Today the talk was all of May Day and politics and protest.
May 1, 1980. The weather was pretty dreadful.
For me, today is always May Morning. That's when you get up before dawn, trek down The High to as close to Magdalen College as you can get, always- if improbably- find your mates in in the crowd, in the dark- and shiver and talk and joke and meet strangers until the College choristers greet the first rays of the sun, on the first day of Spring.
Unless, of course, you were at one of the college May Day balls. In that instance, you just carry on-
- until the proceedings get underway.
It's been done that way for 500 years, give or take.
Because the pubs don't open until after the singing, one must bring one's own, all the while exercising due care not to blind any bystanders.
Not something kids from Shelby, NC were adept at, thus the impatient hand trying to intervene.
The official rites of spring behind, you make your way back up The High, that uphill, gracefully curved street with the one perfectly placed tree-
-past the Examination Schools, where your reckoning is not long off.
The festivities get under way.
There are Morris Dancers, executing the mysterious rites, nearly lost by the end of the 19th century, of the season.
You have to do at least one silly thing in public. In 1980, some friends and I tried to organize the High Street crowd to break the Guinness record for the longest conga line ever. How hard could it be? Thousands of people, already there, and all headed in the same direction?
We fell several hundred short but everyone agreed it was a worthy effort in the ephemera of the day.
If you know people, you get your Silly Project out of the way, then drop by a college for more intimate celebrations. My flatmate, Phil Geddes, always put his friends on the list for champagne, strawberries, and cream in the tiny quad of Teddy Hall (St. Edmund Hall to the tourists).
And, of course, in years when you aren't actually there- after you are long gone, it seems- the weather is perfect. But in your recollections, every day was perfect.
It's all rather magical.
It's the sort of thing you remember wistfully (a bit misty-eyed if no one is about) every year thereafter.
Even 37 of them. May Morning is one of ten thousand places and people and experiences that make it said that, when you matriculate, you "go up to Oxford," and when you took your degree, you went down.
I'm told the crowd was upwards of 27,000 this morning.