As you would be aware from my last post I have been somewhat remiss in my blogging recently. The main reason for this is that we have been house sitting in Oxford again and I have not felt like blogging without my trusty laptop even though it is perfectly possible to create posts on my tablet or phone. Maybe the technology is overtaking me at last.
We didn’t have a great arrival; I clipped the kerb when parking and a jagged kerbstone cut a puncture in the side wall of one of the front tyres. And that was when I discovered that our lovely Citroen C4 doesn’t have a spare. Lucky for us that Steve knew of a good roadside tyre service that came almost immediately with a replacement trye.
Anyway, we took things very easy while looking after Meep – our primary duty while chez Rayner – and made sure that we ate plenty of lunches at Manos, the excellent Greek diner down the road in Jericho and re-visited Loch Fyne Fish restaurant. Naturally we also patronised the Jericho Cafe as one must. Not a lot of home cooking was going on I am afraid.
“While we’re Young” – movie by Noah Baumbach
On a wet and dreary Good Friday we had an authentic Greek-style wrap for lunch at Manos in Jericho and then went to see a movie at The Phoenix ,the local arthouse movie theatre, which incidentally is part of the same Picturehouse chain as the Little Theatre in Bath. For my Australian readers, they are a bit like the Palace or Dendy cinemas.
Now I am a well known Americaphobe so I wasn’t sure about the movie especially with Ben Stiller in a lead role, although Naomi Watts could be expected to be a mitigating factor. However I am pleased to be able to report that this is a perfectly pleasant and entertaining movie that managed to address a number of issues such as middle-age crisis, professional success and/or failure and integrity, the virtues of parenthood or otherwise and the ambition of youth. Whew, that’s quite a list and I daresay I have missed some others. What I found myself asking myself was “if this was a French movie set in Paris with the same script would I be thinking that this was a typical insightful and charming European production?” and I think that the answer would have to be “Yes”. So there you have it – go and see it and pretend that they are speaking French or Spanish or Italian or whatever and it will be fine.
Great British Drawings
At the Ashmolean again for a completely engrossing exhibition of drawings from their collection. As the official blurb says: “See the very best of British drawings and watercolours exhibited together for the first time. From famous watercolours by Gainsborough and Turner, to the outstanding draughtsmanship of Rossetti, Millais and Holman Hunt, to 20th-century works by David Hockney, Gwen John and Walter Sickert, Great British Drawings showcases more than one hundred works by some of Britain’s greatest artists”.
There was indeed some stunning stuff but perhaps the most awe-inspiring fact about the show was the very fact that the museum has such a vast amount of such high quality pieces in its collection that it can pull out the said hundred plus works just like that.
Accompanying the drawings exhibition was a sample of caricatures from the contemporary of Rowlandson whose work we saw recently at the Holbourne in Bath. I venture to say that Gillray was more vicious and indelicate than Rowlandson and produced a lot of “divisive and partisan” pieces in support of the Tory’s of the day, for which one must say “Boo!”, of course, but also churned out a lot of anti-French propaganda that caused Napoleon to remark that the British engraver “did more than all the armies of Europe to bring him down”, so “Hurrah!” for Gillray.
Weston Library – “Marks of Genius”
Once again the riches of Oxford collections were on display at the new extension to the Weston library which is part of the Bodleian. This consisted of various copies and originals of a variety of written forms including copies of Magna Carta, a Shakespeare First Folio, a Gutenberg Bible and even the original letters of Kenneth Grahame to his son wherein the beloved characters Ratty, Mole and Toad first make their appearance. He had beautiful, legible handwriting too. One could just stand and read it very easily unlike many of the other exhibits on show such as pages from the first draft of Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly.
A Little Miscellany
We have been to Oxford quite a few times now and I have taken so many pictures of this building and that building that I tend to lose interest nowadays when out strolling and exploring but on this visit we did plunge down some as yet untrodden back streets and byways and did happen upon some novelties such as “Logic Lane” and Merton College hiding itself away.
Finally I must introduce you to my new infatuation to put alongside that of hot chocolate – the pain au raisin.
Almost certainly more to come on this delightful delicacy after having enjoyed them at the Holbourne, the Weston and Dyrham Park. The standard has been set and it is very high I have to tell you.