Of Inklings, Hobbits, and Invisible Drivers

A "Tale from Reading" by Kim Thompson '05

Being in England, I have decided, is rather like being in an alternate universe: things are subtly but definitely different. Cars are a little smaller (with nary an SUV in sight), and they come at you from the wrong way. The first few days after I arrived, crossing the street required nothing so much as a gigantic leap of faith and the belief that I wasn’t meant to die in the middle of a Reading road. You look over at where the driver is supposed to be, and NO ONE IS THERE.

The University clubs and societies are DEFINITELY not like R-MWC campus groups. For instance, currently I’m a member of the Fencing Society—which I guess is what comes out of seeing “The Princess Bride” one too many times—and the Reading University Society of Change-Ringers. I’m sure you’re dying to know in the world that is. We go to churches and, Quasimodo-like, ring the bells. It’s a lot harder than it looks, by the way. There’s a pattern you need to fall into, as well as a very specific style to it. The church we’re ringing at right now is St. Giles—when I arrived there for the first time, I had to wait, all alone, in the dark (we meet at night) outside the church, until the other club members showed up. All I had was the cemetery for company. It was either the stupidest thing I’d done since arriving in England, or the coolest.

Now, let me tell you about the GUYS. First of all: there are guys here. After an all-girls high school and two years at R-MWC, this mildly freaks me out. And they all…sound…sexy. It’s really rather disturbing. Generally I prefer my British men dead (i.e., Shakespeare or Keats) but my resolve wavers every time I hear a live one talk. I’m thinking a compromise is in order—a nice British boy who can quote Shakespeare would be ideal. There’s a group trip planned to see The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe early next month, and I may need people to physically restrain me from leaping onto the stage. I’m also hoping to see Titus Andronicus at some point. It happens to be my least favorite play of the bunch, but all the same. The title character is being played by David Bradley, whom you might know as Argus Filch in both Harry Potter movies. That’s reason enough!

And just in case you were in any doubt as to my nerdiness, I will now briefly tell you about my trip to Oxford. It was exhilarating to wander around the narrow side-streets, stare at the gargoyles, and pretend to be a Medieval Lady (although, granted, it is a little difficult to do with hundreds of camera-toting tourists jostling you). However, the most important stop that day happened immediately after disembarking from the buses. I—along with Abby, Keri, Emily, Tina, Rebecca, Kimmi, Michelle, Jeanette, and Maggie—headed straight for the Eagle and Child. This is the pub where the Inklings used to meet. Who are the Inklings? You might know a couple of their more famous members, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. We sat in the room where they used to sit and tried to soak up their genius, and behaved just a tad obnoxiously—a tendency of mine I indulge in when I get really really excited. Um…singing the hobbit bar song (“Fellowship of the Ring” extended version) was involved.

The Eagle and Child was a very nice pub in and of itself, the Lewis/Tolkien connection aside. I am a big supporter of the pubs here. The Three Tuns is located right across the street from our house. We knew we HAD to go when Dr. Ivy described it, in so many words, as a little bit dodgy. Emily, Tina, and I headed straight over there our first night, and enjoyed it so much that we decided to make it a weekly ritual. If you REALLY want dodgy, try the Hobgoblin, next to the Oracle. It’s the sort of place Christopher Marlowe probably got stabbed in.

Well, must go loves. London calling and all that. There are museums to see, castles to run around in, and British men to drool over. Cheers!