Image description: The river in Oxford on a sunny day.
Call me a starry-eyed optimist, but this past weekend, it felt like something special was hanging in the air. All throughout Oxford cheerful students were bobbing, bubbling, and bustling around. Shops were open. The High Street heaved. Pub gardens filled with happy customers. The city was aglow with life.
I gawk in disbelief. Am I really seeing, now, with eyes so long glued to screens, the glorious, long-lost Oxford which I and many other misty-eyed second years once envisioned? The city of perspiring COVID dreams is once again the city of dreaming spires, of flourishing meadows that dance like fires. The languid, limping Oxford, so long locked down, shackled, and shrouded in wintry mist, inexorably rises to bask in its splendour once more. It’s wild. It’s Wildean. It’s back.
Of course, restrictions remain in place. We cannot afford to throw caution to the wind. But the feeling of progress from the vaccine bounce back is ever-present and ever-swelling.
After numerous lockdowns this year we have all experienced something more than the age-old seasonal dip. The spring revival across the nation and the city is now more symbolic than ever. Without sounding too morbid, never have we all been so aware of death in the news and in the media. Never has a sense of life and resurrection felt more blissfully emphatic than this spring, as the city comes alive again. Sports, socialising, extra curricular activities – all the things we took for granted, we can now relish once again.
The feeling of progress from the vaccine bounce back is ever-present and ever-swelling.
Many old faces from a distant Michaelmas, and some unseen since first year, re-emerge this term.
Some sport debatable beards. Many bear marks of new found wisdom, derived from suffering. I have even touched my first wrinkle. How much we have changed from the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed creatures of 2019. But everyone is eager to put the past year behind us once and for all. We are here, looking towards the end of the tunnel, one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate but strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find…
Before I am entirely swept away on a whimsical wave, waxing lyrical about the term to come, it’s important to take stock of where we were and where we are now. While there is light and love and life to be lived again, we must all remember the darkness, the death, the sense of despair, the doomsters and the gloomsters, the fear-mongering media, muffled, mumpish voices behind moribund masks, the cold, slimy trickle of hand gel, the trials of winter, the lessons we learned.
Let this be the Oxford of limitless possibilities and boundless adventures. Let this be the Oxford of Pimms and picnics and punting and punnets of strawberries. May our spirits be unshackled, our hearts unbound, our souls uncaged. The past thirteen months has shown that we all have our own winters and springs. Nothing lasts forever. Captain Sir Tom Moore proved himself right when he said, “Tomorrow will be a good day”. We need challenge, misfortune and woe, to grow and develop. We need evil to respect the good, darkness to enjoy the light, and rain to appreciate the sunshine.
In the words of Charlotte Brontë, “Life, believe, is not a dream/ So dark as sages say/ Oft a little morning rain/ Foretells a pleasant day/ Sometimes there are clouds of gloom/ But these are transient all/ If the shower will make the roses bloom/ O why lament its fall?”
High Spring beckons. So gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
Image credit: Sophie Smith