Friday, January 6, 2012

Nosing Around Oxford

Monday was a strangely Oxfordian affair.

After a visit to said historic university town, Famille Whirl sat down to watch the latest Inspector Morse spin-off, Endeavour, and a pair of pyjama bottoms emerged from the washing machine baggier and saggier than a turbo-charged slimmer’s flesh.

Oxford is a peculiar place, having generated over the centuries a kind of self-perpetuating momentum for itself.  It has an abundance of history, reflected in the glass of every college window, but also a thriving sense of presence, in part thanks to the hordes of tourists lapping the place up with their pixel-grabbing photographic paraphernalia.  It’s one of the few places I can think of where stripping to the waist would fail to get you noticed unless you were a rampaging horde of apocalypse-hungry zombies, such is the volume of visual interest in abundance.  The fact that it boasts a branch of Carluccios is the icing on the taking of the piss.

We flounced around the streets for a while like gay and jolly 20s debutantes before seeing a few of the must see attractions.  First stop was Christchurch College, simply because we had the map upside down and couldn’t pronounce Ashmolean.  Or museum.

The college offers a guideless guided tour thanks to a series of strategically placed railings and strips of bunting that usher you from one place to the next like you were being goosed by a kindly spirit.  There are courtyards and cloisters, water slides and bouncy castles, and (of course) college buildings by the shedload.  Skirting between the tables of the college refectory, it’s hard not to be impressed by the portraits suspended from the walls — all those great men and women from student intakes past, resplendent in their wigs and ludicrous finery trying their hardest to look like Evil Editor.  Actually, the paintings are almost exclusively of blokes, but that’s Oxford for you.  We later discovered parts of the first Harry Potter film were shot here, along with the final scenes of Titillate My Don XIII and a documentary about the wacky antics of Slik before Midge Ure became a household name.  No doubt Morse and Lewis were here too at some stage.  And Prince Philip, bless the old bastard.

Round the corner from the refectory is the college chapel, a modest homunculus of Cotswold style stone with those Christmassy coloured windows you often see in churches that escaped the Blitz, the Vikings and the sales rep from Everest.  Tucked away between the nooks and crannies are the tombs of courtiers and cavaliers (plus the occasional bishop of note whose ritual buggery at the hands of the mob is lovingly detailed on the accompanying 4-tablet stone placard).  I was particularly taken by a casket next to the condom machine.  Like many you see in English churches, it resembled an Egyptian sarcophagus, with a carving of the person entombed within resting as a lid over the box.  In this case, the stony armour suggested a knight or soldier, or maybe a peasant in New Year fancy dress caught up in some melee or another.  Particularly Egyptianesque was the sphinx-like absence of nose, chipped away over the years by rascally choristers with their equally rascally Oxford University tweezers.  Had the sphinx been erected in England, its nose would have been replaced the moment the alien spacecraft collided with it.  I’m guessing that’s what happened to the figure on the casket in question.  Indeed, here’s a particularly touristy photo of me pointing up the lovingly crafted replacement nostril holder.

According to the placard on the casket, something of this guy’s facial featurectomy must have been foretold in the runes.

Nowers! What kind of a name is that?

All of which traipsing round the streets of Oxford and deductive reasoning leads me to Endeavour.  It’s not often that I enjoy spin-offs, particularly when they’re spin-offs of spin-offs like Joey’s Shirt and Bubble’s Cousin Meets Horse #4 From Mister Ed, but Lewis seemed to work and so does this.  Apart from the silly cameo scene in the hospital with John Thaw’s daughter, it more than held its own against the Morse legend and I hope ITV commission a full series.  Sadly, there’s very little anyone can do to save my wibbly pyjama bottoms...


fairyhedgehog said...

I've been to Oxford but the last time I went we spent the whole time in an adventure playground at our friend's 60th do.

It was fun, but not what you think of as typical Oxford. Or typical anything, really.

Whirlochre said...

Next time you're there, the Bodleian library has a great Crayzee Squirrel ride...

fairyhedgehog said...

I'll look out for that!