by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Book I: Windmills Everywhere
Chapter 3: Dreaming the Blues
part 1 of 3
Forgot to set my alarm clock again. Never mind — I’ve done all the planning I need to. I can doze on the train. At this rate I’ll make the 0950 from Paddington, and I’ll be walking well before eleven.
Can’t understand why there was nothing in the papers or on the news about Oxford yesterday. All part of the cover-up, I suppose. I certainly wasn’t going to phone anyone about it again. Far too risky, these days.
Maybe Shaun heard it wrong? No, he couldn’t have.
* * *
So, here we are. Haven’t visited this wonderful place for nearly two years. I really do hope nothing’s changed! And it’s nice and sunny, so far. But then the merry month is often good, before the real summer arrives and things go downhill fast.
OK, Plan A: Try and get a lead or two ...
‘Excuse me. Can you please tell me which of the colleges have had their façades exchanged?’
Must be deaf. Why else couldn’t she be bothered to answer me? How can she work in a station café if she’s deaf? It’s not just the British weather that’s going downhill.
Well, dammit, I’m not going to waste any more time on the likes of her. Plan B: Do-It-Yourself, Donna. Always the best way, anyway. Straight over to Worcester College, then.
It’s looking fine. That’s a good start. And is that a hint of leftover opium wafting from de Quincey’s old room? Poor lonely boy.
Down to George Street now ...
Wow, look at all those wonderful hams and cheeses in Jamie’s new Italian restaurant window! Really fancy taking some of that home. Can’t haul it around Oxford all day, though. Have to remember to come back later. Assuming it’s for sale, of course. Hmmm, maybe it isn’t ...
So, New Inn Hall Street next, and make sure the Wesley Church is OK. Shaun did say it was the colleges that have been tampered with, but I’m going to do the job properly.
The Wesley’s still looking good. And St Peter’s College. Right, let’s get through the shopping centre as fast as poss ...
Carfax now. What a crossroads! St Martin’s tower is as solid as ever. Now, I’ll work on the High Street later. Need to make my way down to one of the greatest jewels first ...
Town Hall’s OK, by the look of it. Check out Pembroke College next ... Oh, I do love its lodge gate and the oriel window and the little castellated tower above! They always remind me of the Exeter College entrance. At least they haven’t swapped those over!
I bow to you, Dr Johnson — and Mr Beddoes. And I can almost catch the scent of the Hobbits wafting out of Tolkien’s windows. Think I’ll go right up to the lodge: from there you really do get one of the best views of Tom Tower.
Yes! — and that’s still looking great too. Thank you, Mr Wren! Making my way down to the Christ Church front gates now ... and everything seems fine here. That’s another big relief. I’ll take a quick peek into Tom Quad ... ah, as impressive as ever! The Cathedral tower looks magnificent in this sunshine. And did I see Alice disappearing into that hole in the wall?
Down St Aldate’s now, and then past the Meadow Building ... Phew, this entrance to Christ Church is just as it should be, too. Oh wow, I’d forgotten how much I love the view across the fields to Magdalen Tower! Life is so good when you have beauty like this to enjoy!
Right, a quick check of Merton College from the rear and the side ... Yep, all clear. I’ll come back round to the main entrance after lunch.
Just gone twelve. I fancy a coffee. Up Magpie Lane to The High ... Ah, St Mary’s Church is still looking wonderful. Don’t think I have the energy to climb the tower this time, and anyway I need to be seeing things up close and personal today!
And there’s the Old Bank. It’s a hotel now, and a swish bar. Those penniless big banks just can’t afford many customer buildings these days.
OK, let’s stop here for a few minutes. But just a coffee, Donna.
That’s better. So, across The High next, past the Church and All Souls, and straight up to some of the other real beauties ...
The Radcliffe Camera! Looking just fine. What a brilliant idea it was to build a circular library in the middle of this lovely space. A bit like the Reading Room inside the British Museum! Wish I’d been lucky enough to study here. And it’s amazing that Radcliffe chose to endow it to the University, considering how much he hated book-learning! Ah, the unrhyming reason of the eighteenth century!
