Oxonmoot Reports

Member's reports from Tolkien related events.
marbretherese
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Postby marbretherese » Sun Nov 28, 2010 2:30 pm

thanks Merry, I've PM'd you back :lol: . You can see why I'm keen to cross "Oxonmoot report" off my "to-do" list :wink:
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"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


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Iolanthe
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Postby Iolanthe » Wed Dec 01, 2010 5:05 pm

:lol:

Great report Marbretherese! I now feel even more shamed. I do have a half written one :oops: .

Alas, I didn't take any photos of the Costume Parade. The little flash on the camera just wasn't up to it and it was very dark where we were!
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marbretherese
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Postby marbretherese » Thu Dec 02, 2010 10:16 am

maybe you should post the half that's written . . . it's bound to contain stuff I haven't remembered!!
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"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


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Postby Iolanthe » Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:15 pm

By 'half written' I mean more of the bare bones waiting for that added spark :lol: .
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marbretherese
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Postby marbretherese » Fri Dec 03, 2010 1:42 pm

Hmmm. You might have to forget the spark, given that you'll be descrbing events which are nearly three months old!!!
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"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/

Iolanthe
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Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby Iolanthe » Thu Oct 13, 2011 5:08 pm

Oxonmoot 2011


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23-25 September
Lady Margaret Hall


Friday

The road goes ever on…. and on…. at least it does when you have a massive headache and still can’t decide which Park-and-Ride you are heading for! Pear Tree (no pears or trees) is now a three day no-go. Water Eaton (no water) has no Sunday Park-and-Ride bus service and Thornhill (no thorns or hills) involves hoiking your suitcase across half the city centre. After a moment’s indecision when I almost veered into Thornhill’s acres of thornless tarmac, I decided to head for Water Eaton. I guessed there would be some way of getting back there, park-and-ride or no park-and-ride! I just missed a bus which left while I was dragging my suitcase towards it, and – in one of those idle waiting-for-the-next-bus moments - a stupid dispensing machine ate my £1 coin and refused to give me a map of Oxford.

The bus dumps you a bit further away from Lady Margaret Hall than the Pear Tree one, so after a longer walk than usual with my little red case bumping along behind me (but no paintings, thank goodness, as there was no art show this year) I arrived at the Porters’ Lodge to discover to my joy that I was in the newly built Pipe Partridge Hall again (no pipes or partridges). Last year I was there with marbretherese and Jonick, who have given up this years’ Oxonmoot for a new house – some people have no sense of priority – so I was left to enjoy the delights of the Pipe P’s bonsai bathrooms alone. I texted marbretherese ‘Pipe Partridge! Yay!’ which I bet left her seething with regret, tinged with just a hint of unreasonable jealousy.


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Pipe Partridge now has a rowing badge



After a wash and brush up in a cubicle scarcely big enough to swing a hamster, and where I managed to jab my toothbrush up my nose while trying to avoid the glass shelf over the wee little sink, I headed for registration where I caught up with Alan and Louise Reynolds (Alan was giving a talk on Tolkien, Philology and Archaeology, and pulled in a goodish number despite being placed opposite Dimitra Fimi) and also met Peter Kenny, a wonderful Tolkien collector from Australia. We both instantly thought we both looked familiar and it turned out that he was at last year’s Festival in the Shire, talking about the NZ Red Carpet Tour and his collection. It had always been his dream to come to Oxonmoot and he’d finally made it after travelling via Russia. Seriously – he’s been doing more wandering than Bilbo. I managed to linger in the tea-room so long that I got caught up in the newbie pep-talk.


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Peter with Colin Duriez on Sunday morning



The evening Banquet lived up to Queen Margaret Hall’s tradition of Really Good Food. There were fewer numbers than in previous years – partly the recession and partly people saving for Return of the Ring at Loughborough next year, I guess – but it only added to the intimacy, with two very long candle-lit tables set out for everyone. I found myself in very good company which included a gentleman who is as keen on G&S as I am (if possible) and is a member of the Sullivan Society, Mithrennaith and other members of Unquendor (the Dutch Tolkien Society), and a lovely couple from (I think) Germany. Between stuffing our faces with a succession of Hobbity fare, we all managed a really interesting conversation about Christopher Tolkien’s work on the Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin and its stylistic similarities to Sigurd and Gudrun (glad others are interested in this!), and how ‘Errantry’ fits the tune of ‘I am a very model of a modern general’ (so… a typical Tolkien Society Banquet conversation then…). Mithrennaith, who seems to have a phenomenal memory, amazingly recalled the G&S reference in letter from Tolkien’s mother, Mable, displayed at the 2008 Morten-in-Marsh exhibition, where Tolkien referred to the infant Hilary as a ‘Wight-down Wegular Woyal Wogue’! Before staggering to bed I managed a stint at the Bar where I got myself so completely hyper on Coca Cola that I slipped into pontification-mode (I'm sure marbretherese knows it well...) and spent the next 30 minutes bending some poor soul’s ear on the True Meaning of Poetry. Really – I may as well drink gin. At least I would have got a good night’s sleep out of it.


