Tuesday, December 22, 2009

tracing my footsteps

...quite literally. I walked across the parks in Oxford from my mother's flat - first to the Ashmolean, to buy a couple of last-minute Christmas gifts...and found that I'd forgotten my credit cards. Great. So...back across the University Parks, and back to the flat, and back again to the shopping metropolis ... all the time being able to see the prints of my Naot shoes, like sweet feathery curling ferns, quite unlike all the other treads in the snow. Even where I wasn't consciously thinking where my path went, I found that I'd taken the same track half an hour earlier.

There's a metaphor lurking in all this, of course - the fact of returning somewhere that's familiar to the point of uncanniness - though noting all the little changes (mostly in the form of boarded-up stores), and the seasonal novelties (a busker playing the banjo, accompanied by his howling-on-cue dog, and playing "D'ye Ken John Peel?"). There, walking through the parks, are the same sleek members of North Oxford families, with their Barbours and intelligently goofy mid-sized dogs; there, indeed, in Blackwells or outside the Covered Market, are former colleagues whom I was quite glad not to see every day when I left eight years ago, and hid inside my striped knitted earflapped cap rather than greet again; there are the same purchasing habits (a tarte provencal from the Maison Blanc for lunch). All in all, I know what it must be like to be a ghost.

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