“Meanwhile,’ said Mr. Tumnus, ‘it is winter in Narnia, and has been for ever so long, and we shall both catch cold if we stand here talking in the snow. Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?” – C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe
The snowing started last Wednesday and has not stopped. When I wake up, all the roofs across from me are powdered like the gingerbread houses I made as a kid (cough, cough… still build every Christmas). On Friday, classes were canceled because of the weather, so I curled up with a book and watched the window for hours. It is days like these that must have inspired C.S. Lewis to write the Chronicles of Narnia. He was a student and then a teacher at Oxford once. Pulling my drapes open in the mornings, I feel like I’m stepping through the wardrobe in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and distancing myself from my old American world. Unfortunately fauns that look like James McAvoy have not appeared yet.
On winter days in old English college towns, the only thing there really is to do is drink tea and talk with friends. It sounds idyllic enough, but I thought to myself Sunday, “This experience would be improved by cake.”
I’ve noticed this is a common theme to my life.
So out into the snow I went, cheerfully blowing at snowflakes and thinking how lucky I was to be traipsing around in Oxford. Then my heel hit ice and I slid, oh so gracefully, into a lump of American on the ground. Phone went off to the right, purse to the left, and dignity nowhere to be seen. My mistake was trying to walk. Clearly I should have rented some ice skates and glided off to the grocery store.
Flour, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, oranges, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sesame seeds, coconut oil, tahini, almond flakes… two hours later there is a beautiful Turkish Orange Blossom cake… fours hours later there is no cake.
Today, having learned how little time cakes last with college students, I went out for my afternoon tea and cake instead. Now, when your friend asks, “Where do you want to go for afternoon tea?” the only answer is The Rose, known for its scones, clotted cream, and tiny tables. Except at The Rose, we are surprised to discover that all the tables are filled with Americans. And that our waitress is from Oklahoma.
But this is okay, because it is funny to find out how many of the ‘traditions’ are actually tourist traditions. Little by little, I hope I brush ‘the tourist feeling’ from my shoulders and begin to fit in… a little? My voice always gives me away, and somehow I don’t think anyone would appreciate me faking a British accent.
always, sincerely, truly