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Memories of Oxford
The story behind the poem

Oxford where I went to University to study French and Spanish, was very beautiful as I've attempted to describe. There can be few water meadows more luxuriant than Christ Church Meadows, and few sounds more poignant and stomach-stirring than the birdsong at dusk and the bells which could be heard at intervals all through the day and the night.

However some of the darkest moments I have ever experienced occurred there. I fell ill at the beginning of what should have been my final year, and then, having gone home for the remainder of that year and returned to resume my studies the following year, I fell ill again but had to persist if I was to achieve any sort of degree. It was hell and it scarred me for life. I doubt I would have managed but for the friendship of a nun at All Saints, an Anglican Convent which was shortly to found Helen House, a famous hospice for terminally ill children. In her letter to me congratulating me on obtaining my degree, this nun added: "You should have got the George Cross with it." It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.

by Damaris West

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