Hanging out in Oxford

This trip to Lanzarote wouldn’t have been complete without a detour to Oxford to catch up with my oldest friends! Sue Raikes and Adrian Moyes still live in the quaint village of Eynsham, six miles west of Oxford, where I lived back in 84. Introducing them to my travelling companion and publisher, Michelle Lovi was a delight.

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The highlight of the flight was the refuel stopover in Dubai. Just two hours filled with queuing and shuffling about withe the carry on luggage, but it did prove just enough for Michelle to purchase a tin of Chocodates. I had no  idea why she was on a mission to buy them until offered a free sample. An almond wrapped in a date and dipped in chocolate. One of those kinda healthy intensely sugary hits. Bit of a thing in Dubai it seems.

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Landing in Heathrow and trekking to the coach, down endless walkways had me thinking of settings for horror or urban fantasy. But we were soon out of there and trundling through stop the green and twiggy fields of Buckinghamshire.

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Arriving at Sue and Adrian’s cottage of old Cotswold stone it was as if I had never been away, the years shrunk to months, and everything I had known and loved about my visits was there again, in  conversation, in the sumptuous food, created from produce grown on their allotment nearby, in the seamless way time fills with activities. Including a novel way of making coffee!

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Yesterday Michelle and I took the bus to Oxford and I gave her my personal tour, following the route I used to cycle, down Broad St to Blackwells bookstore, a vast warren of a space filled with every sort of book, on round the Sheldonian theatre, past Bodleian library, under the Bridge of Sighs and along a back lane to Magdalen bridge.

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Much had changed since I lived here in the eighties, but when I went into the old whole food store Uhuru to see if anyone there recalled the former CND office, I asked the woman behind the counter, I was amazed to find she’d been working there all this time and pointed out the site, now demolished to make way for a new building housing a few shops. One of them was Viny’s cafe on Cowley Road, unpretentious and lively and serving what we took to be North African fare.

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That night Michelle had her first taste of Mah Jong. She picked the game up straight away, despite the wine and the jet lag. Impressive. Sue and Adrian bought my Mah Jong set for my fortieth. Fabulous game but requiring four enthusiastic players so I don’t get to play that much.  I lost.

Our stay wouldn’t have been complete without a pub lunch. We went to The Plough in Finstock. Low ceilings, thatched roof, and traditional fare. I had bangers and mash, Michelle cod and chips. And oh what chips! Triple fried!

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It was a terrific introduction to England. Michelle has remarked on the friendliness and generosity of all we met. Not at all what she anticipated. And we drove right by the location for Midsummer Murders.

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