Strange then that I overcame my initial first impressions and went on the live in, or within easy reach of, Oxford for the next 35 years.
Because I came to live in Oxford as a student, I got to know it bit by bit. Its austere classical beauty seeped into my heart without the need for tourist sight-seeing. I finished growing up there; I kicked leaves in Christ Church Meadows; I studied; I swam in the river on May morning; I made lifelong friends; I learned how to punt in a straight(ish) line; I fell in love; I went to May Balls; I worked, I married and I raised a family within twelve miles of Carfax Tower.
So as we stepped down from the train in Oxford station this morning it was with a happy sense of anticipation of revisiting this beautiful city that I know so well. I knew it was going to be a day of treats.
The first was a visit to the Ashmolean Museum where Steve had pre-arranged a visit to the Western Art Print Room. He knew that the museum hold a collection of Turner watercolours. What you can see in the galleries of public art collections is only a fraction of what they have and most are willing to make other parts of the collections available to the public if you know what you want to see. Steve particularly wanted to see watercolours of Venice and an early drawing that Turner had made of the Ashmolean covered in scaffolding during an eighteenth century refurbishment. It was one of those marvellous white-glove experiences. We were presented with a large box of mounted watercolours and a small desk easel and left to revel in the experience of seeing the master’s work up close and personal. It was wonderful.
We had time after that for a wander around the galleries. We went in different directions; Steve to look at paintings and me to have a lovely mooch around ceramics.
Then we met a dear friend for a leisurely lunch at the Red Lion and talked and talked until all too soon it was time to get back on the train for home.
It was a grey and drizzly November day, but it was still beautiful. A lovely, lovely day.
photo credit: Steve Broadway