Thursday, 28 July 2011
Oxford may be full of literary links, but there's one that rules supreme. No, not C.S. Lewis, despite my many blogs on his garden. Not even Tolkein, his drinking mate in the Bird and Baby (memorably misheard by one of my friends as the Burning Baby, which really seems unrelatable to its official title of The Eagle and Child), famously meeting place of the Inklings for over 20 years. And certainly not Pullman, like Tolkein my fellow Exonian (and, incidentally, Will Self).
No, the one that reigns supreme also has connections to Exeter College. It was a location in the final book in a very long series, or to be more accurate, in the television adaptation of the final book. That's right. Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse casts his long shadow over so many Oxford locations it's hard to escape his influence. Walking over Port Meadow today, to Wolvercote, and then back along the canal, my friend and I constantly expected to round a corner and find another murder victim awaiting the tender ministrations of Morse or Lewis. ("It's always the joggers that find them," my friend said darkly.) It's the bucolic idylls, the domestic suburbs and the academic Cotswold stone colleges that make the detective series what it is. They colour the tourist's eye view of Oxford (I always point out the Randolph Hotel to visiting friends, which has been the scene of more arrests, murders, and murder victims' last nights than any one place has a right to). On my single trip up the tower of the university church, I looked over the dreaming spires and found myself reminded of the aerial setting shots that provide the local colour for the adaptations.
I'll miss being in this city, despite taking so long to become used to it, and even, horrors, to become fond of it. But when I'm in the countryside, ensconced in my tiny thatched cottage, I'll be able to put on a dvd and find myself right back in Oxford, solving murders and remembering walks on sunny July afternoons, chatting aimlessly about research and academics and rugby and ducks, not being pounced on by murderers.