i thought i’d written this up on here before, but i can’t find it. so let me tell you my favourite story about my time in oxford.
my college library is a converted church (with graveyard still attached). and it closed at about 1am every night, but they let people keep working in the vestry – where there were… i think six desks? – overnight. i was not very good at doing my work at anything other than the absolute last minute, and would fairly often end up in the vestry the night before an essay was due.
it was grim. honestly i do not miss it.
the highlight of those nights was when i allowed myself a break to go out to buy a burger from the kebab van that was on the other side of the high street. the nearest kebab van was ahmed’s. kebab vans in oxford are serious business (there are few kebab shops, and they’re mostly not near the colleges, where the first and third-year students often live in). i just looked ahmed’s up to check i was spelling his name right and found this amazing painting of the van!!
anyway. so one night in – i guess it was probably april? i think it was in my final year, and not too long to go before exams – i walked out to the kebab van. it was 2am, or maybe 3am. a weeknight – maybe a tuesday – and there was nobody around. too late for other people taking study breaks, and maybe the people who were out clubbing weren’t coming back yet. i felt like i and ahmed and the other guy who worked in his van were the only people alive.
and then an entire band of men turned up in full 16th century regalia.
i think maybe one or two of them had musical instruments with them, but not all of them. they stood there. they didn’t seem to think that they were doing anything unusual. i guess for them, it wasn’t. nobody else came by. nobody said anything except to order some food.
i thought: am i hallucinating??? what is happening???
i always ordered a cheeseburger at ahmed’s, and as it wasn’t a busy night they didn’t already have any cooking, so i stood by the van for a good five minutes while it cooked, just watching these men, who seemed like time-travellers, solemnly order their kebabs. none of them had phones out or anything. nothing broke the illusion except the situation we were in. it honestly felt like time was collapsing. like we had all been pulled out of the timestream and were just chilling here together. it wasn’t april whatever, 3am, 2011. it was no time, no place. The Kebab Van At The End of Time.
they just seemed like people from the past who wanted to get something to eat. an eternal constant. and the guys in the van were as nonchalant about it as the men themselves were. yeah, we get sixteenth century people through here all the time.
and you know what, they probably do. it’s oxford.