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The evening banquet



I finally headed back to my bonsai bathroom just before midnight and tried to wash my face in the wee little sink with the shelf. I tried wedging my head under the strip of glass but only had an inch between my nose and the tap. I tried carrying water over the shelf with my hands and throwing it at myself but couldn’t get enough there quickly enough to de-sud myself before my stinging eyes turned into two watery beetroots.

And so to bed, only for my beetroot eyes to be transfixed by a red flashing light in the ceiling which I christened the Winking Eye of Mordor (otherwise known as the Smoke Alarm). After about 20 fitful minutes I was still lying awake staring at it, waiting for it to wink at me again. Finally I started to drift off but then I heard a peep. Then another peep, and another. I discovered that I had the peeping room of Pipe Partridge Hall. At first I thought I’d left my mobile on, but no. Then I thought it was coming from the Great Eye, but no. Eventually I tracked it down to the lift outside my door which peeped every time anyone pressed a button, no matter which floor. Fan-peeping-tastic!



Saturday


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Looking towards the quadrangle



I was woken bright and early (who needs an alarm clock when your room peeps), fought the good fight in the wee little shower (I’m really not complaining – at least I had one!!!!) and made it to the head of the First Breakfast queue. Breakfast wasn’t laid out quite as spectacularly as previous years, but was still just as plentiful. As I wasn’t sure whether I’d find anything substantial for the lunchtime picnic, I stocked up by eating everything in sight, both animal and vegetable, and then headed to Bob Blackham’s talk on Tolkien and the War Years which coincided with the publication of his book of the same name. Bob’s talks (and books) are always heavily illustrated with photos and pictures he has collected and the stuff he manages to find is just amazing. It really gives context to Tolkien’s early life, and in this case to the realities of life at the front in WW1. I was too busy looking at the screen to take notes – in fact I took very few notes over the weekend as the lecture hall was always rather dark – but I remember his interesting connection between Brockton Camp on Cannock Chase and Tolkien’s description of the Orc Camp in Mordor. He also likened the tangled barbed-wire of the Front to Shelob’s Lair, and seeing the pictures it really is striking. I learned that officers started wearing wrist watches (worn previously by women) instead of pocket watches because it was easier to see the time quickly, essential for a soldier – Tolkien bought just such a watch at the start of his service. I also discovered that ‘chatting’ comes from soldiers talking to each other while picking all the endless lice off their clothes, as lice we called ‘chats’ (and were the cause of the trench fever which laid Tolkien low). There was also a photo of the vast camp at Etaples which was described at the time as a ‘paddock where animals wait for the shambles’. Bob’s talk and slides really brought all of this home and was one of the highlights of the weekend for me.


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The Gardens



After Bob’s talk I went for a long walk around the gardens which are beautiful, even at this time of the year. Right down by the river someone was burning wood and the smoke was floating out over the River Cherwell making it misty and mysterious. I braved the smoke to take some photos and ended up with watering eyes (again) and smelling as though I’d been barbequed in wood chips, but it was worth it.


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Smoke over the Cherwell



I then headed to the hospitality room for coffee and found myself chatting to Colin Duriez, who’s talk I was going to next, and a nice group of ladies in elven costume. We compared notes on The Festival in the Shire as we had all been there (Colin, of course, co-organised the Conference part of the week) and I discovered that one of the elves had bought two of my prints there! Bob Blackham joined us so I was able to tell him how much I’d enjoyed his talk, and he signed a book for Colin. When I saw Colin getting ready to leave I knew it was time to dash back to the lecture hall.

