It was way past lunchtime when I returned to college in the afternoon. The dining room was closed. I made my way to the hub through the lawns. The soft-spoken lad who runs it informed me rather sadly, that they had run out of lunch as well. I had a slice of autumn cake and a cup of hot chocolate and watched the deserted lawns come alive with my fondest memories of the past two years. The day I first stepped into college. Matriculation which was one of the happiest days of my life, walking through the park road to Sheldonian with my classmates in single file with our robes flapping in the wind, waving to the children on the way and trying to look unaffected as tourists clicked our pictures. The many long walks from Rewley House to college on cold winter nights to listen to writers read – fiery journalists, verbose novelists, dreamy poets. The tiny radiator in a corner of the Mawby room which was a source of great amusement to our Head Professor and which we laughed over for days afterwards on Facebook. The day when all of us who swooned over the handsome Professor of poetry got together to make music from his poems and didn’t know where to look when we found him standing by the door, watching us with a gentle, bemused expression. The casual lunches and dinners. The formal dinners where grace was said in Welsh. The blueberry cheesecakes and the conversations that made me wonder if heaven was a place of perpetual intellectual conversations as we had in them, and made me want to die in those blissful moments. Where I once met a retired Professor of Archaeology from Cambridge who told me the story of how Tolkien’s tree was cut down in the Botanical Garden, shared erudite gossip about the love life of Rupert Brooke and joked how J.Archer was the kind of person who was likely to commission a statue of himself in his garden. Or the other time when I was seated next to a young man who reminded me so strongly of Bertie Wooster that I mentioned it loudly to a friend the next day at the Albion Beatnik, only to spot him sitting right behind her, soon afterwards. The workshops where we tore each other’s words into pieces. The many long walks through the banks of the Cherwell. My favourite room in college, a tiny basement from which I could see the skies from all three windows, and from where I could hear the birds at their sweetest during spring. The lectures, the tutorials, the venerable Professors who taught like Zen masters. And the new writers who took over my thoughts and my life from the pages of their books, starting with my beloved Professors Scholes and Coover. The modest garden parties, the humble balls. My college may not have the majestic buildings of Christ Church, or the charm of Corpus Christie, or the extensive grounds of Magdalen, or a dreamy lake like Worcester, or the ancient twisting paths of Wadham, or a chapel like Keble. But I love it all the more because it is mine.
The Autumn cake was baked just right. It was neither dry nor moist, not too sweet, with just a hint of the flavours of cinnamon and coffee. The topping, a golden caramel syrup which was again just right, neither soaking the cake nor holding back its sweetness. It was perfect, like my college. I savoured my memories with every spoonful of cake, and replete with its comforting sweetness, the hot chocolate, and an ocean of happy memories, went on my way rejoicing.