Spring In The Oxford Air And The Sap Is Rising

At the end of a brightly coloured rainbow you will find…Birmingham, well the bankers had the pot of gold and shared it around their friends years ago. It was a nice welcome as I moved through Birmingham airport en route back to Oxford from Tenerife, it had been raining as the plane landed but just as I passed the sliding glass doors from arrivals the sun peaked out and the rainbow arched over the top of the nearby hotel. A train soon had me in Oxford and I was able to sample a few pints of real ale before heading to my Aunts.

Doing my whirwind tour of my home town it was nice to see that the previous weeks sun had lured the spring flowers out, a host of golden daffodils caught my eye and put me in a chipper mood. At the train station I had found a chunky programme for the Oxford Literary Festival, they had an amzing line up of visiting writers over the week and I was tempted to try to get tickets for some talks, Brian Aldis, Adam Boulton, Melvyn Bragg and even Stephanie Powers all looked tempting. Sadly my lack of time made it impossible and the several hundred events all started at 10 pounds and rose quickly and steeply, I’d definately begrudge paying good money to the filthy rich University.

Oxford is a city of contrasts and my patch Cowley looks distinctly rough these days, the local pub The Nelson where I first put lips to a pint glass is a bit of a war zone, it was always basic but now I’d want a tetnus injection and an armed guard before going in there. On the plus side, in recent visits I have found a cracking proper chippie in Headington, Posh Fish had me drooling over a stack of chunky chips and a whale sized cod in a crispy overcoat, all drenched in salt and vinegar. I restricted my beer intake to evenings but it was good to taste some rich dark ales in the city centre pubs, sadly a few more have either closed or been turned into up market foodie haunts.

The lower end of Cowley is student bed sit land and the pretentious young things call it Cowley Village, it’s a real melting pot of nationalities and you can eat your way around the world at the cafes and restaurants. There used to be a great West Indian eating house that did amazing food and played ska music as the owner sat at the bar smoking a huge aromatic rock and roll Woodbine. I spotted an Ethical Property letting building that included the HQ of the Sumatran Orangatan Society, I hope the wages are good cos if you pay peanuts…….. Further up the road the O2 Academy is a magnet for up and coming new bands and lots of old ones getting some late mileage out of their careers. The listing promised Ali Campbell, The Alarm, Magnum, and The Stranglers, but i was most upset to realise I would miss Big Country, back out gigging again but with Mike Peters (formerly of The Alarm) in place of deceased Stuart Adamson.

I wont bore you with the legal crap I’m still chasing following my Dad’s death last year, needless to say the solicitor performed open wallet surgery on me again. Wednesday was a revelation, it was sunny and hot, apparently the hottest 6 April since the dawn of time. I took the chance to be Tommy the Tourist and went up the tower of St Mary The Virgin church in the High Street . There was a collection of International Baroque Players tuning up in the belly of the church (built 1280) ready for some evening concerts, they were pretty nifty and I could still hear them as I climbed the 127 tight spiral stone steps up to the gallery outside the tower. The views were nice but I’m not great with heights and the crumbling masonry did little to reassure me. I hoped that the attractive American tourist didn’t notice how I clung to the back wall as I manouvered past her.

Back on firm land I headed into the Botanic Gardens in the shadow of Magdelan Bridge, they were restful and fragrant and best of all lots of scatily clad posh young totty were sprawled out on the grass areas exposing as much as they dared to the sun. A few punts were being propelled along the river and under the bridge, this May Day morning the bridge is being opened up for the first time in years for dawn revellers, many of the Hooray Henrys and Henryettas will try to plunge off the bridge into the murky, shallow and supermarket trolley infested waters, not the brightest of ideas.

Anyway my short jaunt soon expired and I found myself back in Brum and heading through the labyrinth security zone, one of the most intense I have seen, I was scanned, prodded, grilled, and sniffed before I got through. There was one treat though, this was the first day of their new hologram helper, Virtual Lucy was projected onto a stand and with the cheeseiest of smiles took me through the basic security measures as we all shuffled along through the cattle grids. At one point she clicks her fingers and her tunic jacket is removed in a blink of an eye, how long till some geek hacks the programme and gets her to do a virtual striptease. At the other end of my journey there was something quite pleasing about the low tech digital readout board at the Titsa bus stop outside Tenerife South airport. The time and temperature were way off scale and it didn’t even list the bus that pulled in to take me to a cold Dorada. It’s good to be back.