I met Jenny in Oxford today (after a brief trip into work to reclaim my passport which I mistakingly left their, and I wanted to make sure I had in my posession again). She arrived on the train around 12.15ish – how come it’s illegal to send cattle long distances in confined quarters in extreme heats, but not passengers(??) – and we wandered up through Oxford’s West End past the castle and prison site into the centre.

We were both hungry – both having got up early (Jenny to catch her train, tube, another tube and another train, and me to get the last bit of holiday shopping and pick up my 2000 Estonian Kroon (pronouced Krohn) – and so we headed off to Pizza Express for a tomato and mozerella salad and pizza washed down with a nice refreshingly-chilled beer.

Author’s Note: The Pizza Express in Oxford is a historic old inn just off the Covered Market with twisted beams, crumbly brickwork and old murals painted on the wall. Shakespeare is reputed to have rested here once, although I guess in the days before pizza was widely available…

We caught up with the other’s lives, and chatted away. It was good. Especially as it was only the second time we have ever met (the first being when we first met on a NT Leadership Training Weekend in the autumn of 1999 – before I landed my first full time job!). Our remaining contact has been through email and christmas cards, and only as recently this year, phone calls. Until the incompetencies of the NT Working Holidays office scuppered our plans by not actually booking our places and negletting to tell us (thanks, bloody Cirencester!!) we were going to co-lead a working holiday up in the Lakes this September. This afternoon’s get-together was a, hell let’s meet anyway, instead of a meet-and-plan-menus…

Following on from lunch we walked a whistlestop tour of the sites of Oxford, myself pointing out the colleges where I knew them (thanks go to the passerby who confirmed my pronoucement that exhibit A to the left here is Brasenose! Why can’t the colleges have little signs outside to dictate which is which??), circled the Radcliffe camera, and cut back along Broad Street and up St Giles to acquire ourselves of some icecream from a parlour I know in Little Clarendon Street, and then cut back across to eat them by the river in the University Parks under the welcome shade of a tree.

There were punters to be observed, and a family of little ducklings out for a swim with their mother, and some kind gathering of folk with pushchairs (who it transpired had arrived complete with push chairs in punts). We were offered grass either ground or solid for very reasonable sums, and dispite our polite declining were shown the merchandise (yeah right, like fishing it out from your grubby pockets is going to make the offer more tempting?!). Both Jenny and myself remarked that this was the first time we’d been offered drugs like this. It could just be coincidence but I now think that perhaps showing a friend the colourful notes of Estonian Kroon is possibly some secret signal when in the park that, hey, I want to buy some grass.

To even the score we were also offered some grass of a different kind from a duckling out for a walk with his mum. I say walk, however we later decided that actually this was a case of mum sending her child out to beg food to bring back for her…

A plastic duck then appeared in the grass a short way away (I say appeared, but we suddenly noticed it, and neither of us could remember seeing it when we sat down, and both agreed that a rubber duck lying in the grass in a park by a river was probably something that we probably would have noticed, being something that you wouldn’t normally expect to see…). Upon closer inspection, the little chap was actually not just any duck but a deluxe duck, and appeared to be brand new, and yet discarded unwanted. The little chap has now been found a new home at the end of my bath…

And so the afternoon drew to a close with the agreement that we really mustn’t let it slip four years before our next meeting – so that said we’ve tentatively penciled in a pre-Christmas sojourn down to the capital to play on all the toys in the department stores when all the little christmassy lights are on. Oh, and Jenny’s promised to show me the faery log in (Hyde Park?)…