I’m back! I ended up spending the winter in summer 1762. It was nice to find a year when nothing really happened. No deadly plagues and no one trying to kill each other. Apart from by over-eating. I ended up thinking, “where can I get a meal that doesn’t consist of at least 5 different types of meat?” Puritan England of course! Not least during the reign of Chancellor Laud, a little guy who compensated for his size with an enormous Code for the university. Some of the titles in the Laudian Code are great, here is a bit I pinched:
“- Of putting a check on unemployed and idle scholars who saunter in the City”….I’d better behave myself!
I like it so much in 1762 I’m still here! The meals….the meals are unbelievable. Now I’ve discovered when they are! Turns out lunch was ‘invented’ in the 18th century, as dinner got later and later in the day. I went to a Gaudy (sort of celebration meal) at Queens yesterday and they had a mountain of food. Whole roast pheasants, racks of veal, larks, oysters, chicken, cheesecakes. The fellows seem to spend the whole day every day either eating or looking forward to their next meal. To be honest its a bit much and I feel like a nice plain simple meal of bread and cheese now…
I thought I would go somewhere more relaxing after the last trip so I tried 1762, when Oxford was a polite and civilised town! Hardly any fighting between townspeople and students, the students don’t want to get their lovely gowns and wigs dirty. They are quite a sight to be honest, dressed up each and every day like peacocks, from the noblemen with long brightly coloured gowns and caps with gold tassels all the way down to the serviteurs, who still get a gown but not much else! The students do have another problem with the townspeople though., I walked into one coffee shop and two students saw me and literally hurtled out of the back door! Turns out they though I was a ‘dun’ – a shop owner come to collect a debt. Shop and pub owners keep tabs for students – some even refuse to take cash and of course by the end of the term the students usually get a nasty shock when they see how much they have spent. Bit like students loans I guess except repayment is slightly more urgent!
I got chatting to a serviteur, who are generally more approachable, and got invited to lunch at Exeter. Turned up at 1.00 and the lunch was over! It appears lunch is genuinely a movable feast in the 1700s and varies between college to college – and year to year – from 10.00 to 4.00. I had to pop back to Mortons in 2014 for a sandwich.
My time travel tour has taken me to 1916. The streets of Oxford are not a happy place to be. There is a pall over the town, a cloud of sadness and fear. Faces, mostly wonen’s, look worried and burdened. The War has been going on for two years exactly to the day; the early hope of a swift and glorious victory long crushed. I’ve just heard about the sad death of my friend George Pritchard. He served as a Private in the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and died of wounds at the Somme in France at the age of just 20 on 27 July 1916. He is remembered, along with over 150 other brave men from Headington here .
Its the holidays! Of course, just for the very wealthy. King Henry I is visiting, he usually comes up to Oxford to get away from the noise of London and do some hunting. Beaumont Palace, just outside the Northgate, is swarming with his courtiers, all very full of themselves. Funny to think that in just 200 years there won’t be much left of the building. Henry does prefer his hunting lodge out in Woodstock though – further away from the town riff-raff! Rumours are he keeps lions and camels there, I must pop out to have a look.
School holidays are here! Just seen girls pouring out of the Central Girls School on New Inn Hall Street (below), and boys from the City of Oxford High School on George Street. Funny to think that the latter will in the distant future become Oxford Spires Academy! Another ex-boys school is on Gloucester Green. I always have to double check what year I am in – it has also been a tourist information office, pub, Indian restaurant and bus enquiry centre. Nothing more embarrassing than asking for onion bhajis in a school reception ;).