Grotesque, Magdalen College in Oxford
AN EXTRACT FROM MY MEMOIR, "OXFORD, A DECADE IN WONDERLAND"
PUNKS AND GOTHS
With clouds like malevolent ghosts looming overhead, we stood, four bedraggled females on the sidewalk in Oxford, the city that Keats the poet thought one of the most beautiful places in the world.
In keeping with Britain's reputation, a fine English drizzle soaked
into our crumpled travel apparel.
After an eight hour flight from Canada, a two hour trundle on a
National Express bus from Heathrow Airport, and a hair-raising
scramble in a taxi from the bus station, we'd arrived at our
At that moment I found it hard to believe the accolades uttered by no less than King James 1. He said that if he
were not a king he would like to be an Oxford man. Hitler reaffirmed
King James's infatuation for this ancient city. In
the midst of the carnage of World War 11, he issued a threat that
death awaited any Nazi fighter pilot foolish enough to bomb his city
of choice. Oxford was to be the killer despot's capital once he'd
As the taxi pulled away, we turned and looked with gloomy gaze upon
a sombre red brick Victorian house, home to academics who were at this moment probably sipping wine in a French café. Ever
imaginative, in my mind's eye I could see a bony finger beckoning us
in. Inserting the key in the lock we entered. It was dark, it was
gloomy, it was not welcoming. I tripped as I caught my foot in a rip
in the entrance hall carpet.
In a spacious kitchen with scarred pine furniture, a wood stove and
plump shabby chairs, a letter propped against a stack of Oxford
travel books was first to catch my attention. “Dear Mrs. Gordon”
it read. “Welcome to Oxford. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay in
our home. Would you be so kind as to feed our cat during your stay.
She’s a good little creature but she does yowl at times.” And I
glanced up and there she was, “the good little creature”,
standing on the kitchen windowsill, wanting entry and clawing at the
window. She looked for all the world like an apparition from a
On that rainy afternoon, her tabby pelt was ‘moussed’ to spiky
tufts. Yellow eyes, fierce like those of a jungle cat, glared at me
through speckled glass. Her teeth when she opened her mouth to yawn
were tiny but lethal. Needle-sharp claws, instruments of torture for
captive rodents, were fully extended. Then, as warned... she yowled,
a spine-tingling sound that would've scared the hell out of the
devil. I’m allergic to cats and we were scheduled for a three day visit
to friends on a farm in the Peak District. So, what was I supposed
to do with this recalcitrant feline? I looked back at the letter in
my hand. “Don’t be alarmed if my daughter should call. She’s
one of those Goths.”
More to follow tomorrow...
Photograph copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday 9th November, 2013.