Natalie saves a Pigeon

The Creative Writing class arguably has one of the most beautiful classrooms on the program. This is, perhaps, a perk of having been a member of the OxTrad faculty for ten summers (as well as having a regularly full class of students).

Our classroom, the SCR Parlour in Pembroke College, also has a fireplace… and for nearly a week, the students and I have heard a rustling in the fireplace–presumably a nesting bird or even a mouse. Today, the staircase’s scout informed us that it was a stuck pigeon.

A vegan of eight years and an intense animal lover, I was deeply disturbed to know this animal had been distressed, without food or water, for a week. It seems that injured or distressed animals frequently wander into my life… and I often make long drives out to Tiggywinkles (likely the best wild animal sanctuary in the UK) with animals either in the boot/trunk of car or, every now and then, in the passenger seat. (See below for a photo of the baby squirrel I found last year–he spent the ride to the sanctuary hopping between my shirt and a box full of soft blankets next to me.)

Learning of the pigeon’s plight this morning, the students entered the classroom to find me crouched in the fireplace, holding up my iPhone torch light, peering into the chimney. The hole to the fireplace is quite small, though we were able to get a good view of the pigeon. Despite having many encounters with wild animals, sticking my hand into a dark hole above a fireplace still presented mental challenges…. Enter Natalie to the rescue!

Natalie, one of this year’s creative writing majors, has quite a bit of experience with animals as she volunteers regularly on a farm sanctuary in her native Missouri. Natalie, thus, had no problem reaching both of her hands into the dark hole to retrieve the bird. The room erupted in screams as she pulled the surprised pigeon from the chimney. Upon placing the bird on the grass outside near some Black-eyed Susans, it happily took flight. Everyone was relieved, and clapped and cheered for both Natalie and the bird.


Natalie and the Saved Pidge


Me (Julie/Teacher) with a baby squirrel

Us Birds – Ryan Shayne (inspired by last two lines of Dostoevsky by Charles Bukowski)


(Half dressed, early morning, feet on window sill, too awake)

A bird squatted dead
Hollowed into an ashen pavement
I saw as I was looking down;
I looked up
Another one perched rooftop
Breathing, alive
Only near the chimney,
Not so close that he would fall to smoke
And share the dark with
His deceasing brother.
Though, the bird was silhouetted by
A waxen beam from sun
I guess he was
A flickering shadow
Pretending he was dark too,
Then there were birds
Scorched head on by sun
cradling on an
Electric wire
They didn’t know
They would soon fall,
And stink like
Their brother
In the dark.
I looked back at the silhouetted one.
Clouds now engulfed that space of sky
And interrupted the facade;
The bird had been coloured,
Pity, old bird,
A stench is coming
For you,
One to you vilify you
In the dark:
Prepare to
Eat at the full table
Of rotten apple cores and bone marrow;
With your brothers,
But don’t sleep,
It is when we sleep that
We give power to
The dark,
We are artists, us birds,
They call it rotting,
But we are thriving
In the Dark.
Is our only
So long as we
Do not sleep
Do not stop
The art
Of ourselves.

Mandy and Jake, a Story in One Hundred Words

They were the kind of couple that had post cards on their fridge. Maybe it was because you could not spread your arms in their hallways, or that their windows looked upon a neighboring brick wall, and maybe it was the small things being small, that was the stirrer of wanderlust in Mandy and Jakes morning Chamomile tea.

In a green box, the size of Mandy’s palm, half the size of Jakes, is a stupid thing that shrinks the flat, glazes the brick wall, and puts the postcards on the fridge.

Nine little glossy cubes. With pictures of places to go.


Humans of Oxford


I’m from South London:
When I was younger I wasn’t particularly happy with my life because I was more antisocial.I was not seen until I left sixth form when I underwent a sort of social reform.
I was Conservative and my views didn’t fit my surroundings. This year I stopped my degree which I hated. It was in art. I hated the management. I still love art, just the teachers and the system and shit was all getting fucked up. Photography and creative writing, so you’re liberals just like me?

