Bicester is quite the opposite of our bigger and more refined sibling Oxford
One sock rolled down, grass stains on knees, school tie knotted around the forehead, cheeky smile, late home for our tea – Bicester is quite the opposite of our bigger and more refined sibling Oxford just down the road – all tweed jacket, fine architecture and culture on tap, couldn’t be more different to the ‘take it & love it as you find it’ character in this part of the county.
And yet it’s quite nice having all that finery just down the road, you can’t fail to look up with admiration to that older brother. Heading off into Oxford always feels special, a bit of a treat – a pint by the river at The Trout, lazing in the meadows behind Christchurch College, Jazz at the Spin Club upstairs at the Wheatsheaf, the first time you stumble across the hidden Turf Tavern, the beauty of the Museum of Natural History, the wonder of the Pitt Rivers – we’re so lucky to have all of this on our doorstep. But our cities seem to have fallen further than market towns like ours during this pandemic, their climb back up will be longer and harder, but as we continue our orbit in their universe, and lend a hand up when we can, the great cities will again shine and share their warmth amongst us younger kith & kin.
Our poem this week is for the big brother we can’t wait to see again, ‘Oxford’ by Keith Castellain Douglas, a former student of Merton College who died on the beaches of Normandy in 1944, aged just 24.
At home as in no other city, here
summer holds her breath in a dark street
the trees nocturnally scented, lovers like moths
go by silently on the footpaths
and spirits of the young wait,
cannot be expelled, multiply each year.
In the meadows, walks, over the walls
the sunlight, far-travelled, tired and content,
warms the recollections of old men, touching
the hand of the scholar on his book, marching
through quadrangles and arches, at last spent
it leans through the stained windows and falls.
This then is the city of young men, of beginning,
ideas, trials, pardonable follies,
the lightness, seriousness and sorrow of youth.
And the city of the old, looking for truth,
browsing for years, the mind’s seven bellies
filled, become legendary figures, seeming
stones of the city, her venerable towers;
dignified, clothed by erudition and time.
For them it is not a city but an existence;
outside which everything is a pretence:
within, the leisurely immortals dream,
venerated and spared by the ominous hours.
Our Coles Signed Editions include the very lovely illustrated ‘Experiencing Oxford’ by architect and lecturer Ian Davis – his watercolours capture the serenity of the city beautifully; the Paris of Revolution is re-imagined by Kester Grant in ‘The Court of Miracles’; Jasper Fforde offers us ‘The Constant Rabbit’; the thrills are from Sarah Bolton; Denise Welch offers much needed advice in ‘The Unwelcome Visitor; striving for 30 years to win the prize takes a certain grit, for Liverpool FC to do that in the shadows of their better-funded competitors is to be applauded with a selection of our great Signed Editions from former players; we’re also taking limited pre-orders for two Signed Editions which are sure to be popular this Autumn, if they’re sold out by the time you get to them, please drop us a note HERE – we’ll be keeping a list of requests in time and date order in case we are able to get more copies of both.
As always, thank you for opening and reading this email and thank you for supporting ‘Independent Bookselling’ at Coles Books.
Very best wishes from us all,
Nigel, Caroline and the team at Coles Books