Sunday, 26 August 2012

Oxfordshire and Cranleigh

There have been no posts for the last three weeks as I've been away on holiday for two of them and spent the third coping with the chores that accumulate in a fortnight's absence.

My first week was spent walking with my Anglo-French friends in Oxfordshire.  The actual walking was something of a disappointment.  Although the villages are pretty  (plenty of thatched roofs) the Oxfordshire countryside is rather flat and uninteresting, made even more-so by the removal, presumably in the 50s and 60s, of many hedges, so that there are now enormous fields with the rights of way running through the middle.  To make things worse the most popular crop seems to be oil-seed rape, which may be financially viable and good for the balance of payments, but is not pleasant to walk through.

Oxford itself, in which I spent a couple of days, is superb: far too interesting to be wasted on the young.  Our party was billeted in a concrete tower-block of Oxford Brookes University - the former Polytechnic.  The accommodation was perfectly adequate, and I know it has a reputation as a very sound university, but I think students there must always feel second class citizens, and those at Oxford "proper" must find the rest of their lives something of an anti-climax - unless, of course they get into the cabinet and are allocated posh country houses.

My second holiday, which followed straight on, was the Cranleigh Choral Week,  again based on student accommodation, but this time in a boarding school (which the present editor of the Guardian attended, but they don't take the Guardian in the local public library.  I have complained to a Surrey county councillor but to no avail).  Two hundred or so singers from choral societies all over the country split into small choirs  during the day to practise and then perform chamber pieces, and in the evening get together to rehearse the major work, this year Mozart's Great Mass in C minor, for performance with a local orchestra in Guildford Cathedral on the Saturday evening.

Cranleigh Choral Week is subtitled the Cranleigh Eating Week, as the food if frequent, ample and very tempting.  In spite of having jogged round Cranleigh School' extensive paying fields each morning I've still put on three kilos in weight.

Cranleigh School's sporting facilities are so astonishingly lavish, as I understand is true of most public schools,  it is a wonder that their alumni don't win an even bigger proportion of Olympic medals than they do.  In the meantime our government continues to exhort state schools to devote more time and effort to sport, and at the same time sells off their playing fields.  You couldn't make it up.


  1. Oxford is still very Brideshead and Dave and Boris and George (?) very Bullingdon. The public (or should it be pubic in the light of Prince Harry?)schools certainly like their sport - it is 'character building'. One of my Cambridge college peers failed to get an A level and even failed a degree in Rural sciences but is now listed as an eminent 'old boy' of the college because he trained the Queen's race horses and fathered Clare Balding that omniscient lesbian sports commentator. It is sad that class still dominates our education system.

  2. Hmm - the only concrete tower block we have at Brookes is five miles out of town and condemned a decade ago. SO I hope you weren't in there!

    And no, you'd be surprised, the topography in fact allows us all to look down on the part timers down the hill. We do miss the food though…:)

    1. We were out of town, at what I think was the Management Centre. The U1 bus terminated there. The breakfasts were excellent and the service very friendly. No one told us the buildings were condemned, though.

  3. Well, the business school (my faculty) is at Wheatley and where the U1 terminates. And yes, they are the oldest halls we now have, having been developed for a womens' teaching college that was originally at Bletchley Park in the fifties. But I doubt you were actually in the tower, the entrance to which is boarded up :) I was partly trolling because I wondered if you were in my block at Headington as we had some economics people two flats above me last week, though that would not have been described as a concrete tower!

  4. Well, all things are relative, and our tower was only four floors high. There was, indeed a higher one, opposite and above the dining room. I'm pleased to see you're a Liberal Democrat councillor (or perhaps an ex one, a victim of the backlash) and have tried to gain access to your blog, but was informed I was following a wrong track. Advice on the right one would be appreciated.