Friday, May 1, 2009

Oxford, Part Two

After Stonehenge and Avebury, Sharon and I took ourselves off to Oxford for the weekend. This was our second trip there and the purpose was for Sharon to attend the spring meeting of the Charlotte Mary Yonge Fellowship. I’ll not go into the history of CMY, but to note that she was a devoted follower of John Keble, who along with John Henry Newman, were founders of the Oxford Movement, which sought to move the Anglican Church toward Rome, not to put too fine a point on it.

Whilst Sharon hobnobbed with her fellow Yongians, I was able to enjoy a day’s ramble on my own through Oxford, roaming the streets, seeking (successfully) pens, and having a fine time.

That evening we joined the head of the Fellowship, Clemence Schultze, her husband Martin and Barbara Dennis for dinner and the next day had a bit of a tour of Oxford together and then headed back to Bath for our final two weeks there.

Since this is written a couple of weeks after the fact and some of the views have blurred in my mind, I shall not try to fully recreate my ramblings through captions, lest I mislabel buildings and bring down upon myself the wrath of those of you who know Oxford better than I.
Sharon (eyes wide shut) in front of the West Oxford Community Centre. From there I went on my ramble of the town, starting with the Oxford Castle, which has been converted into a hotel and shopping complex. Here the castle and the Saxon tower. It's funny how one gets used here to stuff built even in the 12th century, but the pre-Norman stuff brings me, at least, to a halt.
Look carefully at the shop window between the umbrellas for a surprise. I dont like them at home, so why bother here.
The entrance to Cornmarket Street on a Saturday morning. This corner, with Carfax Tower, is the heart of Oxford. From there I headed up High Street. You'll see why in a moment.

As in so many old English towns, one needs to pause and glance down the side streets, or better, follow them.

The colleges are variously open to the public, so what you get to see depends on the day. University college was closed that day, though prospective students are always welcomed.


My destination was here, Pens Plus, though I actually scored two modestly cool pens, a Relief Esterbrook and a gold filled Swan Leverless, before even visiting the Losatos at Pens Plus, where a lovely hard rubber Swan oversize became mine. I guess it is obvious that there would be lots of pens in Oxford, although I gather that there are several members of college in town who collect. Thankfully they left something for me. Nic Losito, who was a student of the legendary Arthur Twyddle, and I had a nice chat about the perils and pleasures of vintage pen restoration. Although the shop by needs, sells new pens, they give over a corned to a nice selection of vintage. For pen lovers the shop is definitely worth a stop when in Oxford.

Pens in hand, I continued my ramble of Oxford. When we were there back in March, we'd not had a lot of free time, so I really did ramble. A stroll through the extensive grounds of the Bodlean Library was essential. The library formerly was housed by discipline, here history.
The next day the hop-on hop-off tour guide would actually tell tourists, us included, that there was some question whether or not this was a copy of the bridge in Venice. Yeah, sure.
Balliol was open this fine day, so for the price of £1 I had a nice stroll through the grounds. This self tour was nowhere near as extensive as what our English guide Mari had arranged for us at Christ Church, but was a pleasant interlude.

Back to the Saxon tower and then through Cornmarket
Oxford even has superior buskers, this fellow most notably.
The next day Sharon and I set out on another walk through the town combined with a hop on hop off tour. At the Radcliffe Camera we happened upon a small gathering if vintage Jaguars and their owners. The cars were all immaculate, but the one that most took my fancy was this XK140 outfitted for road racing. I could just imagine it screaming through the hills of northern Italy at the Mille Miglia, perhaps in the hands of the legendary Stirling Moss.

We ended up our day at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. I honestly had no idea of the historical significance of the church. Here, in the 1550s, the Oxford martyrs, the the bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley and the Archbishop Thomas Cranmer were tried and burnt for heresy. John Wesley, founder of Methodism preached here, and Keble and Newman launched the Oxford Movement from this very pulpit in the 1830s

That was it for the day, and on Sunday we headed home. Sometime, I hope to be able to edit and publish more of Oxford.

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