Oxford of the dreaming spires

So I stomped around Dublin for awhile, avoiding the rain, and flew to London Luton. Ryanair is being very strict about one piece of hand luggage only. Every time I travel with them I determine not to do it again, and then they entice me again with a rate that’s too good to pass up. sigh

Anna and her brother collected me and we had a jolly ride to her family home, to drink tea and look around the garden before heading further to A’s flat.

Sat. morn. I was sure it wouldn’t rain that day, and I was right. It was blissful to explore Oxford in the warm sunshine. On the train enroute, I could hardly stop staring at the 2 glamorous couples who were seemingly on their way to a wedding or some event that required incredibly stunning clothes that looked like they came out of the 1920’s.

I kept being amazed at how much more contintental England feels/looks than Ireland does. There are more bikes there, more cultured cafes,  vaster fields and roads. Oxford was full of tourists, but that was ok. We walked around New College gardens and cloisters, up High St. and to Magdelene Bridge and watched the punters and rowers.  We walked around Bodlian Library and looked into Alice’s Shop that was too full to go into. Walking past Merton College, we saw a poster of a choir concert later than evening!!! We browsed several bookshops, and my souvenir is The Screwtape Letters, illustrated. And now, having eaten fish and chips in the Rabbit Room (the room the Inklings met in) at the Eagle and Child, my life is complete.

O yes, and we found Pusy Lane! Sheldon and Davy Vanauken lived on that tiny street, and it’s still cobbled but their house must be gone because it was old back then and these look newer than he describes it. It was amazing to think of them going in and out of there,under the gas lamps. Vanauken’s books, A Severe Mercy, and Under the Mercy were the main inspiration that drew me to Oxford. Going back to his first book now, I realized that he didn’t spend that much time writing about Oxford–only most of one chapter–but he gives such a charming, glowing account of it that it drew me and the stately, learned place didn’t disappoint.

After the fish and chips, we walked across town, stuck our heads into the gate of Christ Church College and saw that Evensong started in 10 min. So we went in! The choir was lovely, and the prayers were beautiful, and I met God in a surprising, comforting way.

Then we went back to Merton and followed the path to the chapel and garden. Rounding a corner, we came upon 2 well-dressed young men playing croquet in the garden. Students on a Sat. night. Did you ever. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a story. Then in the old, wood-ceiled chapel, we saw the Brixi choir from northern England getting ready for their concert. I saw a lot of them had silver/white hair, and thought condesendingly that the choir must be a group of chronies who like to sing. I thought your voice is never as good after you hit 3o, but these 16  people dismantled that theory. I’ve never heard such sound and dynamics and crispness come from any choir. It was Amazing. They sang a lot of old sacred pieces that I knew or have sung, and it was all very delightful to spend an evening in a place where music has been enjoyed since the 1200’s.

I’m inspired to become reaquainted with Lewis and Vanauken and Tolkien. They seem like the kind of friends that are good to keep.

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