Colin’s talk was What made JRR Tolkien tick and why was he called ‘Reuel’? and was a paper about the value of Tolkien biography. He cited as one of the main difficulties the fact that Tolkien wasn’t a man of action, with interest in Tolkien lying mainly in the world of imagination. But Tolkien himself didn’t believe that works of literature should reveal the author or be about their creator. The word ‘tick’ in the title was a little joke as Tolkien was famously asked what made him ‘tick’ and he replied that he didn’t ‘tick’ as he wasn’t a machine. Again I didn’t take many notes, although the talk was extremely interesting. But I did make note of the fact that ‘Reuel’ was Tolkien’s father’s middle name and meant ‘Friend of God’ (rather like Elf-friend but even better). Tolkien gave it to all his children, including Priscilla, and Colin’s feeling was that it was more about conferring a blessing than the more mundane keeping the name ‘alive’.


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The Cherwell



After Colin’s talk I headed out to the picnic lunch with absolutely no picnic as I couldn’t be bothered to do the long walk to the nearest sandwich bar. I did have a ‘Go!’ biscuit in my handbag (which quickly went) but, anyway, still felt full of the enormous breakfast I’d eaten. Everyone was out in the beautiful gardens at the back of the college and we were blessed with really beautiful weather. In fact every Oxonmoot I’ve been to has been sunny and warm to the point where Oxford has become like a shining Costa del Sol in my imagination. I managed to catch up with Becky Hitchen for a long chat about all things arty, where I grovelled rather a lot about a) not having a single new Tolkien painting to show off and b) not volunteering to take over the Oxonmoot Art show that year because I felt it would be a bit of a busman’s holiday for me.


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The Picnic



Grovelling over, I then headed to the Dealer’s Room to buy Bob’s new book and where I also found a copy of The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by W.Y. Evans-Wentz – the Fairy Book I’ve Always Wanted and one that influenced Tolkien. It’s always fatal to even dip a toe into the book room, all it does is lead to a suitcase crisis on the Sunday when you try to cram it all in. I also bought a beautiful silver leaf pendant and, after some hasty texting, a copy of Bob’s book for marbretherese and Jonick.


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The Dealers Room



Before I ended up buying anything else I decided it was time for tea and a biscuit or two, so I headed back to the Hospitality Room (OK, I confess, I spent most of Saturday in the Hospitality Room!) where I joined in with an interesting discussion between Andrew Morton and Peter Kenny about Tom Bombadil (there had been a good talk earlier which had clashed with Bob’s talk). Lindariel – you would have loved it and would have had plenty to add!


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A short cut to mushrooms



Andrew was also the next speaker I was going to listen to, so I caught up with him again at the lecture theatre where he was presenting his paper Tolkien, WH Auden and the Age of Anxiety. Once again I apologise for the lack of notes as this was a really interesting look at the similarities between the two authors’ lives, their work and preoccupations. It was interesting to hear some of Auden’s poetry and note the alliteration and Old English style, making some of them sound very Tolkienesque both in style and theme. Auden’s interest in Old English writing came from Tolkien’s lectures, and – as we know – he was a huge champion of The Lord of the Rings, which he understood because he knew where it was springing from. His perceptive review cemented their long friendship. Morton compared Auden’s Age of Anxiety to The Lord of the Rings and pointed out, once again, the alliterative style and stoic Nordic world view. Tolkien and Auden were also joined by religion as Catholic and Anglican, with both having an interest in the theme of the Fall and original sin. Auden challenged Tolkien on the Orcs and whether they were redeemable, and Tolkien replied that he did not pretend to have a consistent Catholic theology in the book, that it wasn’t his remit.


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Tolkien lovers come in all shapes and sizes



After Andrew’s talk I stayed on in the theatre to hear Dimitra Fimi’s talk on Kipling, Tolkien and their ‘Mythology for England’: from Puck of Pook’s Hill to the Book of Lost Tales. I did feel a smidgeon of guilt that I wasn’t supporting Alan’s talk on Rescued from Oblivion: Tolkien, Philology and Archaeology but all the feedback I had was that it was a very good talk – way to go Alan! My notes for Dimitra’s talk are even sketchier than the others – blame the lateness of the afternoon, the lack of food and the fact that the darkened lecture theatre was making me sleepy. In fact someone behind me had nodded off completely and a sound of gentle snoring was wafting around the gallery. Perhaps they too had had a peeping room!

