It’s Thursday of 2nd in Michaelmas, and I am back in Oxford. I’m a Probationary Research Student (first-year DPhil) in the English Faculty, studying late Nineteenth Century readings of Shakespeare’s women. I live in an annexe that looks like a college in its own right, but I’m actually a member of Brasenose HCR (Hulme Common Room – it’s the same as a Middle Common Room, by which grad common rooms are more commonly known). I have joined the college choir. In the spirit of Meeting New People, I have steadfastly enrolled (or re-enrolled) in several societies, will be helping to organise the English Postgraduate Conference 2011 (or, as I like to call it, ‘the conference to which Sophie’s contribution will be largely determined by everything she witnessed Emily do for Britgrad’) and have flatmates. The flatmates are lovely.
I still can’t cook. Or drive, or knit, or ride a bicycle, but the first is the most salient. The other day I sliced my finger open while trying to be Gordon Ramsay. I have, however, neither alienated my neighbours nor set off the smoke alarm. This is what counts.
I have been back to Oriel, to see the lovely Elizabeth, and managed to take tea in the SCR without weeping over the upholstery. My supervisors are kindness itself. Admittedly they want 4-6,000 words by 10th November, but that’s doable! Surely! In undergrad, I used to churn (sometimes ‘churn’ as in ‘butter’ and sometimes ‘churn’ as in ‘sick’) out 2 x 2,000 words a week without too much fuss. Or sleep.
So, what I wanted to say was: I’m still alive! I’m back in Oxford! I’m spending a lot of time reading 1898 theatre reviews and watering pot plants. I met a girl on Tuesday who looked like Ellen Terry, but wisely refrained from telling her. That sort of thing does not go down well.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.