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Blogging My 2013 Oxford University Summer School Experience

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Oxford - On the street where I live

Arrived in England yesterday morning and spent the day getting acquainted with Oxford. What an amazing city--just oozing with culture, in its architecture, activities, and general ambiance.

Found a delightful hole-in-the-wall place to get my first full English breakfast--bacon, ham, sausage, baked beans, egg, baked tomato, and mushrooms. Yummy. At the little counter in the back was the perfect English gentleman who looked liked he'd just walked out of My Fair Lady.

Checked in to Rewley House. This continuing education center is beyond all my expectations. Modern room with garden view, delightful dining room, open atrium, lecture hall, classrooms, all in one location. I'm esconced at No. 12 Wellington Square in room 8 on the second (read...third) floor.

First night's dinner around the corner at the very famous Eagle and Child Pub, a must recommendation from Pastor Scott! And well worth it. Perhaps sitting where C.S. Lewis sat and hobnobbed with his pals will improve my writing. And the Fish and Chips was not to be missed. A wonderful first dinner in England. Even a small
glass of ale--however, combined with jet lag it found me nodding off during the play. How embarrassing!

Saturday morning now and the program starts at 3 pm. But already met a delightful retired woman from Germany who is taking a course on Sicily and also arrived a day early. She is an amazing example of a single retired woman who travels widely on her own.

Last night, jet lagged as I was, I attended a preperformance lecture and then a stunning performance of Taming of the Shrew by an all-female cast. They have taken this production on the road all summer including at the Old Globe in London. Incredible acting with only 7 woman playing all the roles in the play, including each playing an instrument with appropriate musical interludes (with words from the play itself) woven in. All in the spectabular setting on an open inner courtyard of the Bodleian Libary.

I'll be posting photos of the trip on another page of this website. Check them out.

Sat, July 13, 2013 | link          Comments

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Golden Anniversary of My First Trip to Corsica Summer of 1963

This summer marks 50 years since I first went to Corsica at the tail end of an exciting month-long cruise of the Northern Mediterranean with a group of twelve other adventurous souls--mostly students from California colleges. I've recently been in touch with the organizer of that cruise, Robin Williams from Laguna Beach and here are a few of his comments on that cruise aboard the Widgeon of Fearn, our sturdy diesel Norwegian fishing trawler turned "yacht".

From Robin: The time we had on the yacht in 1963 is one of the richest times of my life.  Can you imagine?  We were on a yacht on the Mediterranean Sea and that is something that is only allowed to the SUPER RICH.

If my memory serves me, we each paid $200 for an entire month aboard which included all our food as well as a spot to put our sleeping bags on the deck (there were only 6 bunk spaces below). The Skipper was British and took along his pal and drinking buddy, Gawain, who were the first off the ship in any port.

Gunnar, a Swede my age, served as our chief cook and translator. The first group (in July of 1963) brought the boat down through the French canals to Cannes, where I joined up. I had been staying in Zurich on my own for a week and took the train to Cannes. I found Robin sleeping on a bench in front of the American Express office!

Each day we decided whether to linger in a port or sail on to the next. To save docking fees, we put our clothes in plastic bags and swam to shore at some ports. Gunnar shopped for fresh groceries daily and grilled eel on a little hibachi on the quay.

We went inland to Florence and Rome by train and then back to the boat at Ostia. In Rome we roamed the city by night and slept (all in one hotel room!) away the very hot August days.

We survived a terrible mistral storm on our crossing to Corsica and were stranded in Bonifacio 5 days until it subsided. That's where we tried to sneak two Foreign Legionnaires off the island. Our mission failed but they gave Robin a beautiful engraved Corsican dagger in gratitude for trying.

The Corsican Dagger was the original title of my current novel in progress. The dagger is still in the story (a symbol for Corsicans of the fight against evil) but the title is now Mother Tongue.

An Excerpt from the Novel:

The Professor walked back over to her desk. She drew open a drawer and retrieved a dagger. Handing it to Liz, she pointed to the carved inscription on the blade. “It says, morte al nemico, or death to the enemy. The enemy is the Evil One himself.”

Robin had hired a cameraman to film the entire adventure in 16mm film--intended to be a travel film for future trips. But when he left Bonifactio to go to Ajaccio to fly home, he had to put his duffel bag with all the cans of film on top of a rickety bus. Somewhere along the way, it fell off and was lost forever. C'est domage!

So the memories are just those left in our minds and in the words of my novel. Robin went on to lead and film many travel adventures but none the likes of his first endeavor. You can access his travel films (marvelous ones on Turkey) at his website

Sun, July 7, 2013 | link          Comments


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A bit about OUSSA

I will be taking a one-week residential course on "Creating Character" by well-known author Jonathan Miles,  July 13-20, 2013, at Rewley House, Oxford


I will be joining people from the UK, Europe and further afield (me!) for enjoyable, yet serious study with some of the finest tutors in the country. For over 100 years the Oxford University Summer School for Adults (OUSSA) programme has been making it possible for everyone to take advantage of the Oxford system of expert tuition in small groups.

This intensely practical course explores character. Through examples stretching from Chaucer to Becket, you will identify the ingredients that give fictional beings life. When, does a character take on an archetypal status? When does a character degenerate into a two-dimensional stereotype? Most people feel comfortable creating characters that they know well. But what about those figures that are more distant from our everyday experience and yet who seem to demand a place in our stories? And what about the possibility that there may be no such thing as character? This writing workshop explores different ways of approaching and building rounded, interesting, recognisable but not cliché-ridden characters.

The only entrance requirement for a summer school course is enthusiasm for the subject and a commitment to undertake the required coursework before and during the summer school.