Contemplating a plunge in Oxford
AN EXTRACT FROM MY MEMOIR "OXFORD, A DECADE IN WONDERLAND"
UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS continues...
Before long I settled into
what for me was a job made in heaven where I was to act as personal
assistant to a delightful man as well as perform other quaint duties.
Rachel, Dr. Heaton’s
wife, soon discovered that she and I had a mutual love of antiques,
and so periodically she popped into my office at the start of day
with the suggestion that the two of us ride the train to Birmingham
for a weekly antique sale. She made sandwiches for our lunch and I
contributed my favourite Eccles cakes – a delectable English pastry
covered with sugar and filled with spicy raisins . The Dean,
obliging as always, wished us good hunting. It was a job with a
On those occasions, while
other college staff dealt with more mundane tasks, I spent the day
doing what I enjoyed most, chatting to antique dealers and searching
for undiscovered treasures.
After a days rummaging amid
mounds of copper kettles, antique snuff bottles, Worcester cups and
saucers, farm scythes in various stages of decrepitude and even the
occasional repro Chippendale chair with an outrageous price scrawled
on a label dangling from a chair leg, we returned to Oxford at days
end well pleased with our purchases.
As for quaint duties, one
misty morning Rachel hurried into my office to say that the mallard
duck that had been broody for days and had built a nest beneath a
climbing japonica creeper beside my office window had hatched out a
clutch of beautiful little yellow ducklings. They were, she said,
scampering all over the garden. The problem with this scenario: the
annual charity Cruse Fete and Sale hosted by Rachel was to take place
in the deanery garden that same day. The ducklings, she feared,
would be trampled in the rush for bargains.
The rescue was on. All in
a day’s work , the two of us gathered up the precious balls of
fluff, put them in a shoebox, and me in my office apparell and Rachel
in her apron – she’d been cooking breakfast – set off from the
Deanery garden down a cobbled walkway through Christ Church Meadow to
the Thames River. Rachel carried the box and I, like the proverbial
goose girl with a twig in hand, stumbled along behind in my spiky
heels, shushing the quacking mother each time she strayed off route.
Upon reaching the river, mother duck plopped into the water and the
ducklings, in a state of high excitement, jumped in feet first, in
hot pursuit of their sleek feathered leader.
More to follow tomorrow...
Photo copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday 16th November, 2013