Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I'm off on holiday for a week somewhere where Easter eggs would melt. Yippee!

I wish anyone reading a very happy Easter, whether you love it because of its religious message, its springtime connotations or its chocolate. If you're an Easter grouch, then stop it. At once. Go and watch some lambs frolicking or gorge yourself on an Easter Egg. Go on - just eat a whole one. Nobody need know. Someone's got to do it. Thorntons does diabetic eggs, so there's no excuse for anyone.

Enjoy the bank holiday weekend and make the most of 4 days off in a row, even if that involves nothing more drastic than watching DVDs with your slippers on. Good times. For the slightly more adventurous, check out the following events:

Saturday 22nd: The Key Learning Centre, Oxford Castle, 11am - 4pm

Oxford Castle Unlocked :
The Great Eggscape: Join in the Easter Fun at Oxford Castle Unlocked. Go on a picture egg trail, race your friends in our children's egg and spoon race and hear Paul Guftafson, author of 'Eggbert's Adventure's', reading his books in the key Learning centre accompanied by Ukelele Bob. Children's activities are running throughout the day, eggciting stuff!!!

Ukelele Bob...got to be seen to be believed!


Carluccio's Events
Win a Delicious Carluccio’s Italian Easter Egg Location: Carluccio’s, Oxford Castle

This Easter, we are offering one young artist the chance to win a giant 3kg Italian chocolate Easter egg to share with their classmates.The designer of the of the most beautifully coloured egg will be picked on 19th March and receive a huge 3kg Easter egg made from delicious Italian chocolate to share with their classmates before the Easter weekend.Visit us for more details and to pick up a competition entry form.

Woe for Woolies

Why is there no Woolworths in Oxford? Legend has it there used to be one where the Clarendon Centre now is, but the fact of the matter is, the city is now sadly lacking.

Why the fuss? Surely there are sweet shops which have a better range than Woolies...toy shops with better quality, handcrafted toys, stationery shops with more than just gel pens and sellotape, CD shops with proper music, clothes shops with even cheaper clothes, and magazine shops with foreign, artsy, obscure magazines to go with the mainstream.

Yes, yes, yes and yes. And there are even shops that attempt a combination, and perhaps even do a better job of it than Woolworths. There's not much that you can't get in Boswells or some of the bigger supermarkets.

But despite this, I still mourn its absence. In the town where I grew up it was the staple general store, great for whatever you needed. I have fond memories of buying a giant bean bag there, some cheap CDs that had lost their covers, and of course, the pick'n'mix goodies. I can't quite seem to break free from that mindset that Woolies will solve all shopping woes. I didn't even go in that often; I just knew it was there and that comforted me.

On second thoughts, perhaps I should find a shop selling lives and go out and get one...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The sound of death

I have a fear. Not a full-blown phobia. Not yet. Just a heart-pounding, cold sweat, ohmygodimgoingtodie type uber-niggle.

What provokes this undesirable reaction?

I feel my answer should be accompanied with the sound itself, or at the very least a Jaws theme-tune style warning, a pantomime villain hissing and a general trembling of fear from all around.

Sound familiar?

Yes, I'm talking about that beast of all beasts: the Oxford Tube. In principle this is a great idea. It's a big coach that travels between London and Oxford with all mod cons: wifi, breakfast on board, cheery drivers who make jokes about the weather and the cruising altitude. But like all great ideas, it has become warped...like all people who seem just a little too cheerful on the outside, these drivers are surely psychopathic warriors with a deep-rooted desire for violent revenge on every cyclist and pedestrian around.

It starts with the roar. A thousand lions, motorbikes with loose exhausts and Formula 1 cars...combined with a sprinkling of atomic bomb and Bonfire Night, and you're nearly there. That's the first sign, but it's too late by then. The best reaction is to shut your eyes and leap for cover. If you're on a bike, pray that your left side has always been more flattering, as you'll shortly lose your right. These monsters go sooo incredibly fast, and they're just so big. Words fail me.

Well, only for a bit. I still have enough scribble diarrhoea to rant about these things. In my quest for solidarity I found a couple of groups sympathising with me: http://oxford.facebook.com/group.php?gid=5147679797
and the amazingly titled:
How I Nearly Died on the Oxford Tube which just shows that you're not even safe inside. It seems that being locked in the luggage section is not unusual.

Be afraid.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How real is reality?

Inspired by the crazy antics promisede by the flashmob group, I decided to try and find another old facebook group called 'Oxford is not part of the real world'. I don't know if it's vanished or if I'm just not searching correctly, but I couldn't find it.

Anyway, the basic idea definitely still exists. I'm not talking about dreaming spires and Harry Potter halls here, it's more the people.

- The way you can walk down the street and within the same minute see someone dressed as a fairy, a pub golfer, a man dressed as a woman, and you don't even think twice about it.

- The fact that the same stretch of street can contain a homeless person, the son of a millionaire, someone in a full ball gown and someone in hippie clothes.

- In Cornmarket Street you can be offered flyers from pro-animal testing groups, anti-animal testing groups, Christian evangelists, strong atheists and G&Ds and for all you care, they could be the same person.

- On your way to the bank you will probably pass a bagpiper, a Native American Indian panpipe group, a lady with one welly singing on her bike and five people wearing iPods, singing to their own songs.

