Tuesday, 2 September 2014

To rest my eyes in shades of green

So here we are; the first day of the autumn term, the kids are back at school, and I have been sorting through the photos from our trip down to my sister's in Buckinghamshire.

We had a good day out in Oxford; we used to go reasonably often as kids, but I don't think I have visited the city for over 20 years.

Here I am admiring the view from the tower of the University church of St Mary the Virgin.

I know it's a cliche, but the panorama of honey-coloured Oxfordshire stone and dreaming spires really is beautiful.

We admired the Radcliffe Camera, observed that graffiti is not a modern-day phenomenon, and wondered if this gargoyle was the inspiration for Donkey in Shrek.

 We passed the Clarendon building (now a part of the Bodleian Library - edited, with thanks to Gisela for correctly identifying this one!)

 the Sheldonian Theatre...

loved the Bridge of Sighs...

...and saw beautiful sights at every turn.

There is a Saxon tower at St Michael's church (dated 1040), the oldest building in Oxford...

and a memorial to the clerics Latimer and Ridley, and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, burned as Protestant martyrs in the reign of Mary Tudor.

Christchurch College is impressive.

It contains the dining hall which was the inspiration for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films (please excuse the blurry photo, it was very dark)...

and the Alice in Wonderland window (Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll was both a student and teacher at Christchurch College.)

Oxford's cathedral has two beautiful stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones.

And I thought this was a touching tribute to a young officer.

I asked Claudia if she thought she would like to come to study at one of the Oxford colleges; she shrugged, and said it's a bit too posh. 

I know what she means; my teachers at school wanted me to apply, but I felt instinctively that I would be a fish out of water in these surroundings, and despite my grades being good enough, I doubted that I would pass the entrance exam or interview.

Over 30 years later, and Oxford University still admits the lowest percentage of state-educated students (around 57%) of any UK university, and students from fee-paying schools continue to monopolise the places at elite universities.

If Claudia, or anyone else, wants to go, and is sufficiently talented and hard-working, I hope they don't let the mystique and the gilded gates put them off.

Now, in case you are worried that my poor children are dragged round historic cities without a thought for their entertainment, pleased don't fret; there was also plenty of this...

and a visit to the Bucks County Show.

Since the ban on hunting foxes and other animals with dogs came into force in 2005, country types who want to ride across fields with packs of foxhounds or beagles do so on drag hunting courses.

 There were huge agricultural machines, a stunt quad bike display, and a fortune teller who proudly announces that she has been patronised by the elite (Shirley Bassey and The Brotherhood of Man?) as well as my favourite, the produce tent...

where the cabbages really were as big as your head!

Prize-winning veg, blooms, marmalade, and patchwork, clearly taken very seriously by the competitors;

this grower had obviously made a stand to display their very impressive produce.

We managed to time it well, so by the time the skies looked like this, we were heading for the car to go home.

Here's my mum, trying to help Nina with her times tables.
 A thankless task, one which I have pretty given up on, but Mum is made of more patient stuff.

The kids went off to school quite happily this morning; hopefully it will be a while before routine bites hard and the homework blues kick in...

Roll on half term!



Images Animated Gif 3D Free said...
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Beth Waltz said...

Delight lies in the details! This post is reminiscent of the old National Geographic color spreads that gave readers intimate views of Oxford,the City; a Country Event with people, dogs and vegs; and a glimpse of English family life, complete with a peek at Granny's Garden. Absolutely gorgeous!

But only you, Curtise, with your intense interest in people, would have chosen to record and share that memorial to a young soldier.
Your kids are fortunate to have a mum who shows them Saxon towers, martyrs' memorials, and then lets them plop in a pool.

One looks forward to your essay on "What is Too Posh...?"

Sheila said...

Lovely photos! I love seeing all of that gorgeous architecture. What a fun weekend! It doesn't feel like the "last weekend" of summer unless one goes to a fair!

Hippy At Heart said...

Oh I love Oxford, had the luck to visit this beautiful place some years ago. As I studies literature, Bodlyn library was such a sight for sore eyes! And Blackwell's for sure. It must be amazing to study there. No wonder Harry Poter has been filmed there and Tolkien got inspiration for his books!

