I sat on a bench along a footpath that shoots out eastward between meadows from University Park. Clearheaded from running, I felt elated by endorphins, the sepia autumn sunlight, and pride at having recently become a graduate student at the University of Oxford.
Then, a woman and her son – a chubby boy of around eleven or so – came walking along the path.
“They were poor Woodstock children!” the boy whispered theatrically.
“What are you saying?” the mother replied, flustered, possibly embarrassed by my presence and not wishing for a stranger to judge her by her son’s nascent snobbery.
A few seconds’ later, two Labradors came bounding along, followed by two women. One of the dogs panted toward me, and began sniffing enthusiastically around my groin. Thankfully, one of the women then called it away, smiling to show her embarrassment at her dog’s wandering nose.
Getting up, I walked in the direction from which they had come. Toward me came two young girls, also of around eleven. One was small and blonde, the other was larger, with black hair in cornrows that cascaded down to braids.
“Keep running mate,” the latter said, sarcastically.
I attempted an expression that conveyed disapproval yet also wry amusement at her remark. I then broke back into a run and kept going along the long, straight path, where the trees provided coolness yet obscured the view of meadows on either side.