Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Another world

We've been visiting another planet today. The planet Oxford. It's a world whose population seems to be largely divided into two only marginally similar species. The first are teenagers, dressed in a variety of brightly coloured tee shirts and baggy jeans (boys) or sawn off shorts (girls). These can be found wandering zombie-like in the morning; their living-dead faces gazing bankly ahead. Later, as the sun warms them, they begin to shriek and chatter in a babel of tongues, still seemingly oblivious to the world each other and their various smart phones.
The second species is the affluent academic, either bumbling along translating Aramaic texts to themselves or riding upright bicycles - the elderly ladies among these looking for all the world like latter-day Miss Marples in their flowing summer frocks and straw hats. And everyone talks proper – not just pleasantly but in the sort of modulated English you thought had died with The Home Service.
It's an absurdly wonderful planet, crazily full of tourists busily snapping each other or any piece of stonework that could be more than a few months old. In amongst the shopping streets are the glorious golden stonework buildings of academic Oxford, with its secret world of cloistered colleges protected by bowler hatted gatemen who politely allow we proletariat the merest glimpse inside before shoing us on our way.
Jericho is a satellite suburb of this planet, its main street alive with bars, bistros and even a cinema. It's a sort of Oxford Islington, with property prices to match: a back-street Victorian two bedroomed mid-terrace will set you back over £400,000.
The towpath is full of joggers and walkers and the occasional angler. We passed a father and son - the son fishing, the father reading a book on thinking.
As I said, it's another planet!

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