The bus trip takes me to The Other Place (for the uninitiated: that's what people in Cambridge call Oxford, and the other way round). When I was invited to this conference, I told the convenor, who had known me in Sweden: "Are you aware that I am now at The Other Place? Is it a problem?" No, it's not a problem, it's a joke. But if anyone asks me which I like best, I am a passionate Cantabrigian. And people do ask. This is a large conference, not as large as the one in Orlando, but large enough. When I was invited I thought it would be one of those small cosy ones. It is still a reasonable size to find your old friends in the crowd. There are quite a few old friends. And as usual some people I only know by name and am pleased to meet.
The theme of the conference is, quite appropriately, place and space. The Other Place is a famous literary place, I must reluctantly admit. You could have a whole conference on The Other Place in literature. As it is, only a couple of papers make a point of it. I manage to smuggle just one quote into mine.
The venue is Keble College. It's gorgeous, but since it is not one of the famous ones, few people know about it. The Hall where we have our meals is magnificent. They say it is a yard larger than the any other hall in The Other Place.
The first event of the conference is a lecture by the Writer. Afterwards, there is a wine reception. The Writer is surrounded by crowds. I approach slowly, wording the opening sentence carefully: "You may not remember me, but..." (In fact, it would be a shame if he didn't remember me, I have been on the jury that awarded him a major prize. But you never know with Famous Writers). He spots me and says amiably: "There you are! I thought I saw you in the audience". I feel I have been touched by the Holy Spirit. Or perhaps covered with Dust.