Punting to Islip, part 1

“There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In or out of ‘em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do.” (Kenneth Grahame, ‘The Wind in the Willows’)

Image

There’s something about punting that is so quintessentially Oxford-in-the-summer. It’s the epitome of the idyllic British countryside immortalised by Kenneth Grahame in ‘The Wind in the Willows’. Punting up the River Cherwell into the wilds of Oxfordshire, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, has always felt so luxurious. To take time away from the everyday is so necessary, particularly as a graduate, when your to-do list can seem never-ending. No internet, no emails to deal with or screens to squint at, just friends, food, and glorious weather (at least some of the time!). 

Image

For the last few years, we have made an annual pilgrimage. An all-day trip up to the village of Islip, a few miles north of Oxford. We pack food and drink, and leave in the morning, to return by the early evening. It’s by no means an easy journey: there are several places where the river is almost completely blocked (especially if the weather has been bad), which involves some interesting feats of engineering, and there have been times when it looked like we would have to turn back. But somehow we’ve always managed to get there and back again.

Image

We’ve done the trip with various combinations of people (a punt can hold up to 6), but this year, when we went a week or so ago, there were only four of us. And it was the most fun it’s been.

Image

Image

ImageThe riverside fascinates me, perhaps because it’s not something there is much of in Greece – growing up, I had very little experience of idling the time away on rivers. I’ve always loved boats, and relished the opportunity to take boat trips to go to islands such as Poros, Hydra, Aegina, and Spetses, which are very close to the mainland. Punting is different, though – it’s tranquil, slow and steady, calming and restoring.

Image

Image

ImageThere’s something incredibly nostalgic about it all. Forgive me if I have come across as sentimental or romanticizing; it’s very hard to capture in words how wonderful the day was, and how it provided a much-needed break from everything, a chance to reenergise and regroup. Coming up in part 2: Islip itself, and the journey home.

 

Asian Salmon with Stir-fried Vegetables & Noodles

It’s only Saturday night but this weekend has already been such a long one. Thursday turned out (rather unexpectedly) to be pretty hectic (both work & play – supervisor meetings, student union stuff, and a friend finishing his finals), and on Friday we had planned a whole day punting trip to Islip, a village north of Oxford, which was wonderful but sapped all our energy. Today we took a walk up the canal to Woodstock for the Midsummer Festival, which took most of the afternoon, and by the time we were nearly home I was wilting rather badly. (Separate posts on both these trips to follow over the next couple of days, once I’ve been through the hundreds of photos…) So come this evening, a light and easy dinner was called for. There were a couple of salmon steaks in the fridge, along with some rather tired baby corn, stem broccoli, and half a red pepper. What else could you make than a stir fry?

Image

 

Ingredients (makes enough for 2):

  • 2 salmon steaks
  • Half a red pepper
  • Half a pack each of baby corn and stem broccoli (although any veg you have lying around will do)
  • Noodles
  • A couple of cloves of garlic (one finely chopped and one sliced)
  • Ginger
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Honey
  • Chinese fivespice powder

What to do:

  1. First make the marinade. Mix together a few glugs of soy sauce, a couple of tablespoons oyster sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, some fivespice, the finely chopped garlic, and about half of your ginger (also finely chopped). Pour over the salmon, cover, and put in the fridge for 15 mins (or longer if you have the time). [Tip: if you marinate the salmon in an oven-proof dish, you’ll save on the washing up later.]
  2. Turn your oven to 180°C. Drain the excess marinade into a jug. Put the salmon in the oven for about 15 mins, until cooked through.
  3. Cook the noodles as per pack instructions (mine were dried, so required boiling first before I could stir fry them).
  4. Add about a tablespoon of oil to a frying pan (or a wok, if you have one). When hot, throw in the vegetables, sliced garlic, and the rest of the ginger cut into matchsticks. Stir fry for a few minutes.
  5. Add in the cooked noodles and the reserved marinade from the salmon. There probably won’t be quite enough of this, so add more soy sauce and oyster sauce as you deem it necessary. You can also add more fivespice at this point.
  6. Keep stirring until the veg is cooked but still firm. Put onto plates, top with a salmon steak, and enjoy!

Image

Ambling in the sun

Last Saturday we went for a walk to the north of Oxford, through Port Meadow and on to Wytham Woods. It was a gorgeously warm, sunny day, and the meadow was packed, with everyone desperate to make the most of the beautiful weather.

ImageImageImageImage

The buttercups, hawthorn, and elderflower were out in force, and we even managed to catch the last of the bluebells!

