Tuesday, 29 July 2014

An Oxford Jaunt - Where We Went

This is really just an aide memoir for my friend Lina's photos. It has no literary merit.

Station car-park - site of the immense and fabulously rich Mediaeval Osney Abbey, of which scarcely a stone remains
S. Thomas the Martyr Church, bees in the Churchyard, John Coombes' House (where I once lived)
The Lion Brewery (gentrified remnant of the Morrell Brewery that once was there, and partly funded Lady Ottoline Morrell who was more than once there with Bertrand Russell)
The Saxon stone tower of the pre-Norman castle, and the mound from even earlier
Quaking Bridge and the Register Office where HL and I were married (Old Style)
Nuffield College, with its spire full of books, paid for by William Morris, Viscount Nuffield, who made cars, then millions, then friends with his philanthropy
The Prison Complex, with its smart restaurants and caf├ęs and places to stay
Oxford's Soho, and the Jolly Farmers, its first gay pub
Down to the canal, and then the Thames, and over the disused rail bridge
Along the riverbank from Grand Pont to Folly Bridge, past the House of the Loopy Statues where Matthew the Booker Prize man lived
Through the back of the Head of the River pub and into Christ Meadow via an anti-bike gate
The meadow, the views of Christ Church, Merton, Magdalen, and other dreaming spires and towers, the longhorn cattle, the trees, the Cherwell stream, the new footbridge to the playing fields
The knicker-nicker cottage, another anti-bike gate, the T S Eliot Theatre at Merton
Magdalen College tower and the bankrupting Wolsey (who fled to court and made a fortune for himself)
The Edwardian Examination Schools, outside, and then in, despite the Keep Out signs (much loud talking of "when I did finals here" - O what one can achieve from Under the Panama)
The Queen's Lane Coffee House (1654 - opened, incidentally, in Cromwell's joy-free Commonwealth) for refreshments and people-watching
Queen's Lane becomes New College Lane, but a diversion to the Turf Tavern, unreachable by road, they must roll the beer barrels down the passageway
Holywell Music Room, where Mozart played (so did my first ex, for his Finals (in Music) recital
The Indian Institute, with its elephant weathervane, from the days when Oxford prepared our chaps for the Raj - 13 Governors-General, and Viceroys, from Christ Church alone
Bodleian Library, set for a show, cold stark courtyard, pondered the accoustic
The Radcliffe Camera, bonkers idea of a library, but exquisite
A glimpse down Brasenose Lane
The University Church of S. Mary the Virgin - S. Frideswide, an abbess with a crozier
The Clarendon building and the Sheldonian Theatre, and the panto of graduation
Blackwells bookshop empire glimpsed across the road, jostling either side of the White Horse which won't sell out
Trinity College & Balliol. Worthy
Memorial to Archbishop Cranmer and the other martyrs of the reformation
S. Mary Magdalen Church unexpectedly open, and the portrait of Charles I, King & Martyr
The Randolph Hotel, and the Ashmolean Museum
Gloucester Green, the old bus station, gentrified and sanitised since my day
My bank (boring)
The Oxford Union Society, with its photo gallery of rogues
The Covered Market, and Cardew's the tea and coffee people
The Bear in Blue Boar Street, with its ties on the walls
Christ Church: Tom Tower, and Quad and neutered Mercury
The Sun Dial, on GMT, then Blue Boar Quad, to which I am warming, and where I stayed for interview in December 1984
The Upper Library, the most beautiful room in Oxford, and the lovely Cristina its custodian, waiting for us with newly discovered watercolours by Alice (in Wonderland) Liddell, and Byzantine books six hundred to a thousand years old
The Great Hall, with its staircase vaulting, and portraits (new one of the retiring dean - unexpectly religious looking!), and bizarre new clockwise one-way system
A spin of the Cathedral, the Becket Window, the vaulting in the Chancel, the Bell Chapel, stained glass reflecting on the stone in the spire
The War Memorial Gardens (after two failed attempts to get out of gates that OUGHT to be open!), the stream that runs under the college, Auden's retirement cottage
And so to a quiet little drink and back to the Railway Station, with tiredy legs, and happy hearts.

That's what we did today.


  1. I assume your day is twice the normal length.
    What a marathon, but it sounds a lovely one.

  2. Does the fact that Frideswide had a crozier imply that she was a Bishop?

    1. The interesting thing is that that particular frieze was from the 1930s, so someone really was making a point about the significance of women in the church.

  3. And no one mentioned the knicker nicker