I’ve wanted to help others do the same.

Tea at the Kilns

Jen, Steve and I took a bus to the Kilns on Monday afternoon. It was a short ride from Oxford’s city center. Maybe 15 minutes.

Jen spotted the sign as soon as we got off the bus for the Kilns, letting us know we were in the right spot.

We walked down a short lane and, sure enough, there was Lewis’ old home. Just as Cole’s directions had explained. A smallish cottage. Surrounded by trees and a garden. Just peeking out from behind the greenery.

Two small signs identify the home. One on the top left corner reads, “The Kilns.”

The second, a small blue plaque, the same style found on Tolkein’s house across the street from where we’re living, tells the dates Lewis lived here.

A small black cab was parked in front of the house when we arrived. Walking up, we saw Walter Hooper get out.

Walter was Lewis’ secretary before he passed away. They had been in touch for many years before that. Sharing letters back and forth across the Atlantic. Walter moved here shortly before Lewis died, and he’s been here in Oxford ever since. Writing. About Lewis, mostly.

I first met Walter at a CS Lewis lecture here at Oxford. Shortly after arriving. He was incredibly nice. And soft-spoken. He told me he’d have to have me over for tea at some point. I was pretty excited to hear he’d be joining us for tea on this afternoon, as I knew he’d have plenty of stories for us.

“Walter, hi,” I said with a smile as we approached. I held my hand out to greet him.

“Ryan Pemberton. We met at the Lewis lecture a few weeks back.”

“Yes, yes, of course,” he said in his soft-spoken voice. “Nice to see you again, Ryan.”

I introduced Walter to Jen and Steve. I told him how they had just arrived a few days earlier, and that they’d be joining us for tea.

He greeted them. Warmly. Like he was genuinely happy to meet them. And then he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small journal. The same small journal he pulled out when I met him before.

“I’m just going to put your names down here,” he said. “And look who that is,” as he opened the page to my name.

Walter told us how he had lived here for several years. With Lewis’ brother, after he passed away. He told us how Lewis and his brother bought the home for £2,000. And how Tolkein had encouraged them to buy the property next to the house for an additional £200, but they didn’t have the money.

He told me how Lewis and his brother used to go for walks. Around the lake behind their house. Behind the Kilns.

“Would you like to go see it?” he asked. It sounded like a trick question to me.

“Yeah, that’d be great,” I told him, with big eyes. So we headed up the hill, toward the lake. The muddy trail squishing beneath our shoes as we walked.

We came to the top of the hill and all of a sudden it opened up into a tree lined lake. Leaves were falling from the trees. Swirling round and round before landing on the surface of the lake. Into a pool of ripples. Ducks floated softly by. It was beautiful.

Walter told me how Lewis used to love swimming here. In the lake. And I thought that was so funny. I guess I never pictured Lewis as a swimmer. Probably because I never pictured him without a pipe in his mouth.

Walter told me some more stories as we walked. Stopping to point out a brick bench that overlooked the lake. Telling me about how the area used to be. About how much it had been developed since those days. About all the new homes. About how it looked before. In that soft-spoken voice you could listen to for hours.

We made our way back down the hill. Along the muddy trail. Back toward the Kilns. Knowing tea would soon be ready.

Rhona (my Greek professor) and her husband arrived just as we did. On their bikes. They were joining us for tea as well. They both looked winded from the ride. But happy to be there. They both wore wide smiles.

Rhona’s husband, Chris, is the dean of Christ Church here at Oxford. Pretty big time position. But he was super down to earth. Just as Cole had described. Great guy to talk to.

After introductions, we made our way into the house. For a tour. And for tea.

The first room we came to was the living room. A desk set just below the window on one wall. While two bookshelves sat on either side of the fireplace on another wall. A couch and a couple chairs rounded out the room. Several photos hung on the wall. Of Lewis. And of his wife. Joy.

Walter pointed to one of Lewis and told me that was the last day he was ever photographed. And that he (Walter) had taken the photo.

I looked over the books on the shelves. Not the originals that were there during Lewis’ day, but lots of his books. Lots of very early editions. I took an early edition copy of Screwtape Letters from the shelf and flipped open to the first few pages. “To JRR Tolkein,” it read.

The shelf held some books about Lewis, as well. Including this one by Walter.


We continued our tour. Making our way into what has been setup as a library. It was a garage before. Now it holds books. Lewis’ original signed marriage license to Joy. Memorabilia from when the movie Shadowlands was filmed. And the original Eagle & Child sign, which Walter managed to get from the restaurant and donate to the Kilns.

We were talking about Lewis’ writing. Walter and I. About how he managed to do what the Theologians of his day couldn’t. About the way in which he managed to pair logic and reason with wonderful analogies to paint a clear picture of the rather complex points of the faith.

“That’s where his intellect and imagination really came into play,” Walter said. “It was the perfect combination.”

Walter told Steve he must hear some great Theology from me. I shook my head, sheepishly.

Steve told Walter I was actually quite the writer myself.

I told Walter I felt like there was an opportunity. To reach people of my generation. With the things of the faith. In a format they’d want to pick up and read. He told me he agreed, as we made our way back to the front of the house for tea. He told me he thought that’s something we needed to do. And it made me smile, knowing we were on the same page.

“This is an official English tea,” Rhona told us with a smile as Jen took a seat beside her.

