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.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Meanwhile in Oriel Square

Once again we had a film crew in Oriel Square today. I am not sure what they were filming, but they were catching the autumn sun. Three weeks ago, in damper conditions, there was another crew there filming for, as I understood it, the latest Inspector Lewis series. Normally one passes such things with the disdain of the Oxford resident who has seen it all before, but on this occasion there was rather more to see. There, in the middle of the Square, was what purported to be a religious procession, which eventually moved off towards Merton Street. Later on it returned from Merton. Several times knowing what filming is like. They were there all afternoon in fact.

Now what really caught my eye was not that it was a religious procession, but how wrong virtually everything was. Thus the "Procession" appeared to be led by a man in an all-purpose costumier's monastic habit - dark brown, Franciscan girdle, sandals - but a bit short - almost worthy of the fraticelli. He was holding, it appeared, but without a humeral veil and without wearing a stole, a monstrance at waist height. Behind him were a group in similar habits with some dark red involved somewhere, and beating side drums rather in the manner of the Sealed Knot. The effect was slightly Bhuddist*. Behind, under a splendid, stiffened and rigid canopy, came a figure in a white cope, but not carrying the monstrance or reliquary that preceded him. Behind were upwards of twenty more all-purpose monastics in their all-purpose habits, all bearing identical dark green banners. Behind them were a series of figures in academic dress, including at the rear, a D.D., but, of course, they were all too young to have attained such degrees in real-life. There was the whiff of incense in the air.

All very atmospheric no doubt, but woefully inacurrate. You would not get away with the equivalent mistakes with historic military, police, railway or any other uniform you care to think of.

But then, it is Oxford, and it is television.

* Remember the story about the automatic text added to televised coverage of Pope John Paul II's funeral which rendered "Karma lite nuns " for Carmelite nuns...

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