Saturday, January 15, 2011
Oxford is very full of ghosts for me - some of them good; some not at all so - and I go back with a certain amount of reluctance, and great apprehension that something - or more likely someone - is going to appear round a corner at any moment. In fact, the experience of walking round is much more like being a ghost: one sees a familiar figure, smiles, and they pass on their way. An unexpected presence, I'm invisible. Happily, that didn't happen today - meeting Dinah by design, and with much pleasure - and encountering only other generic ghosts, of students glimpsed through a window in their rooms sticking up post cards with blu-tac; of others trailing back into their colleges with plastic bags from Sainsbury's. And cell phones - none of those in my time as a student, of course, which emphasises the whole generational thing. Truly, no longer teaching there, I find it a bit creepy.
But this afternoon, as dusk was coming down (though it was such a dank grey day it was hard to tell where day ended and something darker began), I was walking down Parks Road and met the Ghost Forest. I'd missed it when it was in Trafalgar Square (let alone in Copenhagen) - but these twelve huge tree trunks and branches will lie on their plinths till next summer, as an installation inviting environmental awareness about the African rainforests that are being decimated. This particular tree is the Wawa (hello, Lynn!) - which of course I thought was some Hiawatha-deriving goose that had transformed into a mid-Atlantic convenience and coffee store chain. My knowledge is now expanded, and for the record, it was such an exceptionally tough seed that it's an image of strength and resilience, which seems very suitable. Here it's highlighted against the Ruskinian Gothic of the Pitt Rivers Museum - I'm not sure whether or not the window that Ruskin worked on is actually visible.
And here is another big tree trunk.
And here is a ghostly kind of bicycle.
And here is a kind of ghost of Oxford Past - behind window panes. It would be a rephotography engagement with Fox Talbot's very early calotype of Queens College if it were a little further down - but it's not.