Anonymous said...

We are back to school tomorrow. I'm wondering right now how I get a 16 year old out the door on time who's been staying up until 3am and not waking until 2pm? Not looking forward to getting him on a schedule. He sleeps like a log.
I love that Bridge of Sighs photo. One of my favorite songs from the 70's was Robin Trower's Bridge of Sighs and until now I never knew what that was or where. I can't wait to travel to the UK someday. It's just gorgeous.
Fun times with your kids are precious!

Vix said...

Welcome back! Has Claudia grown since we last saw her, she gets more like you by the day, the gorgeous girl!!
Many a drunken weekend I had in Oxford. My friend was at Balliol and I loved visiting and being the centre of attention for my common accent. Those posh boys couldn't get enough of us state school girls.
Love that picture of your Mum teaching the times table and the frolicking about in the pool. Have you all had a fabulous Summer?
Ah well, back to reality now! Love you!xxxxxxxxx

Emma Kate at Paint and Style said...

I've never been to Oxford. It really is beautiful isn't it?
Glad to hear your kids went off happily to school. We had a bit of ranting and raving here.

Kezzie said...

I loved Oxford the few times I've been! You really are a genius at creating brilliant, vibrant, balanced photo collages- these are superb!!!
I've got county show photos from Northumberland like these! X

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post Curtise, beautiful kids.

Natalia Lialina said...

What a great post! Had so much fun "walking" the Oxford streets (which I am familiar with only because of BBC shows). I would probably never even consider entering a school like that when I was young. I was scared to death to try our local State university (only to find out that I was pretty good at what I wanted to learn). Do you have any slightest regrets that you have not tried to get in? I am like you and go by my gut feeling.

Claudia is growing by the day! So is my girl. We soon won't recognize them in the crowd. I know I still look a bit down when I look for her in a crowd, while I really shouldn't - she is almost as tall as me. Cool to see Owen and Nina - happy times, splashing in water, attending the fair. You look so lovely on that first photo - happy, pretty, relaxed! Love the colorful top on you, and of course the faithful denim jacket. Your Mum is truly amazing!!

Thank you for taking us on a tour! xxxx

Natalia Lialina said...

Sorry, I meant your colorful dress of course. :) And I forgot to mentioned - enjoyed VOGOFF and your entry very much!! I am still only beginning to familiarize myself with Melanie and her work. Loved the covergirl! Way to go! xxx

mondoagogo said...

Your country show pics make me sad I missed the Lambeth Country Show this year (yes, we have a country show in London too!) And I want to go back to Oxford, too, not been there for years.

I really like that pic of Claudia looking moody and Nina laughing, it looks almost like something from the 60s!

mondoagogo said...

Your country show pics make me sad I missed the Lambeth Country Show this year (yes, we have a country show in London too!) And I want to go back to Oxford, too, not been there for years.

I really like that pic of Claudia looking moody and Nina laughing, it looks almost like something from the 60s!

Laurie Duncan said...

Lucky you, I would love to go to Oxford! And that county fair looks fun too! :)

Asparagus Pea said...

Gotta love a giant veggie display! If you're ever in Hereford, check out the Cathedral. Mappa Mundi (disappointingly small), but the most fabulous Harry Potter-esque chained library xxx

ArgentGal said...

What a gorgeous trip! I especially like all the gargoyles. Looks like it was a very nice send off for the summer. I've often wondered just how one judges veggies.

Mother of Reinvention said...

Oxford looks fantastic. Not for the likes of me though, Scumbag College's finest. You look like you all have had brilliant fun. That stand for veggies was very Arts and Crafts movement. Another fabulous frock.you must have a massive wardrobe to hold all your treasures. xxxx

Patti said...

Delightful! And so not-a-cliche for me, I've never been to Oxford and I love all these pics. There is something fascinating about an enormous vegetable, isn't there?

Love the pic of your mum and the kids. And you of course, looking fab. xox

Fiona said...

Lots to love here Curtise. One day I'll get my arse in gear and visit Oxford, what a beautiful city. Kezzie is not wrong, your collages are brilliant as is your ability to capture detail in your photographs. The county show looks lovely and the gipsy's dodgy spelling made me laugh. Love your atmospheric photo at the end, moody skies and hay bales in the distance....fabulous.x

Fiona said...
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kobieta niewidzialna said...

