Day 21 – Mon 16 May 2005 – The Dreaming Spires of Oxford

The plan for today is to visit Oxford. Jolene K recommended that I go there, although I think the main motivation for her own visit was simply that she’s a huge Radiohead tragic. Then again I don’t know too many other people raised in Minto who can speak English with perfect intonation and read Simone de Beauvoir for something interesting to do.

The Dreaming Spires of Oxford (Photo: Andrew Gray)

Caught the train from Paddington, stopping at Slough, Reading and Oxford. The country between Reading and Oxford is pleasant enough.

Ducks on the pond, a punt on the river and cricket in the field

Oxford itself is a moderately sized and a very pretty town. As expected, it’s all spires, hallowed halls, punts on the river, lovely gardens, lots of history, and the odd don walking briskly through the town with their academic gown swirling behind them. It’s a delightful place, but very busy. I suspect the townsfolk must have a hard time working out who they loathe more; the students or the tourists.

 A tranquil river scene

Having said all that, there is a real sense of history about the place. It is one of the original universities, dating from the 13th century. It feels strange to be in the same town where people like Duns Scotus and Gerard Manley Hopkins studied.

Hedges and churches

It would be a beautiful place in which to study, but I think I would find all the ‘traditions’ just a bit of an unnecessary distraction. But then as Jim C, one of my most hallowed work colleagues with decades of experience in higher education across the world once commented, ‘ The British education system is not about fostering learning, but perpetuating the class system’.

The Radcliffe Camera, containing one of the university library collections

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