There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Our Oxford Year

As 2014 is drawing to a close, Stuart and I can't help thinking about what a wonderful year we've had here at No. 14 Holywell Street. We're thinking back and remembering all the special people that have come through our door, while looking ahead--wondering what the New Year will bring and what new friends we'll be sharing our beautiful city with.

2014 began with changes to the B&B, especially the New College room.  A new, ensuite bathroom was 'constructed'--quite literally, out of nothing.  Four foot thick Cotswold limestone walls were drilled through, ancient floor boards and beams were uncovered, and up to 8 workmen were in and out of the house for a month, all the while hoping that this 16th century house would be up to the upheaval.  But she held on, pulled through, and the end result was a beautiful and improved New College room.

When I think back to spring I just think about flowers--and mostly daffodils, as the dark winter days give way to their bright yellow.  They usually appear first in our window boxes and in the bike outside that leans against our front window.

Garden at Hill Top Farm 

We always make sure we close the B&B for a week and take a break in the spring, especially before the busy Oxford summer begins.  In March we escaped the city to the back of beyond of the Lake District.  We stayed in a small cottage in remote Eskdale, took long walks accompanied only by Max and the neighboring farmer's border collie, called in at Hill Top Farm to say hello to Peter, and mostly didn't cook breakfast for a week.

Late evening walk in June.

Summertime brings busy days for us and this summer was no different--guests flowed in and out; graduates returning for their degree ceremony, Downton Abbey or Inspector Morse fans here on a pilgrimage, conference goers, and first-time travelers all were greeted at the door by Max and I.  Stuart's tours went from what seemed to be dawn to dusk, and the evenings were long--perfect for punting, Pimms, tending flowers, and Shakespeare in the college gardens.

Shakespeare in Wadham College Garden

Welsh Station Master

After the heady days of summer we were ready for our September break and off we went again, this time to the back of beyond of Wales.  We took narrow-gauge trains that wound their way through the valleys and up into the mountains, a dolphin cruise off the Ceredigion coast, had stupendous blue skies, and again, didn't smell like bacon or sausage for an entire week.  Sheer bliss.

Then it was Michaelmas Term and Fresher's Week in Oxford, and students descended upon the city with the autumn colors.  It's the golden time of year, when the leaves and autumn sun burnishes the Cotswold limestone into a deep and tawny gold.

Which brings us to these days leading up to Christmas.  Christmas lights and trees started appearing all over the city, mornings became frosty, students were trundled back home again, and Christmas music filled the air in Oxford.  The year ends with The Messiah at the Sheldonian, Advent Carol services in college chapels, Christmas Carol concerts performed by angelic choirs, carolers on Cornmarket Street, a Christmas Market on Broad Street, and the 'Cold Moon' over the dreaming spires.

Advent Carol Service

A Christmas celebration in a college dining hall.

The Covered Market at Christmas

And now today our suitcases are packed, our 2014 booking diary is full and put away, and we have the month ahead to enjoy family and friends back in the U.S.  We'll bring in the New Year with all of them and then come back home to Oxford, home to this city we love so much, excited to see what 2015 will bring.

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