This time I was alone, on my way to see this famed place of legend. I had heard my school mates’ weekend plans, and felt the pull of other amazing locations, but I knew I had to take this chance while I was across the pond or I might never go. France would have to wait til another time. It was Oxford’s turn.
It was a very plain room, and you wouldn’t have known it was special if you hadn’t come there specifically, or if you didn’t notice all the plaques and pictures of the men themselves on the wall. Time seemed to stand still, though I probably only visited the pub for an hour or so. There were barely any other patrons while I was there. Truly, I could be there mostly alone in this precious room (except for another wandering tourist) and could drink in everything. I tried to imagine what it might have been like to attend one of the meetings. I remember imagining that I would ask for lots of writing advice. How special that would have been, to hear a suggestion right from Professor Tolkien’s mouth! I remember thinking, “Okay, boys, inspire me! I’m here! I came to see you! Give me a really genius idea to put the icing on the cake.” No, nothing hit me like a mystical idea bolt from the blue. Still, just being there inspired me to work harder. What an encouragement to just be there where giants walked. It got me thinking I have some pretty big shoes to fill!
I ordered a fish and chips dinner, and raised some black currant cider in a toast to their genius.
I may not have gotten any life-changing story ideas that day, but I didn’t need a perfect sign to know I was in an almost hallowed place, a personal writing mecca, and that wouldn’t change. Just knowing that I took time to have a meal in the room where one of my favorite authors had sat and gotten writing advice from his learned peers, that alone was worth the trip. It was one of the most wonderful landmarks I have hit on my writing journey, and it truly always will be my first and dearest pilgrimage.