Friday, 30 April 2010

oxford in springtime


It's been a mad week, with term taking off like a rocket. All the planning of tutorials, introductory meetings, supervision schedules and, at the libraries, readers flooding in through the doors as soon as they are opened.

The Easter vac suddenly seems eons away, though I am aware that it refreshed me more than I knew.

On Monday, at lunchtime, I bought a sandwich in the Covered Market and headed for Christ Church Meadow, only to be stopped by a guy in a yellow fluorescent jacket. Yep, more filming. This time Any Human Heart, which novelist William Boyd has adapted for TV himself, and is just one of the dramas commissioned by Channel 4 as part of a new £20 million initiative. The story spans the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of its protagonist, Logan Mounstuart (played by Jim Broadbent, Matthew Macfadyen and Sam Claflin). The four-part story also stars Gillian Anderson and Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall.

The shot I saw being filmed involved an actor pedalling along Merton Street on an ancient bike with a camera mounted by the front wheel pointing towards him. He laboriously headed to Oriel Square then back again. For the return journey onlookers were instructed to crouch down. As with Downton Abbey one of the intriguing things about watching filming is seeing how niftily the illusion of a particular period is created in an otherwise very twenty-first century setting. The scene will look to the camera as if it's the 1920s but an inch to the right is a brand new Chrysler.

Yesterday, I walked along Queen's Lane in the pouring rain to Stanford, Oxford. Beside New College I saw the beautiful display of lilacs and cherries above. Robin Lane Fox's planting, perhaps.

Today, I was very shocked to learn that my cousin Mark Egerton died five years ago. I couldn't believe it. No one else that I'm in contact with seems to have known. He had very much gone his own way and his death only came to light in a proof of the Sutherland entry in the forthcoming Debrett's.

I hadn't seen Mark since 1974 but we were at prep school together and although he was a wild boy he was very kind to me. As I don't have brothers or sisters I felt special to be Egerton Minor to his Egerton Major.

I have thought of Mark quite a lot recently--my age, I suppose--and it seems so appallingly strange to have been imagining him living in Spain when all the time he was dead.

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