Bodleian Library’s huge entrance doors coming up on the left. What a pair! And Hertford College still looks good. Can I hear voices calling? Donne, or Swift, or Hobbes, maybe ... or Tyndale, or Waugh? Perhaps they’re coming from the Bridge of Sighs round the corner! I’ll check that out in a minute. Into the little courtyard paradise on the other side first ...
Oh, just magnificent! The solid old Bodleian Quad on one side, the Sheldonian Theatre straight ahead — another fine rotunda: thank you again, Sir Christopher! — and the classical Clarendon Building on my right. What a combination! And they all seem perfectly intact. I’ve always loved the Sheldonian’s little white cupola, and the Clarendon’s solid Doric columns.
Right, let’s take a peep at Hertford Bridge ...
‘Oh, no! No! No! They’ve stolen it! Look! They’ve put the Venice Bridge of Sighs in its place! No, you can’t do this! I’m not going to let you get away with it!’
‘Get out of the way!!’
‘Noisy bloody tourist!’
‘You crazy students and your bikes!!’
‘You can’t blame them, woman! Running straight out into the road like that! This is Oxford!’
‘What? Look, do you live here?’
‘Yes, I do. Do you?’
‘No. But can’t you see what they’ve done to the Bridge of Sighs?’
‘No, I can’t. And why don’t you just go back to London or wherever you’re from, and leave us all in peace?’
Huh! Nobody cares here either. It’s a scandal. I’m going to check out the other side of the Bridge ...
What? They’ve left it undisturbed! The view back towards the Sheldonian is the same as it always was. And that man’s still watching me. I’ve got to tell him. He’ll believe me now ...
‘Excuse me again. Please! Listen, they’ve only changed the front of the bridge! The part that most people see! They haven’t touched the rear!’
‘All right, that does it. You need locking up. I’m calling the police.’
‘No, no, you mustn’t do that. They’re all in on it too ...’
Oh, this is hopeless. Give it up, Donna. You’ve got to get away again! Down the nearest rabbit-hole. Ah yes, of course — St Helen’s Passage ...
Thank god for the Turf Tavern. The perfect hiding place.
‘A double vodka, please.’
Wait a minute. Donna, that’s just stupid. You have a lot more work to do. Nil carborundum illegitimi ...
‘Sorry, can you make that a large orange juice instead, please?’
Hey, that man threatened to call the police. I can call Shaun! Where’s his number? Got it. Fingers crossed .......
No reply. Not even a voicemail service. Damn! That phone’s obviously only for his emergencies!
Better get some lunch while I’m here ...
This is very tasty.
So, what am I going to do about the bridge? Don’t see what I can do, without Shaun. Can’t just fly over to Venice! No, I’ll have a little break, then I’ll stick with the plan and check out the rest of the city. Oh, I do hope they haven’t meddled with anything else! And why does nobody care?
* * *
Here we go again. Out through Bath Place and along Holywell Street.
New College. Not so new now. Over seven hundred years old. But it still looks as good as new. And one day I’ll have to write a saga like John Galsworthy’s.
Down towards Magdalen College. Amazing to think there are forty head of deer in the park behind that long wall! Won’t visit them today, though. Got to concentrate on the façades ...
Oh, just brilliant, as always! The wonderful Tower watching over that ancient hall in the entrance quad, and the Chapel safe and sound on the right, and all the other fine buildings around and beyond. Thank god they haven’t touched Magdalen. Gibbon will be relieved. Betjeman will be gratefully surprised. But Wilde might not have minded too much. Lewis would have found a magical explanation. Lawrence would have jumped on Ruzinullah the camel and joined House and Shaun and me on the plain.
I’ll go along to the Bridge and check out the Tower from the other side ... Yep, all still OK. And here’s the River Cherwell ...
Hah! Silly young man dressed in full dinner suit and white tie, trying to steer a punt full of other ... pals. Failing to steer the punt. Probably up partying all last night and still hasn’t stopped drinking.
Silly young man trying to stay afloat and retrieve his punting pole. Expensive dry cleaning bill pending.
Salad days and May and aise, that was when he went in Seine.
‘Excuse me! Have you seen any of the changes to the college buildings?’
Splutter, cough, splutter. ‘What??’
‘Oh, it doesn’t matter. Get back to collecting your pole!’
So, about turn now, and back up the High.
