Back in the south of England after some time spent up in Oxford, a place I once called home for a number of months over two decades ago, a place that still has a hold upon my heart, and happily a place where I still have friends.
It was and remains one of the fastest growing and most ethnically diverse cities in the United Kingdom.
Known worldwide as the home of the University of Oxford, Oxford is also home to motor manufacturing, education, publishing, IT and science.
The poet Matthew Arnold (1822 – 1888) called Oxford the “City of Dreaming Spires”, a name which stuck and can be found on anything that a tourist’s path might cross.
I won’t get into the history of the place too much as many a capable author has already done so, but I will drop famous names connected to Oxford that might spark your interest…some you may already know.
Oscar Wilde attended Oxford University (1874 – 1878)and boasted about campus that nothing in the world compared to his collection of blue glass.
So the entire rugby team decided that Oscar needed to be taken down a peg or two for being so damn annoying.
They decided to teach him a very non-academic lesson while Oscar was on a staircase.
Wilde, though a man of letters, was tall and imposing.
He threw the entire rugby team down the staircase, laughing as they collapsed like 15 boorish bullish dominoes.
Wilde was famous for his bizarre behaviour, for example, taking a live lobster for a walk on a piece of string.
Other students trashed his room and boiled his lobster.
Another time they tied him up and took him on a hill, lectured him about what a smug bastard he was being, ungagged him and asked him angrily what he had to say for himself.
He responded, “What an exquisite view.”
J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings), C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia) and other Oxford academics used to drink, think and chatter about madly in the Eagle and Child Pub (nicknamed the Bird and Baby).
John Buchan (The Thirty-nine Steps), 15th Governor General of Canada, attended Oxford, as did Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland), Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse series), Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean/Blackadder/The Thin Blue Line) and T. E. Lawrence (aka Lawrence of Arabia)…
Just to name a very few.
The Harry Potter films, Young Sherlock Holmes, The Children of Men, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Saint, X-Men: First Class, again just to name a few, were filmed here.
The band Radiohead hails from here.
It is a very exciting place, filled with people of all ages, all incomes, all walks of life, all nationalities, all religions.
It is both conservative and eccentric, old-fashioned and state of the art, cheeky and staid, every day an adventure, a discovery, a revelation.
The city though has always had a deep divide, known as Town versus Gown.
Relations between the camps still to this day remains uneasy.
In its history Oxford has experienced many an instance of violence between the two factions, including several sets of riots, (the most famous being the St Scholastica Day Riot of 10 February 1355 – 63 students and 30 townspeople killed.)
Most of my encounters have been with the Town side with very little exposure to the rarified air of the university academic world.
Oxford is a place once visited remains usually loved for life.
It was good to be back.