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A college dinner

Last Friday I was invited to a dinner in Oxford, the annual engineering scholars’ reunion at my college. I wasn’t able to go last year, as it was in the middle of Christopher’s final round of chemotherapy – the one which ended up with him hospitalised in an isolation ward with neutropenia. But in previous years, I’ve generally attended if I’ve been free, and I usually rather enjoy myself. So I thought I ought to make an effort to go this year.

The dinner ends around 11pm, which is far too late to get a train back to Malvern. And there is no way I’m driving anywhere after drinking the college port. So the only realistic choice is to get a hotel room for the night in Oxford. The Randolph Hotel is the closest to college, but is very overpriced (and the standard rooms are tiny) so that’s not really an option – I totally object to feeling ripped off.  In recent years, Chris has come to Oxford with me, and we’ve booked a room in a hotel a bit further out of town (and therefore at a much more reasonable price). He would do his own thing while I was living it up at the dinner, meet me in the college lodge at 11pm with a pair of comfy shoes for me to change into, and walk me back to the hotel. Then we would spend the following day (invariably a Saturday) mooching around Oxford.

So this year, I had a dilemma. Where could I find that was reasonably priced, and in the centre of Oxford within a short, safe walk stagger of college? I was very pleased when I found a hotel in George Street, less than five minutes walk from college, and for only £69 B&B. Perhaps I should have checked Trip-advisor more carefully – it turned out to be above a sports bar, next to the bus station! I walked round it twice before deciding that I had the address right, and this had to be it.  Sports bars are really not my thing at all!  But my room turned out to be large, clean, and perfectly adequately furnished. And fortunately I was given a key to a (rather dingy) side entrance, which meant that I didn’t have to go in and out through the bar. The room was very noisy though – it overlooked the bus station, and was directly above the bar which was pumping out loud music. I was very pleased that I keep an emergency pair of ear-plugs in my sponge bag for when I’m travelling!

On Saturday, I had bought myself a ticket to an superb exhibition, From Heracles to Alexander,  at the Ashmolean museum. It was full of grave goods from some ancient Macedonian royal tombs, including those of the father and son of Alexander the Great – absolutely stunning gold and silver work, as well as plenty of other fascinating artefacts.

I think my favourite piece was the oak-leaved diadem, shown on the right above, which is made of very fine gold-leaf. There are tiny golden acorns embedded amongst the leaves, on gold wires so fine that the acorns would dance in the slightest breeze. It was found in the grave of a 17-year old royal youth, suspected to be a son of Alexander the Great.

Christopher would have just loved the exhibition, and the subsequent Greek-themed lunch I had in the museum restaurant before catching the train home.