ImageImage

It was just wonderful to get out of the city, and away from all the stresses of day-to-day life. The woods were so still and tranquil, the smells and sounds of nature so enthralling, I could have stayed there for hours. But it was time for lunch, so we headed back towards Wytham village.

Image

We decided to stop for a quick drink at the White Hart pub in Wytham itself, and made a friend…

Image

Then it was back to the Trout Inn in Wolvercote for a late lunch.

ImageImage

(That cloudy raspberry lemonade was divine. Nectar from the gods, I tell you.) Then for a leisurely walk home, via some swans…

Image

…and some bunnies!

ImageImage

I’m so glad for that day, especially now the weather’s deteriorating again. It felt like a little slice of summer, to keep morale up until the real thing comes along. I can’t wait to go back – will definitely pick some elderflower next time, and have a go at making cordial… or wine…

ImageImage

Making space

I went to a great talk today in my college, focusing on women of colour and intersectional feminism more generally. Hearing about the many ways in which women of colour are silenced and erased from mainstream narratives was truly an eye-opener, and made me rethink lots of things. I was most struck by something the speaker said about making space for others and for their voices. She emphasised the importance of listening to the experiences of others, particularly when they differ to your own. As a white woman, I cannot presume to know what it is like to be a Muslim woman, or a disabled woman, or a black woman. So why should I assume that I can speak for these women? They are infinitely better able to speak for themselves. And yet they are rarely given the chance to do this. Surely the best way to be an ally is to give them that chance.

Sometimes it’s not about leaning in; maybe instead it’s about sitting back and making space for those voices that are usually left out of the circle.

Image

Currently…

Watching: Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones, Game of Thrones…. And Masterchef, for the days when there isn’t Game of Thrones.

Hearing: ‘West Coast’, Lana del Rey’s latest offering, as well as anything on BBC Radio 4.

Reading: many, many books/articles for my work; and in my free moments, Maria Elia’s ‘Smashing Plates’ and Niki Segnit’s ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’. (The latter is definitely one of my favourite books, it’s really reinvigorated my cooking!)

Making: cakes. Banana & date for a friend’s birthday last weekend, then my version of Sabrina Ghayour’s famous carrot, almond & pistachio cake.. I quite fancy something lemony next!

Wishing: for a holiday! Then again, Oxford in the spring is like being on holiday. If only it weren’t for all that pesky work that is clamouring to be done…

Image

Spring Cleaning

Image

 

There’s something about spring that is so invigorating. The beautiful weather (so far, anyway!), the food that’s in season, the explosion of colour, the longer evenings… I love all four seasons, but I can’t escape from the euphoria of spring. It’s my birthday season, and I’ve always looked forward to it. This year spring has sprung in full force: Oxford has been bathed in gorgeous sunlight and is awash with blossom in every shade of pink. To me, this is the season of fresh starts, more so than the New Year could ever be. And so, fresh starts for this blog (hopefully!). In the last year and a bit I’ve finished my Master’s, begun my PhD, and have just taken on a new role representing my fellow students. There have been ups and downs (and some rather nasty playground politics), but I’m optimistic for the year ahead. There is a lot of work to be done (especially in the next couple of months!), and it may not always be appreciated or recognised, but that’s ok. I’m keeping this song as my guide.

 

Long time, no speak

Image

What with one thing and another, it’s been quite a while since I’ve been on here. Family issues coupled with the workload of a Master’s have resulted in a pretty stressful autumn, but things are on the mend. It’s the first time in about 10 years that we’ve had a Christmas in Greece, and it’s nice to rediscover the country at this time of year – the smell of bonfires is everywhere, and there’s such a lovely greenness to the landscape, compared with the harsh yellows of the summer. I’ve been regretting leaving my camera behind, but logistically I just didn’t have the space. So phone pictures it is! Luckily my phone seems to produce quite good quality photos… We’re meant to be making a traditional Vasilopita tomorrow (a Greek New Year’s cake), so will try & keep a note of the recipe – I have a few I’ve been meaning to upload, as well as other bits & pieces, so will do my best to find the time. But the little voice in my head keeps telling me that I should be working on my PhD application instead… *sigh* Never enough time. Happy 2013 🙂

 

Currently…

Listening to: Imagine Dragons – Night Visions

 

Reading: Vasilis Gourogiannis, Το ασημόχορτο ανθίζει, and my new favourite blog, Esme & the Laneway (http://esmeandthelaneway.blogspot.co.uk/)

Obsessing over: vintage dresses & accessories; my PhD project; Esme & the Laneway; women’s rights; oranges.

 

Image