Our drive continues, again through numerous small towns and villages. It’s more than a little pastoral and the roads are not very busy, as one would expect given where we are. Along the way, by way of showing off knowledge gained by simple proximity, it is learned that custard is a wicked conspiracy dreamt up by the hen, the cow and the cook. Seems a reasonably accurate description. 🙂
The Olympics have come to Cotswold, albeit their own version of same. One event is the ever-fun Tug-O’-War for the basic test of strength. Another game is called Willy-Wanging. Fortunately I’ll still be able to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere in trying to describe the antics. It involves throwing a Wellington Boot (referred to as a Gumboot here in the colonies) as far as you can. It’s hard to contain the excitement. Still one more is called Shin-Kicking. This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. A circle is drawn on the ground, and two combatants stand inside the circle, opposite each other. When the whistle sounds, they try to kick each other, in the shins, as hard as possible. First man out of the circle is the loser. Because time moves forward, so the rules have become a little more lax. You can now, finally, pad your shins with that wonderful protective gear, newspaper. Not sure how there could be a real winner.
The roads in the area were replete with highwaymen. ‘Your money or your life’ became the common phrase associated with these men-of-the-roads. One Dirk Turpin became very well known. He was very successful in his chosen career. His original group, The Essex Gang (guess where THEY came from!) were in operation until 1735 when all, except Dirk, were captured. He decided to go it alone.
This worked out well, until he tried to rob a coach where the male occupant burst out laughing. As luck would have it this man, Mathew King, was also a highwayman. One thing leads to another and the two decided working together might turn out to be a good thing.
One day one passenger decided he wanted to keep both money and life and engaged Matt King in a fight. As they were rolling about on the ground, Dirk panicked and opened fire wanting to kill the passenger to save Matt. However…18th century pistols were not really all that accurate. Dirk shot Matt by mistake, killing him.
Shaken so badly by the incident, Dirk escaped to York, changed his name to John Palmer and began a very normal life.
Until, one day he got drunk, and shot another man’s rooster. While not a very serious offence back then, it was, however, a crime. And through another series of unfortunate events, he ended up in jail. Now it gets a little strange.
While in jail, he writes a letter to relatives asking for assistance. Extraordinary as it is, the post master in the post office the letter has to go though, had been the one who taught Dirk to write as a child in school. He recognized the handwriting, traveled to the jail and turned Dirk in. Tried, convicted and executed by hanging, Dirk Turpin now only lives on in historical reference.
Enough highwaymen? Fine…I’ll carry on. 🙂 Long Compton (the village we now pause at) boasts a church that is 800 years old. Even so, there are reports of a church on this location as far back as 600 A.D. that St. Augustine had preached at. History is literally everywhere.
Now we’ve arrived in Oxford. Pretty much anywhere you go in this city you will see university buildings. Oxford University is somewhat of an umbrella term as it includes 44 independent colleges that make up the university. It is one of the oldest in the world. That overall position is contested by many, but appears to be either number 2 or number 3, depending on who you talk with.
Back in the 1100’s, in Oxford’s early years, the locals and the students didn’t get along all that well. A student had gone to a local pub and the owner refused to serve him simply because he was a student. First a fight ensued, then a pub brawl and eventually an all-out riot. Spreading throughout the city, it lasted for 3 days.
After things quieted down the students got together to decide what should be done. Half of them wanted to stay, after all, Oxford was there home and they weren’t prepared to leave. The other half, so disillusioned by not being appreciated by the locals, wanted to leave for greener, friendlier pastures. Not being able to come to amicable terms, they separate, with the one half going to … Cambridge. Here, in 1209, they started what would become, a few years later, Cambridge University.
Even to this day, there remains a certain rivalry between Oxford U and Cambridge U. They do know how to hold a grudge. So much so that, should you wish to talk about Cambridge while in Oxford, you’re not supposed to use its name. It should only be referred to as ‘the other place’.
The most number of writers in the world, per square mile, come from Oxford. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson took up residence at Oxford in 1851. You probably know him better as Lewis Carroll. He took that pseudonym because he was a well-respected mathematician and didn’t really believe his books would do all that well. So, rather than potentially tarnish his status…
Queen Victoria was rather taken by his book and, when finding out who the author really was, sent him a letter requesting a copy of any further publications. She was…frugal…so this would give her free books. Charles thought this was a little cheap given she was one of the wealthiest people in the country, but when the Queen asks you to do something, you really don’t have a lot of choice. So he sent her a copy of his next one – a book on mathematics.
The City of Dreaming Spires is quite the proper description of Oxford. There is no shortage of breathtaking architecture in this city.
Bodleian Libraries is the second largest in the country with the largest being the British Library in London. Bodleian has been around since the early 1600’s. Most of it is located under the “Quad’ but there are 3 floors also built above ground. One can only get to the libraries proper if one is a student and have filled out necessary forms. In addition, you cannot remove books…they must be referenced on site. Currently this library has over 12 million items covering some 4 miles of shelving.
The Radcliffe Camera (which, in this instance, means Chamber) was built with Cotswold’s limestone in 1737. Essentially this is a study facility for students of science and medicine. Again, only the outside is accessible by us.
Church of St. Mary the Virgin has a tower that SOMEONE ELSE can climb. Even the views from the top won’t entice me enough. The height is not the problem, the stair climbing is.
The Covered Market has been around since about 1770 (why can’t we build stuff to last at home??). Prior to its creation, people would simply sell their wares on the street. The weather in England really doesn’t lend itself to that type of marketplace. If it’s not raining, making everything wet, then it’s hot, bringing out the flies. Not the most hygienic. So, let’s put a roof over top. Problems solved.
One of the local taverns (The Turf) has a contest that the 23rd Prime Minister of Australia (Bob Hawke, who had attended Oxford) took part in. He set the record, in 1963, that has yet to be broken. He drank a yard glass of ale (approximately 3 pints) in 11 seconds.
Bill Clinton, another student at Oxford, was also at the Turf Tavern. This is where, supposedly, he didn’t inhale.
The Eagle And Child pub became home to ‘The Inklings’. C.S. Lewis, writer of many things, most notably 7 novels comprising the Chronicles Of Narnia, was one of the members. Another member was J.R.R Tolkien. His most famous works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, were very much influenced by the poem Beowulf.
The Ashmolean Museum was founded in 1683 and is the first campus built museum in the world. Time here should be spent over a couple of days.
I have rambled extensively today, dear readers and the hope is that these lines have not been too boring. Pics should be up later…I hope. Tomorrow (actually Sept 12 so really it’s two days ago by now) is yet another day of visitation, with a trip to Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Afternoon Tea. My butt is beginning to get a rash from dragging. 🙂