It was amazing. Fresh scones. Still warm. Jam. Lemon curd cream. Biscuits (cookies). Cucumber sandwiches (no, I had never heard of them, neither). And, of course, tea.

We ate and talked. And laughed. I sat between Jen and Walter. Steve sat across from us. Walter told Jen I was the nicest guy he’d ever met. And that he hoped to be as nice as me someday. Took me completely off guard. I laughed.

I told Walter about how Steve had printed off my writing and made it into a book for my birthday a couple summers ago. His eyes got big behind his glasses. He told me he’d love to read it some time.

We enjoyed our scones. I took a second. Layering on the sweet berry jam.

And then I remembered that I had an extra copy of my book in my bag, beside the door. I grabbed it and handed it to Walter, apologizing for its condition after being in my bag for so long. It was pretty beaten up.

He asked me to sign it for him, and I told him I’d have to get him another copy. That I felt horrible giving him such a rough-looking copy. But that he was welcome to borrow this copy for as long as he’d like. That it’d mean so much to have him read it.

We wrapped up our tea and had a quick tour around the rest of the home. Stopping in Lewis’ bedroom. And his old study. And it felt so unreal. All of it. Like I was in some sort of a dream.

We had taken the bus to the Kilns. And we were planning on taking it home. But Walter suggested we join him in his cab. That it could drop us off after dropping him off at Mass. So we took him up on it. And we crammed into the back of the cab. The three of us. Jen, Steve and I. Thanking Cole for everything before we left. Before the black cab pulled away from the Kilns. I couldn’t have been happier.

Formal Dinner

We made it back home with just enough time to change. I had signed us up for the formal dinner at Harris Manchester that evening. I was excited for Jen and Steve to be able to enjoy it.

It was a formal dinner. Suit and tie for me. And my gown. I had asked one of the ladies in the Administration office what the appropriate attire was for guests earlier that day. She told me they should dress smart. Jen and Steve were having fun with that one.

“Does this look smart enough, d’ya think?” they’d ask.

We walked the 30 minutes or so to the college in the cool night air. And we made it just in time.

Arlosh Hall is beautiful. With high, vaulted ceilings and portraits along the walls. And I love it. All of it. The formality of it. Everyone standing behind their chair, waiting for the Principal to enter. Followed by the rest of the faculty. Then a short prayer and everyone’s seated. It was great to share all of it with Jen and Steve.

Apparently it was an exchange night. With another college. I had no idea. We sat next to a girl from Poland. She was from the other college. I can’t remember the name just now. But she was nice. Funny. And definitely a talker. Have only met great people from Poland. All three of them.

Lamb was on the menu for the evening. I’m not usually a fan of lamb. It usually tastes too much like lamb, I suppose. But it was great this night. Served with a light gravy sauce.

I told Jen I didn’t usually like lamb, but that this was great.

And instantly I could tell Jen didn’t know it was lamb. Her eyes lifting from her plate. She didn’t like the idea of eating lamb, apparently. I had no problem with it.

TuesdaySteve’s last night in Oxford

We went to an Irish pub by the name of O’Neill’s for Steve’s last night here. And it was great. The place had lots of dark wood. The bar. The tables. On the columns and the ceiling.

And the food was great. At least I thought so. Steve and I ordered the burgers. He wasn’t terribly happy with his. I loved mine. Thought about ordering one for the road. Jen ordered the fish and chips. I ate her smashed peas, as she is simply not a fan of peas. And I’m not a fan of letting good food go to waste.

We had a great time catching up one last time before Steve left. He told us about a weird dream he had had the night before. That apparently Jane had asked him to be their butler. And that he agreed.

He told us how he had to wear a tuxedo, and wait at the door for us to arrive. To open the door for us. With a towel over one of his arms. In stereotypical butler fashion.

“And I was so mad at you,” he told me. “I wanted to punch you.”

“Why? Because you had to open the door for me?”

“That and you had a British accent.”

I erupted into laughter.

We stopped into G&D’s for some ice cream on the way home. A nice treat for the walk home.

Steve finished packing when we got home. Tucking away the last of his things. Showing me some of the gifts he had picked up for friends back home. And he told me he had picked up a couple of things for me, handing me a bag.

I wasn’t expecting anything. I asked him if I could open it now or if I needed to wait. He told me to go ahead. So I did.

And I was speechless when I did. He had gone to St. Phillip’s. A used bookstore here in Oxford. Where Jen bought me a first edition copy of Broadcast Talks (which later became Mere Christianity) last summer. As a birthday gift. And he had picked up several early edition copies of Lewis works for me, including a first edition copy of Surprised by Joy.

I was speechless.

The last book in the pile. Or the one at the bottom, rather. That’s a book Walter Hooper put together. It’s a book of letters between CS Lewis and his best friend Arthur Greeves. It’s a first edition. I told you this guy’s an incredible friend.

He also got me a scarf. So I could look more Oxford. I’ve really been enjoying it.

We had a great time with Steve here. Both Jen and I. It meant so much for him to fly out here, so Jen didn’t have to make the tripe alone. To show her around town. So she didn’t have to experience it all on her own while I was in class.

It was tough seeing him go after such a great week. And we miss having him here, for sure.

My only consolation? A date night with my wife. Pizza and Die Hard. I have an amazing wife.

%d bloggers like this: