Pagans and Pringles
Posted: Oct 14, 2003 11:31:15 AM
Oxford is a fascinating place - it's beautiful, full of intelligent (or intelligent-looking, anyway) people, and crammed with very large book stores. What I find most enjoyable about it, though, is the multitude of literary associations that can be located in this locality, and two days ago Tamsyn and I went on a tour of them.
We walked down the section of the Thames that Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddle punted down in the temperate days that enabled him to compose 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'. We had a drink (yes, mine was non-alcoholic) in the Rabbit Room of the Eagle and Child, the pub room that for several decades was the weekly meeting place of the Inklings: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams (who really is the outsider Inkling, kinda like Ringo Starr of The Beatles). I also took the afternoon off to locate Tolkien's grave, in Wolvercote Cemetery, which was rather unfortunately festooned with offerings from fans such as poorly written poetry, badly taken photos, and even a hardcover copy of 'The Hobbit'. No, I didn't take it, although I did read the inscription.
If that day was Literary Sunday, yesterday was Neolithic Monday: I set out alone to explore Stonehenge and the Avebury Circle, two very different monuments to pre-historical Britain. Stonehenge was fascinating - the forty minutes between buses seemed to fly by - but rather crowded with tourists just like me. Well, not all of them; there were a couple sitting on a bench and (I think) silently praying to the structure. I, in a pique of tourist malignancy, decided to walk up behind them and crunch my Pringles, very loudly. Don't ask me why, they just seemed to be a wee bit daft.
Avebury was a long bus ride away, but it was worth it, because the Avebury Circle was quite a different experience to Stonehenge. Not better, not worse, just ... different. It is larger in circumference but smaller in height, and has no lintel stones. Best, you can actually walk among the Avebury stones, touch them too if you are so inclined.
As I meandered around I encountered a couple who were doing just that. As a matter of fact, they were hugging the stone. Honestly. Incredulously, I approached, and a memory was triggered. They looked familiar... yes, it was the couple from Stonehenge. I couldn't resist. I silently padded up behind them and pulled out the can of Pringles. Crunch, crunch, crunch.
Today is the last day in Oxford; I will catch a train into the Big City tomorrow morning, and it will be from there that the next report will appear.
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