A bit more of a quiet day today. Well, that is until this afternoon. Whilst I can’t stand the repeated traipsing round the shops, doing panic-stricken Christmas shopping to get all the presents bought, favouring instead to do much by either a) the internet and the comfort of my own home, or b) something by my own fair hand, I do like to not miss out on the experience of the High Street in December and all those festive lights. Last year Emma and I had a lovely afternoon out in Oxford seeing the lights and this year we decided to do it again.
So we headed into Oxford and visited our favourite shops, and looked in all the nice windows, and picked up a few last things we needed. I had thought there was a Christmas market too in Broad Street, but clearly that had packed up and moved off. What there was in Broad Street but the big, ol’ Coca Cola lorry and Santa Claus and snow falling from the sky (somehow)…
Today was a day for seeing family that I haven’t seen in ages, or indeed in come cases, not at all. With the exception of Olivia, I’ve not met any of my first cousins-once-removed, and only she when she was a baby, so it was nice to finally meet. They’re all over in the UK for a few weeks seeing sights ahead of the big birthday bash of my Uncle Gerry. As Oxford is on most people’s shopping lists of places to visit and we’re on hand as native guides, Emma and I had a day being tourists in our own town.
We went on an open top bus tour (before and after, but critically not during, the most torrential downpour), visitied the Oxford Castle Unlocked tour, had lunch in The Eagle and Child (once drinking den and meeting place of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the rest of the Inklings) and showed them Blackwell’s Bookshop and the world famous Norrington Room (which boasts three miles (5 km) of shelving and with 10,000 square feet (930 m2) merited an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest single room selling books).
After the bleak wintriness of yesterday today was one of those crispier, nicer days that make you fall in love with winter. After a quiet morning pottering, and base-icing the Christmas cake, Emma and I headed into Oxford in the late afternoon for a spot of festive Christmas shopping. It was one of those relaxed occasions where I have done all the main shopping, but there’s just a few little things I wanted to get if I saw them, but the main objective was to be around the twinkling festive lights in the dark and the cold and just feel Christmas. I got this from the very beginning, seeing the lights through Summertown (one day I really must visit Barefoot Books), and then no sooner that we had arrived in Oxford but the lights of Boswell’s tempted us invitingly, and there were carol singers in Cornmarket Street and a fire juggler…
The Pylones Boutique is always inviting with its array of bright colours and I found a few stocking fillers in there. The Oxford Covered Market is always a good place to wander round. Turkeys really don’t vote for Christmas…
The Last Bookshop has relocated from Jericho into the centre of Oxford with every book just £2 – perfect for stimulating stockings! And then we were lured by inexpensive, antique glass baubles in our favourite card shop – Arcadia in St Michael’s Street – with a window display to die for.
By then we were beginning to get hungry so we dropped into Wagamama for a meal that may have been a traditional Japanese breakfast but was nonetheless very yummy.
A perfect way to end a perfect Christmassy-festive day. Must make a tradition of this!
On Saturday 21 April 2007 I met Emma fro the first time. I was one week from redundancy and being replaced by a machine at Blackwells (now Wiley) and we had been emailing, on a daily basis. Five years ago today I bought my current bike and my new camera was delivered. I bicycled across Bicester to my first date with Emma and she saw my big blue eyes whiz past as she sat in her car.
Five years later and I am employed again and we’re approaching our third wedding anniversary. We didn’t go into today aiming to commemorate this day but it has been a happy coincidence.
This morning we went to feed George and Gus Gus who we have been looking after this week and then we criss-crossed across Bicester collecting a parcel from the Royal Mail depot, going to the butchers, stopping off at Pets at Home to purchase an Arthur-exerciser (not that he has used it yet…) before finally ending up in Bicester for our vegetables.
This afternoon we went into Oxford to go to the excellent Romance of the Middle Ages exhibition at the Bodleian Library. I don’t pretend to have understood it all, but just see the early books – the illuminated manuscripts – including the first book ever printed in English was a joy. The narrative of the exhibition came alive for me as the chronology reached through to the current day. It somehow helped to see the ancient in context, when you can see the first draft scrawl of Philip Pullman’s The Scarecrow And His Servant (will the first drafts of Mr Tumnal ever there to be viewed in an exhibition?) as you see a collection of books by favourite writers: Diana Wynne Jones, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, Kevin Crossley-Holland and Terry Jones and a description a 21 romantic hero – that of Harry Potter.
After the Bodleian, we had a potter around Oxford – where they were having a folk festival weekend and endded up having an impromptu fifth anniversary meal in the Golden Cross branch of Pizza Express.
A perfect day. A brilliant five years.
I’ve started on chapter six of Mr Tumnal’s story. He sleeps in a house surrounded by a high Cotsworld stone wall, beyond which, the trams rattle through the night. Ever since holidays in Tallinn, Budapest and Timisoara, I’ dreamed of an Oxford with trams, and a metro system. I’m going to have fun writing about an Oxford just as I want it… 🙂
Dreams rattled through Louis’ mind in much the same way as the trams beyond the high stone wall outside his bedroom window clanked past on the rails with the wining hum of wheels and hiss of electricity along the cables.
Cycling into Oxford this morning was like entering a new city; a city that exists but once a year. It’s like a city within a city; a whole other world that has arrived overnight and taken over Oxford. The Fair has arrived in town. I find that their are three worlds existing in the centre of Oxford today; that of the everyday, real one of cars and traffic and commuters getting to and from work; and then there is the secret after-hours one of the fair before its operational, quiet and mysterious; and the one during the day and into the evening which is loud and brash and claustrophobic.
I much prefer the second of these. When St Giles Fair is just a set of ‘streets’ which people to pass through to go about the business of the first world. I find the reality of the fair in action, too busy, too loud, too much.
We’ve been watching the new series of It’s Not Easy Being Green on BBC2 on Wednesday nights, with updates from the green New House Farm project. Last week, they included a piece on making your own wood-fired clay oven out of recycled or salvaged material.
I’ve found the instructions online — I so want to build one of these. For one it looks so much fun, for two, if we can extract it out of the ground there’s a layer of clay under the ground that should be perfect, and for three, I can smell the taste of that pizza already… 🙂
It amazes me just how many people are still using their mobiles whilst driving. I tell you, if there are any police(wo)man reading, get out there onto the Woodstock Road in Oxford. Thereâs one lady whoâs driving all the way up the road texting all the way??!!!
Have just been for a leisurely wander round Oxford – and even though I had my camera with me I didn’t take any photos. It seemed a bit hot for taking photos – is that possible? Thought about buying a few things but didn’t (good me). Bought something else for someone else (they’ll probably say bad me, but hey…! *grins*) Never mind, they deserve it, and so she better watch her letterbox carefully! (does that sound a bit too much like a threat? I hope not…)
Gonna go and sit in the garden now with a spot of late lunch (if I can find some shade)…