Very good post ,beautiful photos from beautiful place. You look is amazing- dress and jeans jacket -Wow! Best:)

PinkCheetahVintage said...

You have the best family days :)

Goody said...

Those leeks! What do they put in the water over there to get them to grow like that?

That looks like a nice trip, and how kind of your Mum to help with the tables. Flash cards help too, if you're not already using them.

We're back to school bright and early tomorrow morning.

Melanie said...

What a wonderful post. History, architecture, veggies, animals, and most of all, happy people. That dining hall, I can't help wonder what they eat in such a grand environment.
I love the photos of you and your kids and your mum the best. Good luck easing back into routine. School is out here due to a teacher's strike that doesn't want to end. I feel bad for the kid and the scrambling parents.

Angels have Red Hair said...

You always go to such interesting places … clearly the UK is full of them … and i intend visiting just as soon as i can.
Hope the kids settle back in at school … only two and half weeks of the school term left here.

Val S said...

Gorgeous pictures! I love Oxford - the beautiful buildings, the gorgeous countryside. And the people are nicer than in Cambridge. Looks like a fabulous day out.

You look a lot like that has-been, Clementine What's-her-butt. But I can't really tell unless you lie on a bed and put your feet in the air and cleavage in the fore. Ova exposed indeed!

Connie said...

Oh my Gosh! Oxford is such a pretty place. When I was there years ago I thought that it would be such a difficult place to go to school. How could you get any studying done when you're surrounded by all that beauty? I just wandered around and around like a little hippie dimwit. I am surprised that the English college system is so similar to the American in that the elite schools discourage the middle classes. It's quite a problem here. It used to be much more democratic but now it's all about big money. Sigh.... I, too, passed on a fancy college because I thought I would be overwhelmed. Oh oh oh. Your children are soooo gorgeous. And you're not half bad yourself!

Sue said...

More gorgeous photos for me to get giddy on. I would need at least a year to truely enjoy the history of England wouldn't I. I thank you for the history tour and LOVE the bridge of sighs, SIGH. I remember Agricultural shows when I was a child with all the produce competitions. Sadly in my neck of the woods this no longer happens. Shame really to lose such a cool thing.

freckleface said...

Bloody Mary! She was a nightmare. Funnily enough, I woke up thinking about Henry VIII's wives, can't beat a bit of Tudor. It's probably been 20 years since I went to Oxford. You're a top tour guide, I didn't see half that stuff when I was there. My friend's brother married Alice Liddell's great niece. I found her lacking in charm. Oh, that's such a lovely and poignant tribute to a soldier who didn't believe in war. All these memorials to WWI we've seen recently make you realise how young so many of these poor fighters were. Your mother oozes calm and loving patience. What a lady. And little Nina is trying so hard, bless her. Claudia is shooting up at the same rate as bamboo! She's going to be as gorgeously willowy as you! Having fun in the pool is the very best thing to do during the long summer hols, you stay at the best places!! Xxxxxxxxx

beate grigutsch said...

oxford is a really impressive beauty!
thank you for sharing it!
but i would love to visit the county fair too, seems so much fun!
your kids are just gorgeous! no wonder with that mom! i wish all the little ones a great and successful semester!

Winter Moon said...

Welcome back!

Oh my gosh! So many gorgeous photographs. Those buildings are so impressive, and I chuckled at Donkey :)

You look to have had a wonderful time xx

Ivy Black said...

Gorgeous post,pet. I love Oxford,you can't fail to bump in to beautiful sights. On eof my sons' was encouraged to applu to Oxford too, but he said the same as you which is a shame really in this day and age, but there we go.
Your gang look like they had such a good time, and look at the willowy Claudia!
Max Bygraves, eh? Thta's good enough for me to shove my palm in front of her.
See you soon.
Loves ya bits.

The Style Crone said...

Your photos always inspire me and provide a window into the landscape of your vibrant life. Looks to me like the kids are having a fabulous time.

Congratulations on your Vogoff cover! Your talents are endless!

Miss Magpie said...