Dimitra started off with the interesting point that historically there was no need pressing need for an English national identity to emerge because it was already the dominant culture in the British Isles and didn’t have the political motivation that drove Scotland and Wales. In the mid-nineteenth century there was a ‘strong intervention of Anglo-Saxonism in English literature’, seen in books like Ivanhoe, Hereward the Wake and Tennyson’s poem ‘Harold’. This emerging Anglo-Saxon cultural phenomenon was stopped short by the Great War. After the war literature turned in new directions leaving the interest unfulfilled. Dimitra explored the Englishness of Kipling and Tolkien and looked at the way Puck of Pook’s Hill used the figure of Puck – the last of the Fairies – as a device to travel into the English past. She made detailed (and interesting) comparisons with The Book of Lost Tales, but here my notes fail me completely! The talk was followed by a very erudite discussion which left me still pulling up my socks at the starting post….


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College cat on the steps to the garden



Clearly what I needed was FOOD, and luckily the BBQ was at 6pm, so I headed back to Pipe Partridge to get rid of my books and get ready. As soon as I arrived in my room the fire alarm went off and I ended up back outside again. At least I wasn’t in a bathrobe and slippers like one poor Oxonmooter. Someone had fallen against the ‘break glass in case of emergency’ button and all hell had broken loose.


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Waiting for the alarm to be over



Saturday evening

The BBQ was fun – especially as it was still warm enough to sit outside and enjoy it, but there was NO DESSERT. Apparently the fact that the desserts had deserted us in the face of global economic disaster had been flagged up when bookings were taken, but I’d missed it and had been anticipating them since, well let’s be honest, last Oxonmoot. I’d even been building them up to newbies as a highlight of the weekend (forget Tolkien and Fellowship – bring on the pavlovas and the triple chocolate torte). For carnivores, the barbequed venison, lamb and chicken almost made up for it because they were really wonderful, but the vegetarians took a very dim view of their stuffed mushrooms and hobbit-sized kebabs because there was absolutely nothing you could slap in a bun. I felt their pain…

I found myself on a jolly table with Sue (who we met at Exeter College, Merry!) Dimitra, Alan and Louise, the G&S loving gentleman from the Banquet, and a lovely woman whom I dimly recognised and who I chatted to about the beautiful gardens. An hour and a half later I discovered that she was Joanna Tolkien and spent the next few hours trying to remember how often I’d put my foot in it. I can’t believe I managed to get through the entire BBQ without pronouncing something mind-numbingly stupid about Tolkien from the mish-mash that passes for my brain.


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BBQ with (L to R) Dimitra Fimi, and Alan and Louise



After the BBQ came the Ents – or Entertainments – in the Dining Hall. I arrived late thinking everyone would mosey up some time after the start, only to discover it was full and I ended up fumbling for a seat in near complete darkness. There were fewer ‘Ents’ than previous years and even the costume parade was small, though all the costumes were really worth seeing. Angie Gardner and Lyn Wiltshire brought a big dose of much needed humour to the evening with a long and very funny poem about an Ent and an Elf, the content of which can’t be repeated in polite company. We also had Maggie Percival reciting the whole of Errantry from memory. There ought to be a special award for that! And so to bed, the Winking Eye of Mordor and The Peeping.


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No report would be complete without a really bad photo of the Costume Parade



Sunday

Sunday morning we all left in coaches for the Wovercote Cemetery and Enyalië beside Tolkien and Edith’s grave, and it was just as moving as always. The reading was from The Hobbit and after the wreathes had been laid the grave looked beautiful with two plants with red and green variegated leaves where the Rosemary bush used to be. I noticed that the little woolly lamb and the toy eagle have finally gone from the ivy, but there were lots of rings and bracelets left on the rose bushes, along with one plastic flower.


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Tolkien and Edith’s grave



Many people were heading for the Lamb and Flag afterwards, but I decided it was time to head home and find a bus to take me back up to as near Water Eaton as possible, and to my car. Another Oxonmoot over and, although it was smaller than in previous years (and there was no triple-chocolate torte), it somehow felt – to me - like a really special one. Leaving to go home is always like saying farewell to The Fellowship.

All Photos © Iolanthe
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Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
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Lindariel
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Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby Lindariel » Thu Oct 13, 2011 8:31 pm

Iolanthe, I am positively in STITCHES over the Bonsai Bathroom (I MUST SEE this combination modern marvel and torture device), the Eye of Mordor, the Peeping of Pipe Partridge, and all of the places-that-did-not-at-all-feature-the-things-in-their-names, such as Pipe Partridge that had neither pipes nor partridges.

