We’re not long back from a few days south of the border. It was lovely to see friends in Oxford and London. The weather was, as they say in Aberdeen, “affa warrum”. Even with sunscreen, walking on the shady side of the street, and sunhats, we got sunburned. I thought I would show you some photos:
I was surprised at the vast expanses of sandy gravel in Oxford. In fact, when we were there it had been so dry that the grass (unless it had been watered) looked exactly like this anyway. We escaped from the heat by going punting. That is to say, my husband did all the punting, and the Dafter and I lounged lazily.
We were very lucky to be taken on tours of Somerville College and St. John’s College, where our friends work. Somerville was very interesting to me, because I recognised so many of the names of women from 19th and 20th-century Britain. There was a painting of Margery Fry, who was famous for her work in prison reform, and was one of the Principals of Somerville College. The portrait was by her brother Roger Fry, who scandalised London in 1910 by exhibiting the work of the Post-Impressionists. St. John’s College was enormous, with both very traditional and very modern buildings set within acres of garden. Here are some pictures from the older part of the college:
We had never seen such an enormous broom plant! Also, the magnolia on the far left must be very, very old indeed. I liked the plumbing:
Not everything in Oxford was serious, though:
On our last evening in Oxford, our friends took us to a nearby hamlet – a collection of about eight houses by the river called Binsey. It seems this is where Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland. The pub there (I’m not sure if he wrote Alice in the pub itself) is called The Perch, and when you arrive there, you expect to be eating under low beamed ceilings:
You can indeed dine under low-beamed ceilings, but you can also walk through to the most amazing garden, with paths to the nearby river, tables under the enormous willow, little candle lamps hanging from the trees, and a great playground for the children:
In London, I had an hour by myself in Liberty’s. Their sewing and knitting department is, I think, smaller than in days of yore, but I loved looking at everything slowly. The building itself is very interesting: it was built in the early 20th century from the timbers of HMS Impregnable and HMS Hindustan. The inner wells were originally used to showcase carpets, and today hand-embroidered and -tufted rugs are draped over the edges.
We had tea at Liberty’s: proper loose tea with tea strainers, none of this modern teabag nonsense. Nothing seemed to be too much trouble to the staff and it was a very refreshing pause in the midst of a busy city. It was quintessentially English, but as in most places now the staff were from many different countries. I wonder what Arthur Liberty would make of it? The staircase hasn’t changed:
One last photo, for anyone who has made it this far! We went to the British Museum, where the Dafter was amazed by the Rosetta Stone, and in general was awed to be in the presence of ancient things that real people like us had actually carved thousands of years ago. From an American perspective, I get the same spooky thrill from walking through Victorian streets (which is probably why I like living in Aberdeen so much).
I wonder what these fierce lion-spirits were guarding? I like the idea of having a guardian spirit, but don’t think I would want such a large and visible one.
After our torrid days down South, we boarded the sleeper train and got off the next morning in Aberdeen – it was far cooler, and smelled faintly of fish!