Yesterday we went to Oxford with a friend.

The irony of visiting another university city, walking along a river, and spending money to enter a college was not lost on us. But a change is as good as a rest, and it had been over twenty years since I was last there at an academic conference in the 1980s.

This river was the Thames (the stretch of it that passes Oxford is renamed the Isis) and the Cherwell, which is a tributary. We walked from the Folly Bridge on St Aldate’s, across Christ Church Meadow and past the Botanic Gardens until we reached the Magdalen Bridge Boathouse and Magdalen College.

Shock horror, but the punts were mostly being propelled by chaps and chapesses from the back and not the front of the boat. The end of Oxford, as we know it.

After a tea, we strolled around the meadow along Addison’s Walk. This is the place to see the spring-flowering Snakeshead Fritillary, which is rare in such abundance and needs a low-lying watery meadow to thrive.  We did it once, then the boss-walker decided we needed to do it again to take in the Master’s Garden.
Magdalen College is a very pretty place. Beautiful cloister. This juxtaposition of old arch and not-as-old telephone box caught my eye, trained as it was recently to see every arch as a potential photo frame. Nice steal on my part.

Magdalen alumni of note include Oscar Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas. Not to mention C.S. Lewis, John Betjeman and Seamus Heaney. Betjeman was in fact tutored by Lewis. Of course, Oscar Wilde was older than Lord Alfred Douglas and was there on his scholarship from 1874-78 whereas ‘Bosie’ was there from 1889-93. Their relationship was mostly a matter for London and Brighton rather than Oxford. However, Oscar was apparently dunked in the river Cherwell by fellow students objecting to his dress sense near to where we took tea. One thing I didn’t know before – Bosie was in the habit of giving away his old clothes to male prosititutes, but he couldn’t be bothered to remove the letters from Wilde that lay in the pockets and these were later produced at the trial. “Ignorant gobshite”, as they might have said in Ireland. I’m sure Oscar was more forgiving.