Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Meeting up with friends

Yesterday was very agreeable with two meetings with friends.

I had tea with a retired North American academic on her way to the Catholic Record Society conference in Yorkshire. Over scones and jam and cream we discussed pro-life matters and family history, and then moved on to the Divine Right of Kings, its medieval precursors, and considered equivalent ideas in Catholic kingdoms in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe.

Then it was off to the Eagle and Child to meet up with an Oxford friend who is now a lecturer in Egyptology at Liverpool. From the pub we moved on to a restaurant, and the conversation embraced, inter alia the current state of the Church of England, and possible converts to Rome, his holiday in Uzbekistan, which opened up Central Asian ideas about kingship, the fact that the Sultanate of Rhum was a claim to be the successor of Rome, the influence of Hellenistic art on that of Buddhism - both new ideas for me - then back to Egypt, the Desert Fathers, St Anthony, St Pachomius, the lives of these early saints - the way their monastic model was spread through the writngs of John Cassian and its influence not only on Benedict of Nursia, but more specifically I am sure (though I have not seen this explored in general books on medieval monasticism) on St Bruno, and his Carthusian model.

We also reflected on events which really changed the world - Alexander's conquest of the Persian Empire, Constantine's conversion, how one should interpret the French Revolution in these terms of uniquely decisive events - he was more incline to see that than I was myself perhaps - the Sarajevo assassination and the outbreak of the First World War. Along the way I learned much more about modern Central Asia than I did before - well, I'll be honest I did n't know very much to start with - and the interesting attitudes to conservation of historic sites out there - drastic restoration being the order of the day, complete with sanitised park land around the ancient monument.

All that with good Italian food and wine, and a friend's good humour, plus some gossip (sorry, human interest stories) about mutual friends - what more could you ask for sitting outside on a summer evening?

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