I had my last early walk along the River Cherwell yesterday morning. I really enjoyed my three days exploring this beautiful city, whilst reviving my inner student and staying at Corpus Christi College.
Longhorn cattle, Christ Church Meadow
Saxon Tower at St Michael of the Northgate (climbed on the first day for a better view of the dreaming spires)
I’ve seen some very strange and wonderful things today.
The dinosaur footprints leading across the lawn were a hint of what was to come during my visit to the Museum of Natural History here in Oxford. Inside were dinosaur skeletons and reconstructions, as well as displays of fossils, birds and insects.
But as wonderful as the Natural History Museum is, what came next was even more fabulous.
In the far corner a set of doors led through to the amazing Pitt Rivers Museum. This collection is a repository of anthropological items and curiosities from around the world.
Photographs don’t do it justice. Display cases crowd the ground court and upper balconies, each chock-full of artefacts from all parts of the globe.
And rather than separate items out by time period or geographical area, items are grouped by purpose and type into over 50 different categories. Hence there is a section on body changing – everything from Chinese foot binding, African scarification rituals, Maori tattooing to European corsetry. Another section looks at smoking and stimulants such as Chinese opium pipes, Betel Nut chewing in the Pacific islands, Native American peace pipes. The list goes on.
There is so much to look at. Because it remains as museums of old, everything inside glass cases with no interactive displays or high tech, it makes every display a mystery. Treasures wait to be discovered. Each time you look at a case you discover something you failed to spot the last time.
Several people had recommended Pitt Rivers to me. Now I understand why.
If you haven’t been yet please do make the journey to Oxford to experience this fabulous treasure for yourself.
Oxford lays claim to many literary connections. These include the fantasies spun by Lewis Carroll, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Philip Pullman in their various novels, as well as the gritty realities of Colin Dexter’s eponymous detective.
There are many walking tours catering for fans of these literary greats.
It is said that C.S. Lewis found his inspiration for Narnia at this spot. Note the lion’s head carving, the wooden door, the faun and the lamppost. Now add a sprinkling of snow and you have a land where it’s always winter.
By far the most popular tour is Harry Potter, judging by the large numbers of excited children I’ve seen today.
However the young wizard’s link to the city does not come directly from JK Rowling’s books, but it is because the architecture of the various colleges is ideally suited to recreate Hogwart’s that so many scenes were filmed here in Oxford. For example, the School of Divinity was used as the Infirmary.
And finally, an admission.
I have never watched an episode of Morse, or read any of Colin Dexter’s books.
I left Swanwick on Friday after a wonderful week in the company of friends old and new.
But I’ve not returned home yet. I’m currently on a tour round Britain.
After Swanwick I spent the weekend visiting various family members in the south-east. Living so far north, and with everyone’s busy lives, the opportunities for us to meet are few and so are all the more precious when they happen.
Today I have arrived in Oxford to spend three ‘me’ days amongst the dreaming spires. I’ve not been before so I’m looking forward to exploring the city and the colleges.
There have been so many courses and workshops available at Swanwick this week it was impossible to attend all that I would have liked. Some hard decisions had to be made. However, I have no regrets about my choices.
Steve Hartley’s Specialist Course on ‘Character Psychology’ was fascinating and I have pages of notes to re-read and unpick.
Jonathan Higgs’ course ‘Acting for Writers’ has equally left me with pages to peruse, but the added value came in the practical and mental exercises. By techniques such as lying on the floor and marching around the hall, we delved into the psycho-physical relationship between the writer and our created characters. A fascinating experience and one I know will prove valuable.
There were other choices to be made this week. Many involved cake and Prosecco.
Also, National Prosecco Day always happens when we’re at Swanwick.
But don’t get the wrong impression. When we’re not outside chatting in the sunshine, or inside drinking in the bar, we do get down to some writing, even if it’s just making up outrageous answers to the Chairman’s Challenge Quiz.
Did you know HG Wells wrote ‘The Tardis’, Thomas Hardy ‘The Mayor of Castersugar’ and Enid Blyton ‘Five go Rancid in a Caravan’?
The evening ended in fine form with Buskers’ Night, always a highlight!
All in all, it has been yet another perfect Swanwick day.