Yesterday invovled a rather interesting trip to Oxford – not just the town itself, but the actual university, as the whole point of going (apart from the opportunity to ogle the stonework) was for Toby to meet some logicians. This meant visiting New College and, once we’d taken in the atmosphere, dinner at the high table. I hadn’t really groked that this would be the case, and despite the abundant evidence supporting the notion that England Is Cold In Autumn, I also neglected to take a jacket. Combine this with a limited travel wardrobe, and the result was me sitting at table on a raised dias in a 600 year old building, drinking expensive wine and talking to academics while wearing a ‘Joss Whedon Is My Master Now‘ t-shirt.
Not surprisingly, this left me feeling a tad underdressed. The fact that the mathematician sitting opposite was a Buffy fan and promptly initiated a conversation about favourite episodes and seasons was both startling and a relief; learning that the Dean was a devout fan of The Wire may actually have caused me to do a double-take. I’m not sure why, though. It’s not like I’ve never had dinner with academics. It’s just, you know, Oxford. Had I gone in with any assumptions about probable topics of conversation, they would have involved a discussion of neo-Platonism, arguments about Rousseau and a lecture on transfinite infinities, not how much of a shame it was that Firefly was cancelled. (Which, totally, it was.)
We also discussed the hibernation rituals of tortoises and the appointment of an executive committee to choose a name for the college’s new kitten. Seriously, on both counts. The logician Toby was there to see has three pet tortoises, one of whom is called Xeno. Apparently, once they start trying to hibernate by digging into the garden, they are gathered up, shelved in an old refridgerator in the garage and left alone for five months, to eventually awaken from their prolonged stasis without having lost so much as an ounce of body fat. There was absolute certainty on this last point, as they are weighed before going into the fridge, and then again on removal. As for the kitten, some of the students have taken to calling him Socrates, but as some of the academics were concerned as to whether they might dislike his eventual, official name, steps have been taken to ensure that it will be chosen from a short list pre-approved by the faculty. Neither is Socrates the first ever resident cat: the previous incumbent had no sense of direction, the Dean said, and was frequently getting lost in the pharmacology department, which was far enough away that money was regularly spent putting him in a taxi back to the college.
So, Oxford. Beautiful place!