The most unreal thing of all is that if you even notice these, you'll treat them as quite normal.

The best thing of all is that you could do any of these things and nobody would bat an eyelid.

I love Oxford.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Flash in the Pan?

I have been invited to join a Flashmob group on Facebook. A quick search revealed that there are in fact several of these groups in Oxford, the two biggest being The Official Flashmob group of Oxford and Flashmob Oxford.

I've heard of these things like the great sock worship event in Loughborough:

I've never seen any in Oxford though. The groups list their past accomplishments:

4. SCLIRENDONELLA (superstition)
5. DASHFODILTAP special thanks to the Wizard of Oz
6. lETs mAKe A rauCOUS

Some of these seem to involve instructions like 'bring a toothbrush and towel' or 'needed: 1 accordian, 1 didgeridoo'...intriguing stuff!

The basic idea is that a time and place is messaged round to everyone in the group, who are told at the last minute what to do. This can include a slow motion fight, waking backwards, a spontaneous musical performance or mass interest in something, playing on the idea that if a whole crowd of people find something interesting, it must be!

I must admit, I find the idea quite appealling. Can you imagine the confuzzlement of the professors staggering out of the
Bodleian library at closing time to find themselves surrounded by people in dressing gowns brushing their teeth? Or the OAP tour groups contemplating the tranquility of Magdalen College only to find an impromptu orchestra bursting into song as the clock strikes 3.

That said, I wonder how many members of these groups actually go to these things. I'm sure they're hilarious if several hundred people turn up, but reduce that to 10 or 15 and you're just another one of those quirky groups of people behaving slightly strangely, which you get so used to in Oxford.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Moggy Mystery

I was walking along Woodstock Road the other day when I saw a fox. A fox! Not a female student dressed up with a team of 'hunters' chasing her round various pubs, but a real, furry, Animals of Farthing Wood type fox. I thought foxes were limited to countryside hedgerows and roadkill, but a quick search on google revealed that urban foxes are the new craze in bin-raiding animal gangs.

This led me to think that I hardly see any animals in Oxford. Sure, there are the dog-walkers in Port Meadow, but where are they in the town centre? At least I don't end up obsessively checking my shoes to locate the source of That Smell, but I miss our furry friends. It can't be just because it's a city - Paris has poodles galore.

Perhaps Oxfordians just aren't canine-philes, in which case surely they must be feline fans. But again, where are all the cats? You can't drive up my parents' street where I grew up without dodging at least 2 cats, and having your tyres scratched when you park. Not such a blessing perhaps, but there's nowt wrong with the odd moggy fight, the affection-seeking spirals of fur that fling themselves in your direction, the glowing eyes looking out of the tree. The closest I've got is the Cheshire Cat memorabilia in the Alice shop. Perhaps all the cats are Alice-esque Chesire cats, and I'm just not noticing the floating grins wandering past me in the street.

Or maybe everyone has pet fish or hamsters, carrying weasels in their pocket or sea monkeys in their watches. I've heard tamagotchis are making a comeback - maybe they're more suited to the hectic, urban Oxford lifestyle.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


I've become addicted to the TV show Heroes. I know I'm several months out of date, but it's great ploughing my way through the boxset. Just what makes it quite so addictive, I don't know. It's a bit like Lost, except things actually happen.

I've been thinking which superpowers it would be good to have in Oxford and what I'd do with them...

Bending space and time - very useful for sales shopping and moving all the French schoolkids and tourists out of my way, manipulating bus queues and making my
G&Ds ice cream last longer. Or, slightly more dramatically, great for going back a few hundred years and experiencing Oxford life where students were all related to kings, the Castle was actually a castle and New College really was new.

Flying - soaring over the dreaming spires, away from the hustle and bustle of life...it couldn't get much better really.

Painting the future - could be a nice change since Oxford is so obsessed with the past. Then again, it might just be the
Westgate centre and buildings covering up the last few remaining green spaces. You can't control it either...might give this one a miss.

Surviving all manner of suicide attempts/injuries - a dubious talent, but maybe I'd stop fearing the roar of the Oxford tube quite so much when I'm struggling to stay upright on my bike.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Waffles Galore

I just feel the need to have a mini waffle today. Not a waffle of the edible variety, although admittedly, that craving is usually present. No, I mean a waffle of the literary sort. A spewing forth of ideas, a mish-mash of thoughts, a cathartic expulsion of mind niggles.

So, here goes:

- Radio 1 in the morning really annoys me. I used to enjoy Chris Moyles' parodies of songs when he was on in the afternoon. I now set my alarm to his show in the morning because nothing else forces me out of bed so quickly in a dash to turn it off.

- I went for a meal out with friends to Ask last week. I've not had very good experiences in the past, but their honeycomb cheesecake is AMAZING. Think Crunchie nuggets in a cheesecake, drizzled in chocolate. My friend and I foolishly shared one, so ordered another one!

- Tropicana have just started doing smoothies. They were £2 in Sainsburys last month but have gone up to normal price now. Sad times.

- I have just started reading 'Eats Shoots and Leaves' and have found a soulmate in the writer. Look out for future rants on apostrophe abuse!

Okay, now I'm off for an edible waffle...