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Monday, 23 March 2009
It's a funny thing about Oxford, but even though I left three years ago I still get that 'coming home' feeling every time I step off the train. It's the only city where I really feel at ease (being, as you've probably gathered, something of a country girl at heart). I went back there last Monday to visit my supervisor, and felt inspired to show you some of 'my' Oxford.
Of course Oxford is most famous for the "dreaming spires" of its older colleges, but I didn't get as far as my ex-college on this trip; in summer I'll go back there and take some photos of Oxford as it lives in most people's minds. In the meantime, I beg your indulgence as we take a short walk through another part of the city.
I call it 'mine' because I used to live on a narrowboat on the Oxford canal. Walking up the towpath, which runs between the canal and the river, brings back more memories than I can ever recount, of long summer days and frozen winter nights. The summer memories were stronger this time, because I was fortunate enough to take this walk in blazing sunshine.
I have walked these paths more times than I can count - once the most direct route to get home from the railway station, and now the quickest route from the railway station to meet my supervisor. It's also a pleasant way to stroll, and when I have more time I also like to continue further to the north and out of town along the towpath.
It's hard not to feel sad passing the boatyard, once a place of constant activity, now boarded up because someone decided it would be more profitable to build some flats. So far as I know, the planning permission still hasn't been granted, but the damage has been done so far as the boating community is concerned. The boatyard is dead now, though the campaign goes on in the forlorn hope that one day we might get it back.
A little further along the towpath, and you can see one of my favourite pubs - the Old Bookbinders, even the name is evocative! - peeking between rows of houses. It's had a lick of paint, but I hope it's still as colourful and characterful as it was when I used to go there.
On a parallel road, closer to the town centre, the huge building housing the Oxford University Press is another landmark which most tourists probably miss:
And a little further down the same road, heading south again, is the building housing the Chinese Studies Library, where I spent many happy hours of study (for some reason, despite never officially studying Chinese).
These may not be the views which first come to your mind when you think of Oxford, but it's the heart of 'my' city. I hope you've enjoyed the walk!