Nick Haddad currently serves as the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s Assistant to the Warden for The C.S. Lewis Study Centre at The Kilns. Before moving to Oxford, Nick served the Foundation as an intern in our Redlands office, as well as received his B.A. at Belmont University in Mass Communications. As a part of his time spent at The Kilns, Nick has agreed to write a series of blog posts regarding his experiences to give our readers an idea of what it is like to work and live in the former home of C.S. Lewis.
I had an interesting conversation with a friend regarding how a lot of Brits are confused as to why many Americans love moving or really want to move to the U.K., especially when Americans have that “whole big country” to live in. I’ve been asked this question before, and honestly I do not have a good answer. For me personally, the U.K. is a place of adventure and unexpectedness, which I’ve come to realize I thrive on.
I want to take a moment to reflect on my time living in Oxford and the Kilns thus far, as I begin a whole new phase of my time in England. Some things will require an explanation; others are pretty straightforward. So, I present to you the top 5 things I’ve learned in my first two months in Oxford:
1. Some American foods are hard to find in England.
I had to find this out the hard way when, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t track down grape jelly anywhere in this country. Turns out it has to be especially imported and is seen as a rare treat or an “American delicacy.” I still wonder how they make PB&Js in England. And I don’t even want to think about tracking down real bacon.
For those of you who haven’t visited Oxford, Cornmarket Street is one of the more popular strips in the city center and is basically a row of shops, restaurants, and, most importantly, street entertainers. From folk bands to masked men banging on garbage cans, to illusionists balancing on nothing, the street is a cultural haven for unique sights, people-watching, and plenty of radical stories to share with friends. A must-stop when visiting!
3. Americans stand out like a sore thumb.
I have no intention at this point of being down on Americans, but I finally get the stereotypes that so many other countries point out about us Yanks. We’re noticeably louder, we’re quite opinionated, and we’re very comfortable with standing out in a crowd. But there is also a good side to standing out so much: We smile at people for no reason. I know this sounds goofy; but, at least for me, when walking down a street and passing someone, I will casually smile and give a nod. This is not the norm here. People have given me looks of deep confusion and surprise. I’ve been told that the English usually don’t casually smile at strangers in this country. But, apparently, they really enjoy it, and I’ve been encouraged to keep smiling and nodding. It definitely makes my American nature stand out, though.
4. Under no circumstance should you leave your drapes open when living at the Kilns.
We will get many tourists or on-lookers that stop by outside the Kilns and take pictures or just admire the house. They usually stay outside the property and mind their own business, but others are a little more daring. During my second week at the Kilns, I was in my room after taking a shower and only dressed in my “underclothes.” As I look up, to my surprise, I see a face smashed against my window, looking right into my room. It was an elderly woman who just wanted a peek into the Kilns but got a bit more than she bargained for. I don’t believe I have seen her since.
5. I will always call the Kilns/Oxford home.
Unfortunately, I don’t mean this in the absolute sense of “I’m going to live/work here forever.” But, even though I have only lived here for two months, there is great comfort in this city. It’s almost funny because Lewis himself once talked about the good feelings and kind spirits that lived in the Kilns and, strangely enough, I feel that way too. A lot of people who come to the Kilns talk about a feeling of ease when they enter the home. Living in this on a day-to-day basis just makes life more comforting. I’ve been asked what is next after the Kilns, and I do not really know. But living here, in this place, is something truly amazing. I can’t really explain it fully, but Lewis left behind a loving home, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. I know my work here is temporary, and I’m reminded of that as I look at the calendar and realize it’s already almost halfway through January. But while I’m at the Kilns, I’m going to do everything I can to make this memory one to really hold close for life.
I do want to take a moment to formally thank all my friends and family who are supporting me in this insane adventure. I literally couldn’t be here without your love and support.
And, I best be off! I’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of getting back into European life after visiting the States for Christmas. Who knew that I would miss a proper tea so much? Until next time, this is Nick Haddad, signing off.