Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sounds of Oxford

Awakening to chimes ringing out across the city over the gentle hum of raindrops this morning, I realized one of my favorite things about Oxford is the sound. Sure, there are annoying sounds, like students celebrating their graduation late into the night in our courtyard, chuckles and congratulations sliding smoothly up the ancient stone and in through our bedroom window. But mostly, the sounds of the city are worth listening to. Bell ringers at churches across Oxford not only perform, but they practice, and each time they strike their bells, we all hear the far off notes from our rooms, from the streets, from classroom buildings far and wide. Even more regular are the short clock songs of each quarter hour, followed on the hour by long tones, letting us know each morning that yes, eight a.m. has rolled around at last, assuming we can manage to keep track of the beats.

The bells and the raindrops aren't the only inviting sounds of Oxford. Walking along the streets of the University section of town the blended tones of Italian, slightly swaggering phrasing of Spanish, and the short syllables of Japanese fall regularly on my ears. New arrivals ask slightly less new arrivals where (insert college name here) is, and suitcase wheels drag along cobblestones.

I'd like to say the covered market is awash in sounds of cheese mongering, butchering, coffee sipping, and pastry purchasing, but the covered market is strangely bereft of these sounds. Each restaurant, shop, and patisserie seems to inhabit its own tiny sound world, and only by walking up into the Butcher's realm of meat, the Cake Baker's counter covered in Marzipan, or the Oxford Sandwich shop's glass case stuffed with baguettes and fillings of every color and texture, can you enter into their own separate atmospheres. It's almost like a Juke Box; simply choose a doorway and step through.

As I sit here, the rain drips from the roof to my window and from my window to the wet tiles three flours down. The doorway leading out to Bear Lane creaks as another student makes her way home, high heels clacking, and a phone rings next door where apparently one student is still out. The subdued clicks of my typing seem right at home in this student zone, and the clock that just struck eight binds me to the rest of the city, where tourists, professors, shopkeepers, and pigeons alike, can't help but know the day is winding down.


To hear the various church bells of Oxford, click the following address and scroll down the page to choose any of the various links marked "Listen to this Ring of Bells." This is also the website where I found the above pictures, and you can look at more if you wish in the section marked "Bells."

No comments: