I really never liked Oxford when I was little.
It was busy, bustling, and quite frankly, a rather frightening place what with all the buses and cyclists. When I applied for university places, I tried to resist going to Oxford Brookes, recalling (pretty incorrectly) my childhood memories of how loud and busy it was, hoping I’d make the cut for Southampton.
But in September 2007, as the Rugby World Cup kicked off, I moved into student halls at my second choice University, Oxford Brookes. Stick with me, I will talk about food! It didn’t take me long as a Fresher to fall in love with the place and my new found freedom. The halls were surrounded by countryside and overlooked the City. On a clear day, I’d walk to the local nature reserve with my housemate to lap-up the sunshine, catching up on gossip whilst taking in the dreaming spires below us. Eventually, in our second and third year, we moved closer to the city centre, enjoying walks along the canal, the local nightlife and nearby Starbucks.. not yet fully comprehending the cultural offer or how lucky we were to live in such a diverse city.
As always, all good things have to come to an end, and in 2010, I moved back home to my Parents. Away from my housemates and Peter, who I’d met in my second year. Peter and I muddled through, chasing a long-distance relationship in the hope that one day, we’d move back to our favourite place, together. When you move away from a place or someone you love, nothing else really compares, and that’s all you can do….draw unfair comparisons of the place you currently reside in with the apple of your eye. It’ll never match up and it’s all you can do to numb the pang in your chest.
Eventually, Peter and I decided to take the leap and started renting together. We’ve been so incredibly lucky to rent a lovely top-floor 2-bed flat in a pretty central location, and for an amazing rate! It’s taken us a while, but over the past year or so, we’ve started making friends around the city and have loved the fact that there are so many places for music, films, coffee, fitness and just sitting to chill! We’ve even broadened our pub horizons, venturing to a few that we’d never set foot in whilst at Uni.
But over the last week, we’ve had this niggling feeling that it’s all going to come to an end.
As our friends have started buying houses, we’ve started to look at our pennies and have realised that renting really doesn’t make sense for us in the long run. And so this week has been a giant rollercoster, filled with late nights, unplanned meals and a bucketful of tiredness.
I didn’t get off to a good start for Week 2 of Get the Glow, as I hadn’t planned our meals, let alone organise a food shop! Our cupboards were looking pretty sparse and we lacked good fats, something that we needed plenty of to ensure we could stave off the refined sugar and to keep our energy levels up. I was able to whip a few of Madeleine’s recipes including these tasty beauts:
- On both Monday and Tuesday, I couldn’t resist starting the day with Madeleine’s overnight bircher which is simply moreish! I ate mine on the train on Tuesday with some chopped nectarine and fresh blueberries, made me so happy!
- Green Goddess Bowl (Page 128) – we didn’t have any kale so I substituted it with some lettuce leaves. This was such a delicious lunch but as usual, Peter was still left hungry!
- Spicy salmon with cucumber and yoghurt (Page 156) – I supplemented this with a big salad and some green beans! The main element of it is to mix a couple of teaspoons of paprika with 150g of natural yoghurt, and pan-fry the salmon with a big dollop of this dressing for a few minutes on each side.
- Grilled Chicken, Roasted Lemon and Olive Salad (Page 144) – where the chicken is covered in ground cumin and grilled with lemons. So tasty! I had a lot of the salad left over from the salmon so I just used that up!
I wrongly believed that this week would be a walk in the park in terms of the challenge, but it really wasn’t. It was made even harder by the fact that both Peter and I really were down in the dumps. I think we did pretty well considering, and opted for organic dark Green & Blacks chocolate with a handful of dates to satisfy our sweet tooth. On Wednesday, I came home feeling too tired to cook, which is unusual for me, and so we ate out at Oxford’s Mission Burrito. According to Tim Ferriss, Mexican is a good choice for those who want to avoid processed foods and when you take a look at the ingredients, I have to agree with him.
At some point in the week, we came to the conclusion that we just couldn’t afford to stay in our dear Oxford and so started looking all over the place. Telling ourselves that it would be worth it, moving to a cheaper place…saving up for trips abroad! But because of our jobs, we just can’t move to significantly cheaper places and resigned ourselves to a one bed flat.
On Saturday, we viewed an immaculate apartment in my old rival school in Newbury. It was beautiful, but just not in Oxford. We stood there, looking around, kidding ourselves that we could live there and be happy at the same time. Sure, Ikea do some amazing stuff, we would have rocked that place, but it would have been soulless. How could we be happy without our elusive best friend?!
Luckily, we had the call to say that an offer had been agreed and accepted on the flat. We pondered about what might have been, but woke up to the fact that we just won’t be happy if we moved away. We’d lose too much. We’ve come to the conclusion that we can afford beautiful Oxford, we just have to make compromises, either on space or location within the city and we’re happy with that.
Oxford, my dear friend, you are very much worth taking the punt.