Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

Day 45 – Friday, June 8th

Looking inside one of the colleges

Yada, yada, yada!! Dead people, dead people, dead people… but where did they film Harry Potter?

A VERY ornate walkway between buildings

City of Spires

The new Bishop of Oxford

Since we officially have less than a week left, I decided that it was time to play tourist in Oxford. Up till now, anytime we were in Oxford, we were washing clothes, having visitors, or getting ready for our next trip and I was afraid that I would get home without seeing our host city.

It was nice to just walk around the city and enjoy the architecture and history, without having to worry about getting lost or having to catch a train or tube to get home again. I enjoyed photographing several scenes along the street or looking through the college entrances and seeing the beautiful buildings beyond.

I reached the Bodleian Library, which is one of the largest academic libraries in the world. It has over 7 million books, and apparently receives a copy of every book that is published!!! I was interested in seeing more than just the courtyard, so I joined a tour group to learn more about the building. Biggest mistake of my life!!!!! It was an hour of my life that I will never get back!!! The gentleman who was our tour guide was very interested in his subject, but delved heavily into the history of the architect and benefactors of the library, going back to the 15th century, and moving slowly forward one century at a time. When the library was first built, it was divided into the three most important disciplines….. law, medicine and theology. In 1619, a quadrangle was built in front of the library with doors leading off to the liberal arts….. Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric, Arithmetic, Astronomy, Geometry, Music, Philosophies and Languages. The names of these disciplines are written about the doors that originally lead to those schools.

When we FINALLY went up to the library, we entered into the “Selden End” which contains a modern reference collection for those studying manuscripts and early printed books. The windows had some beautiful stained glass and painted panels inserted in them. I was interested to note a plaque concerning some 17th stained glass panels. It read “The cost of their placement in Duke Humfrey’s library was met by an American friend, Miss Ruth Windsor of ABILENE, TEXAS in 1987.” I wonder if either of our Mom’s knew her.

You have to request to have books moved from the stacks to the reading rooms (there are 30 rooms, with seating for 2,482 readers). It takes approximately 3 hours for your request to be processed so most people send an email prior to their arrival. I was interested to note that students could enter into the stacks however there was a sign stating “only pencils and laptops were allowed….no biros (ink pens) or ink is allowed”.

I then moved a few yards down the street and entered the Sheldonian Theater. It was built in the 1660’s to be used as a venue for the University ceremonies. In the center of the gallery sits a large, ornate chair that is for the Chancellor of the University, or the highest ranked person in attendance at the school functions. There are also several smaller chairs scattered around the gallery for those of lower rank. The theater was designed in a oval format without an actual stage being present. The first thing that I noticed was that the floors creaked every time you moved and the benches creaked when you sat on them. These were LOUD creaks, and I wonder what it sounds like when the theater is full of people.

I climbed 114 steps up to the cupola of the church and saw some wonderful views of the city of Oxford. It is called the “City of Spires” and you can see why!!

I moved to the next building on the street which was the Museum of the History of Science. At first I was just giving the items a cursory glance…..after all, I have been in a FEW museums before now. Then I started talking with one of the assistants who was watching the top floor gallery and he began showing me some of the best exhibits. He pointed out pieces of the first mechanized computer which was built by Babbage. There were also some of the first slide rules ever made…Philip (my personal tour guide) said that he had always called them “guessing sticks”…I wholeheartedly agreed. I had a wonderful time talking to Philip (who is a retired lecturer in Radar Technology) and asked if I could take his photo. He agreed and gave me a VERY solemn pose. In the basement of the museum, I saw vials that contained dried samples of some of the first penicillin ever made. There was a blackboard covered with numbers and equations and a sign saying that it was kept after a visit by Albert Einstein. How cool!!!

My next plan was to go to the mall and buy some groceries, but stopped at a prominent corner when I saw a bunch of police officers and a small crowd. I asked what was going on and was told that they were there to see the new Bishop of Oxford who was being installed that day. I stayed around and saw lots of men and women dressed in full church regalia. After they greeted one another, the new Bishop said a prayer for the city of Oxford. However, just as he started praying, a nearby bus started its engine and a police car left with sirens blaring, so no one could hear what he said. It was an interesting bit of history that I got to witness!!!

The rest of the day included a nap and a dinner that cleared out all of the meat that we had in our freezer.

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