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

Oxford in July

Now as someone who makes part of their living by showing people around Oxford I am not one to complain at the presence of visitors in the city,but, and it is a big BUT, each summer the city seems to be swamped by tourists, and each year seems worse than previous ones. That would be all right if they were really interested in the history and architecture, the culture and the ambience of Oxford. To be honest, many of those who come are not. So far, so bad.

This year seems to have more than any previous one I can recall a superabundance of European language students. Now I get the impression that individually these are probably perfectly pleasant teenagers ( Is that an oxymoron? Never mind) of the French, Italian or Spanish variety.

Collectively the effect is rather different. Frankly, it is frightful. It is like making one's way through an interactive film - something like "Oxford - Invasion of the Eurobrats"

Those of you who have experienced Oxford this year will appreciate the point, and those who have not will get it, if I compare the effect to the film "Gremlins"... (provided you have seen that film.)

Go to fullsize image

Eurobraticus Oxoniensis

Meanwhile change goes on in the city, and being change it is usually problematical, and often not for the better. Thus the former Border's bookshop, as well as another shop in the central area is being turned into Tesco supermarkets. Useful I agree, but is that how we want to see the future of central Oxford, dominated on its main streets by supermarkets?

As a further sign of change and decay in all I see (and I manage to see a lot of it) Gills, the ironmongers off the High, are closing at the end of August. This is a consequence of failing to negotiate a satisfactory new lease. Not only is it the loss of a traditional business, but the firm claims to have been here since 1530 - so it is older than many colleges, and indeed institutions such as the Bodleian (1602) and the Ashmolean (1683).

1 comment:

Stephanie A. Mann said...

I was in Oxford last year for a week and I can certainly sympathize. The central streets were often very crowded. The supermarkets would be a convenience for a visitor but do seem a little out of place.