As always, I am deeply and profoundly envious of your experiences at Oxenmoot. I would just LOVE to go, but given my home location, cost of travel, and time constraints, I'm afraid I will need either to win the lottery or invent teleportation in order to do so any time soon.

I would have particularly relished the opportunity to join in on your discussion with Andrew Morton and Peter Kenny about Tom Bombadil. I wonder what they would have thought about my little pet theory . . . .

At any rate, I am thrilled for you, and absolutely GREEEEEEEEEEEEEN :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: with jealousy, and just so grateful to have your wonderfully funny report to read and re-read and enjoy immensely. Thanks so much!
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Merry
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Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby Merry » Fri Oct 14, 2011 3:49 am

Well, even though my baseball team just lost an important game as I read through your report, Iolanthe, I still have a great smile on my face! Thanks for your usual wonderful report. I love knowing about what 'Reuel' means and the explanation of why he gave the name to his children. And the historical work on WW1 keeps shining light on our author--great stuff. I like the Auden comparisons, too--they did have similar worldviews and some aesthetic sensibilities.

I don't remember that Sue from Exeter, but I do remember similarly tortuous bathroom accomodations and funny stories about the word 'bathroom'!

Great black and white photos!
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
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Iolanthe
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Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby Iolanthe » Fri Oct 14, 2011 10:19 am

Glad you both enjoyed it! You'd remember Sue if you saw her, Merry. I've caught up with her a few times since, including at all the Festival in the Shire lectures. Lindariel - your Tom Bombadil theory would have found a real ally with Peter, who would have been very interested. I could see his thoughts heading in that direction.
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marbretherese
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Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby marbretherese » Fri Oct 14, 2011 4:08 pm

Thanks for this, Iolanthe! I should say right away that the Bob Blackham book was extremely interesting and a generous present :hug: I'm sure Jonick and I will get to another Oxonmoot soon. Interesting point from Dmitra about the lack of English identity. Never thought of the Irish or Scottish identities in political terms before but it does make a lot of sense!
0 x
"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back.
But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy."


http://www.marbretherese.com
http://marbretherese.blogspot.com/

Merry
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Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby Merry » Fri Oct 14, 2011 4:23 pm

I thought that was interesting, too, marbretherese. One of our philosophy majors this year is from Wales and we have had some interesting discussions this semester since he was stuck in London during the riots this summer. His take on it is that Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have more of a national identity than England and that this makes a bit of a contribution to these kinds of problems. What do you think?
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Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

Lindariel
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Joined: Fri Sep 23, 2005 8:30 pm
Location: The Hall of Fire, Imladris (otherwise known as Northern Virginia)

Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby Lindariel » Fri Oct 14, 2011 5:51 pm

Io, if you think Peter Kenny would be interested in my musings about Tom and Goldberry, please feel free to direct him to the essay thread on our site. I'm always happy to share!
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“Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be! And I will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the World, and the World shall Be.”

Iolanthe
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Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby Iolanthe » Sat Oct 15, 2011 4:37 pm

I did mention our site, but don't really have any contact details for him now. He made find it anyway in his wanderings!

Merry wrote:I thought that was interesting, too, marbretherese. One of our philosophy majors this year is from Wales and we have had some interesting discussions this semester since he was stuck in London during the riots this summer. His take on it is that Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have more of a national identity than England and that this makes a bit of a contribution to these kinds of problems. What do you think?

I think England has a huge identity crisis because a lot of identity that has built up over the last hundred years or so is being steadily dismantled, more so in urban areas than in rural ones. It's not something I want to expand on a lot as it covers a lot of sensitive issues, and I'm not sure what the answer is. But my parents were both Welsh and, although I was born in England, I actually understand more about what it means to be Welsh than I do about what it means to be English!
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MICHKA
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Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby MICHKA » Sun Oct 16, 2011 10:18 am

Iolanthe, vous êtes décidément partout:aux discussions du forum, à votre galerie, pour la ''terre du milieu, comment faites-vous? Incroyable talent, en tout cas merci de votre contribution et de vos rapports très intéressants, et quelle chance d'être anglaise pour profiter de belles réunions comme celle-ci, bravo
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Re: Oxonmoot Reports

Postby Iolanthe » Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:23 pm

I don't know how I fit it all in either, MICHKA! I'm glad you enjoyed the report. We are indeed lucky over here with so much going on!
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