Oxford - the short version

I spent a week in Oxford with a bunch of Southern librarians. We spent most of our time touring the university's libraries, but I don't really understand the university. They have 39 colleges and 7 "permanent private halls." Each college has its own library, chapel, dining hall, and residence rooms - don't even think about the administrative overhead involved in that many libraries and dining halls. Colleges have between 250 and 550 students. Some of the colleges are incredibly old, and some are very new.

Literary references abound: this is the home of Inspector Morse, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Max Beerbohm, and many others. This is also the home of three incredibly famous institutions (besides the University itself): the Oxford University Press, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Bodleian Library. Many of the college libraries have dozens and sometimes hundreds of books that are several centuries old.

The architecture is fantastic: gargoyles abound, and sometimes you'll think stained glass is more common than the transparent variety. The chapels could make an atheist weep.

There's a pub on almost every corner, but British licensing laws close the doors by 11:30 PM even on a Saturday. Lots of good beer (and cider) on tap. And you can hear the people with you when they talk - conversation isn't drowned out by music. The older pubs are like rabbit warrens, built so long ago the ceiling may only be six feet, and the buildings have been added to so many times that finding the back room (even when not drunk) is a major geographic challenge.

Back in February I was looking to buy "gilesorr.ca," and I discovered that some domain-hijacking bastard had bought "gilesorr.net." I mean, who would do that?? It didn't occur to me that there might actually be someone else in the world who had the same name as me - "Giles" is a very uncommon first name in North America, and "Orr" isn't a common surname. Here's the really bizarre part. Where does he live? In Oxford. So I emailed him before the trip and asked him if he wanted to have a beer. What are the chances of us getting along? I'm not going to calculate them, because we had a great time and got along really well.

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by giles