Monday, September 17, 2012

A Single (in multiple senses of the word) Girl Walks into a Pub...

and probably won't do that again. At least not this particular pub-- Mason's Arms. It's located in Headington Quarry which is an area in the "back" of the neighborhood I'm living in (it's also relatively close to C.S. Lewis' grave which I think I'm going to go hunt down later this week.)  Mason's Arms is really cute from the outside:

and it's a neighborhood pub, clearly.  Inside it's not quite as cute, but it does feel pub-like in a traditional sense. Everyone in there seemed to know each other and the bartenders (who, openly drink pints themselves).  And, really, the people in there couldn't have been nicer to me-- I had a long conversation with one regular who was there with his dog (who as allowed to sit on the floor in the pub-- I'm assuming because this particular pub doesn't serve food [except bags of crisps] because I haven't seen dogs actually allowed inside other places here. They've been relegated to outdoor patios everywhere else.  Either that or it's so far off the beaten path, no kind of health inspector ever checks.) In addition to telling me about his dog, we had a very long conversation about how much he likes all the CSI: franchises, especially CSI: Miami and how brilliant David Caruso is in the show (I disagree, but this didn't seem worth arguing about).  Also a fan of the NCIS franchises as well.  These are shows I never watch (having looked at the TV guide here, I could catch up on all of them while I'm here if I wanted-- they do seem to be on a lot.).  Then, when I mentioned how much I love Downton Abbey, everyone near me scoffed-- they'd never seen it.  I don't think it's that it's not a big deal here though; I think it's just not the kind of TV that appealed to this particular crowd.

In addition to regulars who know a lot about US produced crime dramas, Mason's Arms also has some really good beer-- they brew their own. I had one called Good Old Boy. It looks a lot like a nut brown, but is significantly hoppier.  In addition to their own brews, they also have many others, including the "real" Budweiser (which is pronounced differently-- like the Czechs, who produce it, would say it)-- shipped not from the US but from the Czech Republic. I didn't try it-- I'm pretty sure it still constitutes "cheap" beer here (you can get a case of it pretty inexpensively in the grocery-- or so I was told as its virtues were being extolled). All of this, however, does not really make me want to trek back out there-- no one in there was really my age and I didn't really have anything in common with anyone. And, it did feel like the kind of place where the regulars own their bar stools because they are there everyday-- and I'm pretty sure it's the kind of place that only has regulars. It's really hard to find and it's tucked away pretty well (besides, while the neighborhood I live in feels really safe, there is the additional problem that the roads I had to walk down were pretty isolated, even though it was largely residential.  I went around 6 so there was still daylight, but I don't know if I would want to walk home late at night from there.  I'm sure it's safe, but I think I'd still be apprehensive.). As I was leaving, I did get asked out... by a shlubby guy in sweatpants and a flannel shirt that really looked like it hadn't been washed in a while who was probably old enough to be my father (at least) and clearly spends a lot of time on his corner bar stool.  I politely declined giving him my phone number-- but, it was nice to be asked. I think I'm going to try hanging out at pubs more on the beaten path-- and on the main road to make walking home feel a bit more comfortable, so I think I'll be able to avoid any awkward run-ins.

That was the first half of my fun Saturday night out...from there, I went to Posh Fish, which is in Headington, a few blocks from my flat, and is rumored to be the best fish and chips in Oxford.  The store front is noticeably bright and marked by a large fish.

This makes more sense than the shark house, which is on a side street a few more blocks down in Headington.

It's real.  And permanent-- it's been there since 1986.  It was commissioned by a guy named Bill Heine who I think if from Canada. He's become a local radio/media personality around Oxford and supposedly when through a long legal battle in order to keep his house feature. Eventually he won (I think no one could actually find a law prohibiting fake sharks diving through roofs)-- so now it's this well-known oddity in Headington (What I really want to know is if the shark head is poking through on the other side.

I haven't tried enough fish and chips to know if Posh Fish really does serve the best (it was pretty good)-- I know it has to be the largest portion.  I took a picture of it spilled on a plate (second photo). It comes in a paper bag if ordered for take-away, but the bag doesn't do it justice.

I don't think the picture on the plate demonstrates how big this is either. It's hard to quite sense the enormity of the portion, especially the ridiculous amount of chips (and, I ordered the small).  But, I had to throw about half the chips away-- and that was after I ate way more than I needed or even wanted.

Sunday, I continued my healthy eating by having a milkshake for lunch.  It's not what I would normally have, but I had been trying to get to Moo Moos in the Covered Market for a while now (I've gone by a couple times but the line has been really long.  I happened to catch it this past Sunday in a lull-- I got lucky. The line that formed right after I got there was winding.)  It has the longest list of possible flavors I've seen. I took a picture of the paper menu. The menu is posted on the wall as well, but Moo Moos is a small stand squeezed into a narrow passage of the market, so I couldn't get enough distance to take a picture of the actual wall menu.

You can get the idea though. (It also has smoothies, but that menu isn't nearly as impressive. They sound really good and I'm going to go back for one, but there aren't nearly as many choices.)  I had a carrot cake milkshake (again, I ordered a small-- this time a small really did seem reasonably like a small.).  It was yummy.

I finished my Sunday by having some of my students over to watch the first episode of season 3 of Downton Abbey which I won't write about much here because I've promised several people in the States that I won't spoil it for them since I'm seeing it about 6 months before it airs in the US.  I will say 1) the exchanges between Maggy Smith and Shirley Maclaine are fabulous and 2) it was really cool to be watching and know that I had just been in Highclere Castle and walked through--or, up to the roped off barriers of-- the rooms.  There were several exterior shots and I kept thinking, "I have a picture of me standing there!"  And, it was really nice to have people to watch Downton Abbey with-- I'm really glad the students are excited about it too.

I did try to go to the gym today to work off my weekend of truly terrible eating, but it was closed due to noxious paint fumes.  I was able to pick up the class schedule for the coming semester which I was promised would have a lot more classes. And, it does-- but it has the same two-a-week yoga classes. So, I'm guessing yoga (like Greek yogurt) isn't quite the craze it is in the US.  There are a few more Pilates offerings, so maybe that's more popular.  I did, however, get a Living Social offer today for yoga classes offered at the Quaker Centre in the City Centre (curiously, there is Living Social here, but no Groupon), so maybe yoga just isn't popular on campus.  Then again, only 12 people have bought the yoga package; I have no idea if that's because yoga isn't popular here, Living Social isn't popular here or if it's because the classes are still rather expensive, even with the deal (I don't think it's the cost's 14 pounds for 4 two-hour classes which seems reasonable.).  At any rate, I can't take them because they're only offered on Tuesdays and the class I'm teaching conflicts. It seems like it'll be easier to continue the unhealthy portion of my travels than the healthy ones... I've been promised the gym will be open tomorrow though.

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