Humans of Oxford: Gavin and Susan

Humans of oxford

I was brought up in Oxford. And—well, I’ve been all over the place, but I always end up back here. I started this art ten years ago, because my money got stopped. This is the only thing I can actually do. My artwork—it’s good for depression. I’ve got a lot of suffering going on in my head. You get lost in the artwork. And I write too. I can’t spell, so I draw little figures, and that does the job. That’s what they used to do, long time ago—they drew figures. You ever seen those figures? I believe there’s one God. He’s called by different names, yes, but there’s one God and there’s one Satan. Satan—he’s been there, done that, with a T-shirt even. He’s not a very nice person; at times, see, he tricks you! But Jesus never tricks you. My faith is what keeps me here. It’s why I can stay here, and I get by. Every day is different here. You see all sorts. Over here in the streets, a lot of people—they’ve got mental disorders. They’ve got problems. Big problems. They’ve all suffered. If you suffer and say, “I’m better than this,” you can get on with it. But if you continue sitting there, sitting on your butt and doing nothing, you won’t get better. You’ve got to make an effort. I don’t care about the money. Well, I do care, but it’s not based on money. It’s ‘cause I want to. Time is free, see. People are always focusing on the material things, on how much they can buy with what they have. Time doesn’t cost money. And you decide what you do with it.

Humans of Oxford: Tony and Betty

Tony: “Well I know she doesn’t like to mention this, but originally Betty and her family were from London during the Blitz. Only three people in her family out of the thirteen lived.”

Betty: “I was buried under the house for five hours. I survived, I was only ten at the time. That was in 1940.”

Tony: “So she was evacuated out of London, where she met me at Stratford-Upon-Avon while she was at school.”

Betty: “We were only sixteen then, so young and silly. Anyway I went back to London, we lost touch, I received a few letters occasionally while he was in the army.”

Tony: “I was in the medical wing during the war for two years. The odd thing was that during the war we thought all Germans were evil but later I realized they were the same as we were. They didn’t want war either.”

Betty: “After the war, my marriage was on the rocks and so was his so we thought we should just get together. We’ve been together ever since. Now we’re in our eighties and everything doesn’t seem too bad ya know?”

Tony: “Yes, we’ve had a great life together.” unnamed

HUMANS OF OXFORD: Lea and Karina

India is one of the safest places I’ve traveled to, although I suspect it has something to do with the country’s unfounded respect for Imperial Britain. I noted there that the dynamics between boys in a group is universally herd-like and overwhelmingly peculiar. I was asleep in a train from Jaipur to Delhi in a berth full of Sikh men. Respectable, young…but I woke up to the tickle of my shorts inching up my thigh; a collective dare to brave an investigation: what is the white mans choice in underwear?


Don’t be ridiculous. There is nothing amazing about my words and situation. Stop that woman in the striped dress (points) and you will find she has a story just as encapsulating. The story consuming me at this moment is an emotional one.  Of feuds and bitter words. You choose your friends, not your family. But here I am having a quiet afternoon in Oxford, far from Yorkshire–no, don’t apologize…and it’s alright. No, I don’t need to see the website this is going on. I’m quite content leaving this afternoon sealed in a happy memory.

Humans of Oxford: Ashley


“I wouldn’t change anything about my life. I wouldn’t be me otherwise. And I don’t want to go home anymore. It’s done its purpose… I want a boat and a glass blower so I can live on the canal and sell blown glass. And whenever I don’t wanna be somewhere anymore, I’ll just move. I won’t be stuck.”

by Natalie Landwehr and Elisa Peroglio Carus

Humans of Oxford: Arturo


“I have one little sister, and we don’t get along very well. I don’t know why, but we argue a lot. I would say that someone I look up to, or my idol in life, is my mother. She does most things for me and has given me everything she has, and I’m very thankful for that. Now, I go to school and work at the ice cream stand [outside of Café W] during the summer, but I love to travel. My favorite location is South Africa, because it’s far away. When I’m older I want to be an auxiliar de vueloor a flight attendant, because I’d get the chance to travel everyday.”