A Tour Through (Part of) the Whole of Great Britain in October 2019. Day 4: Oxford, 10 October 2019

A benefit to having a hangover is not needing to stop for breakfast. We had an appointment to keep at our next destination and needed to be on the move anyway.

The Oxford Tube had plenty of space. We got returns for we would be coming back through the next day. The visit was to be short, but it was going to be worth doing.

We checked in to an excellent hotel which was a marked upgrade from our temporary London digs. The Buttery has an extremely convenient location in The Broad. It used to be a bookshop and we can practically see Blackwell’s Bookshop from it. (You will have gathered from the previous post that bookshops are an important part of my holidays.) We stopped for a browse at the Art and Poster and Broad Street branches on way to Magdalen. My eyes were drawn to a special promotion for Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth, but I resisted temptation.

Our appointment is to visit the Macfarlane Library at Magdalen. My husband had special permission to study in it as an undergraduate and he has asked to see it again. We were expected and taken up a small spiral staircase to a large book-lined room. Finished there, we were treated to a peek at the impressive new college library.

By special appointment only: the Macfarlane Library. Photo @Lixmount

Could anyone resist a chance to enjoy Addison’s Walk on a lovely autumn day? We could not. The deer were in the deer park and we had the paths to ourselves.

Walking in Addison’s Walk. Photo by @Lixmount

We headed back into town to find a long-delayed breakfast. The Queens Lane Coffee House is reputed to be the oldest coffee house in Europe (est. 1654) and it is another old favourite. It is not beyond belief that Daniel Defoe himself might have popped in when he was surveying the ‘whole island of Great Britain’. Much restored we wander through the Covered Market. I remember shopping at the food stalls in earnest when we house sat for friends in Jericho in the early 2000s. Many of the shops are still there, but others have gone. It is a town centre within the town centre. You can have your shoes repaired and buy fresh produce or souviners. We decided that there would be no better place for tomorrow’s breakfast than Brown’s Cafe.

Time moves on and, tired though we were, we decided that we could not leave Oxford without at least one pub visit. What would Inspector Morse say if we had visited his realm without sampling a pint?

The Lamb and Flag is another old favourite. I often went to pub quizzes there on Thursday nights in the early 2000s when I was working part-time in Oxford. (A long commute from Surrey; I got to know the Oxford Tube very well indeed.) As we were visiting on a Thursday, I nursed a secret hope that a quiz might happen. Might some old friends not seen for years suddenly appear and invite us to form a team?

No, but it is Freshers’ Week and the pub is full of returning and new students finding their way and establishing friendships. The air hums with inquisitive conversation: Do you have brothers and sisters? What are you studying? What societies do you want to join? Have you been to…? Do you want to go to…? Common ground is found. We were surrounded by earnest good will. We gave up our table to some newcomers and hovered by the bar to finish our drinks. (Not something you can do in 2020.) There are leaflets for upcoming events, but we’ll be on our way tomorrow.

Day 5

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