Once again, it’s nearly Christmas and once again I’ve realised that I’ve been neglecting this blog. I have, however, found an amusing Christmas-related procrastination activity which involves substituting the word ‘Christmas’ for ‘Brexit’ in a variety of well-known festive songs. My personal favourites so far have been ‘We wish you a Merry Brexit’. ‘Oh I wish it could be Brexit Every Day’ and ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Brexit’. I’m currently listening to James Arthur singing Silent Night on Radio 1 so I feel now is the ideal time for my annual attempt to write something vaguely Christmassy.
12- the number of different basset hounds on my much treasured 2017 calendar in my room (having said that, you’d feel a bit short changed if there were fewer than twelve, in fact I think I’d have asked for a refund). One particularly distressing moment occurred when the June basset hound decided to fall dramatically from the wall and into the bin. No damage was done but I feel like the basset hound definitely looked even more mournful than usual.
11- the number of hours I have spent on the phone attempting to book assistance on trains. I feel like me and the bloke on the Cross Country assistance line have developed a special bond. Once he even felt we knew each other well enough to ask who I was going to see at Wembley Arena (it was James Arthur, obviously). Another important turning point in our friendship was when he suddenly started to call me ‘Jay’. I don’t know if it was just a crackly phone line or he felt that we’d got to the point where we could start using shortened versions of each other’s names.
10- The number of Villa games I’ve been to over the last year– being closer to Villa Park has continued to be one of the unexpected advantages of living in Oxford (although some would argue ‘punishment’ is a more accurate description). Villa still haven’t lost a game me and my brother have watched together. We even brought our undoubted footballing influence to the mighty Oxford United, who scored a 90th minute winner having no doubt just become alerted to our presence.
9- Number of times I’ve reminded my college that perhaps parking a lorry over the main access point wasn’t one of their better ideas– Apparently college has won awards for the initial phases of their rebuilding project, I can only assume that accessibility wasn’t on the list of criteria. They’ve continued to find ingenious ways to block my route. Last week they really went the extra mile, outdoing themselves by blocking the back entrance to college as well as the front. Don’t get me wrong, I love my college, but sometimes I feel like they don’t always make the most sensible choices.
8- number of times I’ve wondered whether our college tortoise actually exists. I remember being told last year about the existence of a wonderfully named college tortoise called ‘Aristurtle’. Naturally, I was quite excited to hear about something in college that may actually move around the grounds more slowly than me. However, distressingly, I am yet to see any actual proof of its existence. Here’s hoping 2018 is the year we can finally meet…
7- Number of students I’ll be teaching for a German translation class next year. From January, I’ll be faced with the terrifying/exciting prospect of teaching an actual uni class for the first time. I’m fully intending to exploit this position by starting with translating an excerpt out of Harry Potter. Who knew that looking at how to translate ‘Hippogriff’ and ‘Diagon Alley’ into German could be classed as work?
6- Times I’ve pretended to be a tourist to avoid having to give directions to people. My stock reply is ‘I’m new here too’ (which could be partially true if you take ‘new’ to mean ‘I’ve lived here for 18 months). Being responsible for people merrily heading off in the wrong direction is not something I especially relish. I feel like the Oxford United shirt I have recently bought and the fact I can now recognise the ‘we all hate Swindon’ chant slightly undermines my claim not to be ‘local’ though.
5- Number of times I’ve been to watch a local open mic night (obviously without singing myself, that would be very painful for all involved). One of my friends introduced me to a great open mic night in Oxford which has been a perfect way to relax and get away from the Oxford ‘bubble’. Bearing in mind a singing teacher used to complain that she could hear me singing out of tune at the age of 6, I felt that the best place for me was definitely in the audience.
4- Length in hours of the wheelchair tennis session I attended: If ever I needed reminding how tiring wheelchair tennis is, a mammoth 4 hour session teaching the basics of the game seemed to do the trick. I still couldn’t hit a backhand properly but I did find a good excuse to continue my attempt to masquerade as a die-hard Oxford United fan of many years. It was all going so well until they asked about whether I though the current team was any better than the one a couple of years ago…
3- The (minimum) number of years I found out I’ll be staying in Oxford for. In March, I was very surprised but also very happy to be offered a funded PhD looking at multilingualism in South Tyrol, a trilingual province in northern Italy. Despite all of the doom-laden talks which largely focused on how I would be unlikely to encounter another human soul throughout the three years of my research as I worked in a sinister darkened library, I’ve found far more social opportunities than I expected. I’m also attempting to perfect the art of sounding like I know what I’m doing even if that isn’t always the case!!
2- Times that random strangers have attempted to push my wheelchair without asking me. I was happily going about some last-minute Christmas shopping in town when I suddenly felt two unfamiliar hands on the back of my wheelchair. After briefly fearing I was being kidnapped for no apparent reason, the guy just said ‘you looked like you could do with some help’. Strangers can be very helpful on occasions but I’d rather they took a minute to ask before launching into ‘must help at all costs’ mode.
1 successful year- I think 2017 has been really positive overall. Obviously, there are always things which don’t go to plan but I think I’m now more resilient when coping with those setbacks. I feel I’m less anxious than I was this time last year too. I’m gradually learning to live in the moment more and am taking all the opportunities that come my way in the hope that they will lead to even more exciting adventures. Now, where’s that basset hound puppy I was trying to adopt…