Tuesday, 4 May 2010

rum dos

Spent a really enjoyable evening at Oriel College over the weekend, dining at high table at a black tie do. Amazing menu, sumptuously cooked. Loved in particular the puddings' dining-room at the other end of a side quad from the main hall, all astonishingly weighty silver, crystal chandeliers, cheese, fruit, claret and port. Apparently an austerity menu following government cuts. Wonder what the old menu was like?

Cycled quite a lot over the weekend because it was too wet to garden. On Sunday I did a circuit that included the old gated road west of Clanfield, now minus its gates and called Calcroft Lane. The steep hedges shown above will be laden with blackberries come the autumn. The disused railway line (middle photo) was closed in the 60s as a result of the Beeching cuts, although there is a rumour that if Brize Norton airfield had shut down a few years back (in the end it was decided that Lyneham would close and Brize would stay open), Sir Richard Branson had designs on the site for an international airport, linked to Oxford by a revamped branch line. Would have been very handy for us.

Talking of Sir Richard B, there was a nasty story about his, and my, old school, Stowe, at the weekend. Something to do with a knife fight. What really caught my attention, though, in the Sunday Times piece about it was a reference to a Facebook page called, Just because I went to Stowe doesn't mean I'm stupid... The name picks up on the fact that a lot of Stoics are supposed to be Eton and Harrow rejects. Many pupils probably do end up at Stowe because they fail common entrance to somewhere else, although Stowe was my first choice. I quite like the humour behind the Facebook site and am not surprised that it has over four hundred fans. Even so, I'm glad I went to Stowe. For me the school's heroes are creative people like the poet and glass engraver Laurence Whistler and the potter Alan Caiger-Smith. (LW also wrote a poignant memoir about his marriage to the Jill Furse called The Initials in the Heart.)

Another social networking site that's been in the news is the whirlwind success story http://www.thefitfinder.co.uk, which enables students at various universities, including Oxford, to post Twitter-style declarations of lust for someone they've seen in the library or quad.

Tomorrow evening I'm off to my last Writers in Oxford committee meeting before I hand over to the next chair at the AGM later in the month. I'll be sad to go but work pressures are too great to be able to chair anymore. Two very fun, happy and rewarding years.

Last of all, congratulations to my friend José Angel Rodriguez, whose book about the history of rum, Al Son del Ron, is being published in Venezuela later this week.

Oh, and the third pic above? Kingcups in a ditch along the gated road. Another favourite childhood plant.

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