Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Simply Superficial

I've just got back from a fortnight of gallavanting around the mountains of Italy. It was a lovely way to see in the New Year, but now having overdosed in nature, simplicity and the important things in life, I'm getting a rather niggling urge to have an outburst of superficialiality, of silliness, of completely unfounded, biased opinion. Oh, why not? I'll try to make it my only one this year...

I spent two weeks surrounded by stunning alpine peaks, shaggy goats and mountain huts. It should have been idyllic. Yet so many of the little villages were full of derelict buildings, huge, intrusive, towering cranes, dirty rubbish points and rusting corrugated warehouses. My senses were offended - this wasn't the image of rural life I had expected. I had hoped for weatherworn farmers' wives making cheese by hand, not smoke billowing out from decrepit factories.

In a parallel sense, this is how I feel about much of Oxford. Sure, the dreaming spires are a cliche, but they're still a treat for the eye. I so often take them for granted until I see something that contrasts with the grandiose style and brings me crashing back. In a purely shallow sense, then, here are my top 5 pretty buildings and top 5 uglies in Oxford. Feel free to contradict, to complain. I use lots of these places regardless of their appearance, but they're an eyesore nevertheless.

Lovelies to feast your eyes on
1. The little cottage on Parks Road with the flowers up the side
2. That gloriously overhanging wonky building on Cornmarket Street with the
Nokia shop underneath
Christ Church Cathedral - well, it is very pretty
The Oxford University Press Building (the offices, not the shop) - British Musem anyone?
Freud's - have you ever felt grander getting a pizza?

Uglies to take your enemies to
1. The building works round the Taylor Institute - just how long do they need?
The Westgate centre - horrible, glass-fronted blob of commercialisation
Oxford train station - as if travelling wasn't torturous enough already
4. Gloucester Green - so pretty when full of market; so full of neon signs, noodles and ragamuffins most of the time...
Argos - well, it's hardly a tourist attraction is it?

Don't even get me started on Cowley (and no, it's not all bad - I quite like the funky graffiti murals and 3-D shop fronts)...

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