Take a quick peek at the Examination Schools’ quad in Merton Street ... OK, that seems fine. Round to the front now ... Yes, all’s well here too. The Queen’s Lane Coffee House is still there, after three hundred and fifty years! And the wonderful old St Peter-in-the-East church in “Teddy Hall” looks intact.
How about Queens? Oops, sorry, Oxford: The Queen’s College. Must use the article here. And the singular. Not like in that other place! Hah! Anyhow, the façade’s as wide and impressive as ever. Those ornate mini-columns at the lodge, and the statue and cupola above it, and the fine matching pediments on the elevations at each end! Bit of a sorry echo coming from Dowson’s old room, though.
University College on my left now. Need to cross the High to get a proper look ... Yes, all OK there, too. Shan’t go inside. Don’t want to see what colour Shelley’s goolies are this month. But I sense the spirit of Narnia again ... and a brief history of time developing.
I’ll cross back over and go down Logic Lane. Take the con, Mr Spock. Ah, here’s Oxford’s other little covered bridge, linking the “Univ” buildings. At least that one’s still in good shape ...
And now we’re at the front of Merton at last. All present and correct, I think. Hmmm, they’re a clever bunch in there. Top of the Pops for the past eight years (well, almost!). I blame Roger Bannister and Mr Eliot! And I scent the Hobbits again, behind those nice little twin towers.
Corpus Christi’s looking as tranquil as usual. Ruskin sleeps on. And Oriel’s still in one piece. Raleigh must be at the helm. That’s another similar lodge tower to Exeter’s, but this one always reminds me more of Wadham. Let’s hope they’re also both OK.
Back up to The High now, and take a look at the Rhodes Building ... Yes, that’s all right. And how’s the lovely old All Saints Church opposite? Still solid as a rock — but it’s Lincoln College Library now, of course. What about Lincoln itself? Down Turl Street we go ... and it seems fine too. Maybe I should get George Smiley to join my gang?
Cross the road to get a proper look at Jesus College next — if I can fight my way through these tourists. Good, can’t see any problem with it. And there’s that spirit of Lawrence calling me again.
Now, right behind me is Exeter College. Need to cross the street again to see it fully. And I already sense those dark materials. Hope there’s no parallel universe lurking round here ...
‘No! Not another one! Oh no, no, no! I don’t believe it!’
Why are all those people being hurried away?
‘Look, they’ve replaced the entire lodge tower with the one from Wadham College! Can’t you see?’
‘What’s she talkin’ ’bout, Buzz?’
‘Dunno, honey. Maybe she’s one of those re-enactors. Did the tour guide tell us what we’re s’posed to say?’
‘Why don’t any of you care?’
‘Pardon me, ma’am, we’re from the United States. I don’t think they gave us a copy of the script. Are we going to be on TV?’
God help us! What am I going to do? I know — I’ll talk to one of the Porters ...
‘Excuse me, sir. Do you know they’ve swapped your frontage with Wadham’s?’
‘I’m afraid not, madam, but if you’d like to hum the first few bars, I’ll try to pick it up as we go along.’
‘Oh no, no, NO!’
‘And if you’d now kindly leave the lodge right away, my dear, before I have to summon reinforcements ...’
Oh, this is hopeless. Again.
‘All right, I’m going. But you’ll see. You’ll see ...’
I do need a drink this time. Which way? Ah, yes, turn right and up to The Broad, Donna — The White Horse is just across the street! Morse’s favourite pub! Maybe he can help me! Run, rabbit, run!
Now, just the one, Donna. Just a single. There’s still a lot more for you to do here .......
OK, sit down over there. Relax. Imagine Shaun’s holding you tight.
Shaun! Of course. I can try his phone again ...
Nothing. Probably hasn’t even got it with him. He did say he was busy for two days. It’s just not fair.
What now, Endeavour? Have a pint and inspire me!
* * *
What’s the time? Not yet half-past three. Can’t have dozed off for more than a few minutes.
Of course! I’ve only looked at Exeter so far. Wadham’s just round the corner. I need to see if this is the full swap Shaun heard about on Sunday. Thank you, Morse!
Brace yourself, Donna.
‘Aaaarrgh! He was right! They’ve done it here as well! Look!! In Wren’s own college, of all places! It’s got Exeter’s lodge and window and tower now, down to the last detail! Oh, no .......’
Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd