July 22, 2013

Oxford grays.

“I saw the spires of Oxford
As I was passing by,
The gray spires of Oxford
Against a pearl-gray sky.”

~Winifred Mary Letts

On a rare summer afternoon, when the sun falls lovingly on storied spires, Oxford takes on a regal hue-a gold as rich as memory.  But it is not in such a light that the university is remembered by the legions of poets who have trod its manicured quads.  They almost all chose another hue, a gray that pays homage to silvered spires, medieval stones, a favorite author’s hair?, and the venerability of a seven-hundred-plus-year-old bastion of learning.

DI Robert Lewis: Life born of fire. I bet that means something in Latin.  
DS James Hathaway: What makes you say that? 
DI Robert Lewis: This is Oxford. Everything always means something in Latin.

Oxford is not a college town — it is the college town. Its namesake university’s 38 colleges are so steeped in scholarly history they make Harvard and Yale seem like baby-faced freshmen. To wit: Oxford’s New College was last considered “new” in the 14th century. Even the obsolete term “New World” is newer.
To underline this point, the city contains the famous Bodleian library, the research library of Oxford University, whose present buildings can be traced back to 1602.

DI Robert Lewis: Have you learned nothing from this case? Books are bad for your health.
DS James Hathaway: Not if you just read them.

The famous Library was well endowed with grotesques and gargoyles, but they were crumbling badly. In 2009, nine new gargoyles were unveiled.  A contest was held for school children to design new gargoyles around the theme of myths, monsters or people that had a historical connection with Oxfordshire during the last millennium.

Once the designs were chosen it took over two years to complete the carvings by local sculptors, and the children had a hand in crafting the final product. Be sure to watch for them when you visit and keep you looking up at the symbols, emblems, motifs, animals, and demons clinging to the roofs and walls of Oxford buildings. The stonemasons, both medieval and modern, used their imaginations and humor in creating hundreds of amazing stone carvings. Bring your binoculars.

The number of famous people that have studied and done research at Oxford University, is as you might imagine an extremely long list that includes J R Tolkein (author of The Lord of the Rings) and of more recent relevance, Tim Berners-Lee who is credited for inventing the Internet…imagine that on your CV!

DS James Hathaway: You know what one of the Inklings is meant to have said when Tolkien started reading them 'Lord of the Rings'?
DI Robert Lewis: Oh, spare me, Sergeant; I've had enough of imaginary worlds.
DS James Hathaway: You'll like it, sir; I promise.
DI Robert Lewis: Go on then.
DS James Hathaway: They said: "Not more flipping elves!" Except they didn't say 'flipping'.
DI Robert Lewis: [laughs] I like it...

Personally, I love to ‘tour’ the city and its hidden gardens, picturesque gates, and its old and new architecture.

DS James Hathaway: Well, Caesar was killed by a group of conspirators; gota check Brutus, Cassius, Casca...
DI Robert Lewis: This is Oxford, not ancient Rome.
DS James Hathaway: They're easily confused, sir.

A long time Oxford resident, Colin Dexter has the curious distinction of having made his home city one of the fictional murder capitals of the UK. He has slaughtered more than 80 people in his Inspector Morse stories, turning the dreaming spires of Oxford into a kind of academic killing fields. Tourist buses regularly bring Morse fans on a guided tour of the locations of his stabbings, stranglings and poisonings.

DI Robert Lewis: [Over the phone] I'm not stirring on Sunday for anything less than murder.

On to new Endeavour(s) 


asterix said...

Well posted *****

Syl v O said...

Don't leave Oxford, Ms Edna, they haven't finished with you yet…
-after Colin Dexter

Tartanscot said...

[Lewis and Hathaway have been called to a murdered heating engineer in the basement of the Bodleian Library]
DS James Hathaway: You realise what we've got, Sir?
DI Robert Lewis: What?
DS James Hathaway: The Body in the Library.
DI Robert Lewis: Now that is *definitely* facetious.

frenchtoast said...

Hathaway (Cambridge boy): You know sometimes you couldn't believe that this was England's second best university.
Lewis: You're speaking objectively, of course.
-ditto 2

Love the post *****

Alistair from the land of Calvin (who is right this moment turning in his grave) said...

The Manacle, Bocardo Prison Key and Cranmers Band…poor Oxford Martyrs.

Colin has nothing on history!

Ms. Edna (squared) said...

Touché Alistair, touché.