Oxford University is so far up it's own arse it's a miricle it sees any daylight at all, I know this because I work for it!
It's shameful really, but it is an ace place to live and a truly amazing place to study and nowhere near as elitist as people, or itself thinks it is, I also know this because I work there.

Oh dear I feel such an Oxford snob for saying this but that's not the Bodleian in your picture it's the Clarendon Building *sorry*

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Curtise,

Oxford is a most beautiful and exciting city and the photographic tour you have provided here is wonderful. It has so many treasures and an abundance of hidden gems, one cannot help but delight in it all.

However, the divide between 'town and gown' is and, we suspect always will be, something of a downside. One can easily feel out of place and disenfranchised which is a pity. As you say, one hopes that for those talented enough of whatever background, they should feel as much a part of the University as everyone else but the divisions continue. That is a sadness.

You do not mention the Ashmolean in your post and, if you do not know it, we can recommend it as a wonderful small museum. It even contains a 'Hattatt' pot, painted by a Greek many hundreds of years ago!

Your children look to be an absolute credit to you. Sparky and intelligent with a great joy in their souls, one can just see this in the pictures. Lovely!

Fran said...

Your blog is always such a pleasure to read. Great layout and photos, it's like going along with you on your adventures.

Krista Gassib said...

Oxford a place I know so little about aside from the University. You make everything look so gorgeous through your eye, I love the architecture and stone sculptures everywhere. I have never been to a County show, I feel like it's a fancy ass version of a rodeo. DO you guys have rodeos? I would have been tempted to bite one of those beautiful carrots:)
The kids are looking happy in that pool and I bet you are happy they are back in school now :)

Suzanne Carillo Style Files said...

What great photos! So much to do and see.

What I really want to talk to you about is just how damn HOT you are looking in VogOFF! MammaMia! You are sizzlin' lady! LOVED the shots.


peaches mcginty said...

Oxford is beautiful! I've never been, but I do fancy a visit, it's so lovely and the donkey does look like the Shrek donkey! - and the pool! is it a private one? kids play in them for hours, great things they are! your lovely lot look like they are having a blast (haven't they got bigger!!) and I can't keep it in any longer, VOGOFF! oh my goodness! you are one sexy woman!!! and hilarious too! I loved it Ms Cover Girl!! x x x

The Small Fabric Of My Life said...

I was fortunate to visit Christchurch last year and stay in the college .
Every year a handful of our students go to Oxford or Cambridge and we are a state college. Last year one of our students went to Oxford. Neither of his parents had been to university and he comes from a very modest background . We caught up with him this summer and he's had a fabulous time. However it is still true that state funded schools are woefully under represented.

Caroline said...

My eldest, Jacob, wants to go to Cambridge (at the moment) so hates Oxford! I've only been a few times when I lived in Oxfordshire but it is really pretty.

Glad the children have settled back in ok, have you? We are back to normal today.

Delia Ryder said...

What a lovely post bless your mum for helping, maths was my worst subject even now I switch off if anyone mentions figures etc. Oxford looks absolutely stunning, I have never been but seeing your post I feel its a place I would love to visit just for the architecture. Your children have a fabulous time with you :-) dee xx

The Vintage Knitter said...

I haven't been to Oxford for years and your post has just reminded me of what I'm missing. Thanks for jogging my memory.

Rosalind said...

I'm one of the 57% state educated students at Oxford, and I'd even question that statistic further as 'state' also covers the many selective schools and grammar schools that send a higher number of students to Oxbridge than non-selective and comprehensives.
I'm proud of my comprehensive education, not because I think it was especially good (my Secondary School was pretty appalling at the time, much improved after I left) but because I know that my academic achievements really were due to determined hard work.
Now that I've finished my first year at Oxford, I think I'm even more aware of privilege, and not only looking at the different experience that having attended a top-tier fee-paying school bestows, but also the very many other privileges, such as, say, being brought up by supportive and loving parents (me)...
What I'd say to your daughter Claudia is that from the inside, Oxford doesn't feel too 'posh' to me. That's because of who I socialise with/ where I go/what I do when there. It's also because I'm not at an immensely traditional college (ours has round tables in the dining hall: no hierarchy like those extra long tables!)
So you're absolutely right - in saying not to let the gilded gates or mystique put anyone off.
During term time I've not really had much time to be 'tourist', so I've been back over the summer and have reveled in enjoying the beautiful city, much as you did on your trip.

señora Allnut said...

always love to watch your reports!, so fabulous pictures and atmosphere!
(also love your pucci-esque dress!!)

