Friday, 30 August 2013

11th anniversary

It's our 11th anniversary. 11 years! We both forgot, of course, and only remembered on our way to Oxford, where we were watching the RAFTA production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Fire Station. The production was superb and the cast did me proud. My songs sounded wonderful. So much life. So much energy. The costumes and set were remarkable, and some of the acting was impeccable. Philip Goudal, Caroline Artus and Stephen Artus shone in a cast of very talented performers. Bravo to them all. 

After the show, we went back to one of the cast houses for a bit of a party - fancy dress, no less - where someone set fire to a pair of Converse shoes in the garden. As you do. It's apparently something of a tradition. It's an epic, beautiful sight, not dissimilar from some kind of Viking ritual, but the stench of burning rubber and cheesy inner sole can catch the back of your throat and make you choke! We were soon forced to retire into the house.

I fulfilled another life time ambition today by going punting on the Isis. Abbie and Ian were in Oxford today and we met up with them at Magdalen College for an hour of messing about on the river. 

Punting in Oxford is a decidedly weird experience. It's all a bit low rent, in all honesty. The river is shallow, the boats are rickety, they give you a piece of scaffolding for a pole and you're expected to stand inside the boat. Obviously I was having none of that, and stood on the platform at the other end like a true Cambridger looking down my nose at everyone else! 

I was very surprised at how few people there were on the water and fairly disorientated by the practicalities of punting in a completely alien environment. I know every meander, tree and meadow on the Cam and Granta, and sometimes the Isis felt really quite similar, but then you find yourself drifting along the side of a limestone wall, or a rugby pitch, or an ornate glasshouse, and wonder what on earth's going on. 

I was horrified to find people on pedalos bouncing their way down the river and a low-rent souvenir shop at the end of our journey filled with ghastly trinkets which screamed "I love London!" This would never happen in my beloved Cambridge! People of Oxford. Get some self-respect! And charge less for parking whilst you're at it! We paid £20 today! 

After punting, Nathan took us on a nostalgic tour of "his" Oxford, which was a Pandora's Box of childhood memories. We visited the pet shop where he bought his first rat and the jail where his father worked and lived. Oxford Prison is now a Malmaison Hotel. The old cells have been knocked through to create glamorous bedrooms and it all looks rather impressive. The cell block itself - which is still lined with the Porridge-style metal walkways - had a dark, curiously disturbing atmosphere. An all-pervading sense of sadness and violence echoed through the atrium and made me feel very uncomfortable. I'm sure many men must have committed suicide in that place. 

We climbed up to the top of the castle mound, once part of the prison grounds, which Nathan and his sister used to climb up as children. From the summit, we looked down at the winding streets of Oxford and out to the lime green hills which rise in the south. Nathan and Abbie knitted and got stung by red ants. 

It's been a great way to celebrate such a special day. I'm told an 11th anniversary is traditionally steel. Maybe I'll buy Nathan a toaster, or a First World War shell canister! The moon actually looks like a sliver of steel. It's been keeping a watchful eye on us throughout our journey home which has been very welcome as it's late and we're both very tired. 

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