Monday, 13 September 2010

A day out in Oxford

Had a great day on Saturday with friends Pete and Jane Beckley. Pete's appeared in this blog before - the award-winning furniture designer. We went to Oxford where they were holding a couple of heritage days, Open Doors 2010, which meant a lot of the historic buildings were opened free of charge.

Jesus chapel doorway
Since some colleges were open only the afternoon, we had to plan our itinerary. As is often the case, although we'd lived in and near the city for so long, we'd none of us visited many colleges. We started at Wadham, and then after a coffee/chocolate in the covered market it was on to Jesus College. We liked it. I especially liked the entry to the chapel, which has carved above it: "Ascendat oratio. Descendat gratias". That means: "Let prayer ascend. May grace descend," I think. Inside the chapel is light and unfussy.

We also called in at the University Church on the High. The history connected with it I found more impressive than the place. There's a most peculiar screen at the back under the gallery made of greeny glass bricks. Ugly. But it's the place where the university began, when the heresy trial of Cranmer took place, where John Wesley preached and John Henry Newman (soon to be canonised by Pope Benedict) was vicar - and where Oxfam began.

By now I was feeling hungry (again!) and so we headed for Magdalen College where there's a café. Let in by an obliging porter through the main doors, we headed for the cloisters. It's a big impressive college where C S Lewis was a fellow, and famous for its deer park. We spotted a white hart, or possibly doe.
Magdalen cloisters
Magdalen gardens
Deer park with white one in middle

To finish we threaded our way down Merton Lane and visited the oldest college in the university. While Pete fell into conversation with a fellow furniture designer, Jane pushed me round the chapel         a----------------------- atrium looking for odd photo-shots. The monument to Thomas Bodley - well, that would never be approved for a churchyard today! - founder of the Bodleian Library, "the oldest copyright library in the world", according to a passing tour guide. "I hope they've got my books," I commented to Jane. But to get back to that Bodley chap, he seems to have been a bit of a lad in his time to judge by his monument. Well, he's surrounded by naked women - as you can see. I'm sure they're classical muses or something. But as we wandered back to the car past the back gates of Christ Church, I mused on more contemporary Oxonians who enjoyed a jolly good time as members of the Bullingdon Club, the likes of Boris, David and George. I wonder what their memorials will be. 

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