Jan Graham-McMillen said...

Oh, hi!!!!
Just saw you in the Vogoff ... our cover girl at last!!! Richly deserved! I hate to tell you this, but you are in danger of looking tres chic, my girl. Just sayin'. I'm so proud of you!

Dashing off to tag everyone I'm behind with, but loved and will be back to devour this post. Claudia is getting to be such a beauty.
Tons to say about higher education admission policies ... don't have the moments to bore you to death, but a similar infuriation here is that our-version footballers get a lot of goodies that perfectly good academics cry for. Our priorities suck, but I have to be content with bitching about it a bit.
This is the time of year I want to come see you guys so much. Someday.

Elizabeth Rebecca said...

Beautiful photos :)

Lizzie's Daily Blog

Mrs Bertimus said...

I have always wanted to. Is it there. Thanks for sharing such stunning photos x

Mrs Bertimus said...

I have always wanted to. Is it there. Thanks for sharing such stunning photos x

Mrs Bertimus said...

So sorry, I don't know why my comment has appeared twice, I feel as though I have untidied your blog! Apologies x

silvergirl said...

OMG the architecture
Just love it all

Diane said...

You managed to see things in Oxford that I managed to miss!! Your photos are gorgeous - it is a fabulous place. Love the show - and the giant veg! xxx

Connie said...

Oh my darling Clementine!!! Congrats on your Vogoff cover. LOVE!!!!!!!!! XXXOOOO

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

Curtise, I am so happy to go on such a lovely outing with you and your family!!! So many beautiful places to see, historical nuggets to chew on, and there's nothing like seeing you and the children having fun.

Your last picture of your mom and kids really took my heart. I'm with you too. I never REALLY learned my times tables, I just had little tricks to figure out the ones I couldn't remember. I don't recommend it.

Love you!!!

Lesley Extance said...

Hi Curtise ,great blog post and pictures.
Sorry it takes so long for me to leave a comment, my little netbook won't take some blogs sadly yours is one.. so I have to wait for the old man's laptop.
But I will always get round to commenting on your fab blog ! best wishes xxx

Forest City Fashionista said...

I missed this post in the insanity that was the first week of a new term. So glad to get past it.

One of the things I loved about England when I visited many years ago is that everywhere you looked, you saw history, in the old buildings and I felt like I was visiting a place where important things happened. Our London over here is not a city that believes in preserving historical sites. I've never been to Oxford, so I very much enjoyed your mini tour and would have loved to have tagged along (always wanted to see the bridge of sighs).

I hope everyone had a good first week of school. Kudos to your Mum for helping with the math homework.

Shawna McComber said...

Those leeks look so vaginal, and I just have to say that before I can move on.

I do love all this vicarious travelling I get to do with your blog. Your photos are always so gorgeous and your children just add that extra bit of charm.

Shawna McComber said...

Those leeks look so vaginal, and I just have to say that before I can move on.

I do love all this vicarious travelling I get to do with your blog. Your photos are always so gorgeous and your children just add that extra bit of charm.

Helga said...

O, Oxford is just so GORGEOUS!!!!
Lovely, lovely pix. How interesting that the University is still very hobnobby. That would put me off, not that I would have had good enough grades!
The pic of the dude on the horse adds to what is a very Jilly Cooper feel to me about all these pix. I do love a spot of Jilly, so very English and thoroughly enjoyable!
Ugh, times tables. Maths was never my strong point!

Trees said...

Oxford is stunning - every time you do a post like this, I'm like I want to go there and there and there! The UK tourist board should start paying you for making everything look so awesome! I can see why your Claudia thinks Oxford looks so posh - I think a colonial like me would feel very much out of place there. Although we don't have any post universities in NZ, I did go to the University of dairy farmers kids though, so it was about as far from posh as you can get! That fair looks like a lot of fun as well :D