On Sunday evening, after the Search Party, I caught the bus to Oxford to visit my former yoga teacher and wholefood guru, Harriet of www.harrietbyhand.com .
I had a restful bus ride through the countryside, watching The Muppet Christmas Carol on my iPad because it was viewable without requiring streaming. I’d also been thinking about the opening sequence from this movie as I was travelling around London. The skyline is almost unchanged from Jim Henson’s interpretation of Dickensian times.
A smiling Harriet met me in Oxford and together we caught the bus to Abingdon, where she and her husband Adam now reside. Abingdon is the oldest, continuously settled town in England and the birthplace of MG. It also kind of looks like a village from Midsomer Murders and incidentally, the area has quite a high crime rate. Apparently, someone was stabbed at the one-pound shop around the corner from Harriet’s.
#jonestip – Surely “Scarlett” would want you to see her home town…? You’ll have to come to Abingdon and stay with Harriet. Her B&B is 6 stars and she makes mince-topped pizza and curry with dumplings!
It’s difficult to determine whether I love Harriet more for her calming and wise influence or her penchant for feeding me incredible homemade food. But I got ample of both this trip!
For dinner we had amazing homemade pizza, and blueberry and plum cake, and then I curled up to sleep in the kitchen next to the heater, like a spoilt cat.
We walked through the high street, then through the covered market, looking at cakes, boars and other fresh fare.
After all this hard sight-seeing, we had to stop for a coffee at The Missing Bean, where Adam works in the back room, cooking, not the cakes, but the books!
Being caffeinated meant that we had the energy to get some more touristing done. I bought some secondhand books from Blackwell‘s, saw Tolkien’s favourite pub (The Eagle and Child), saw Inspector Morse’s favourite pub (The White Horse), and had my photo taken with the doorway and lamppost which inspired C.S. Lewis’s Aslan and Mr Tumnus.
I also delighted in taking in the incredible architecture of the colleges and libraries around the area – and purchased an official Oxford hoodie!
We stopped for burritos for lunch, then headed to the National History and Pitt Rivers Museums.
The National History Museum has some impressive dinosaur skeletons, but I was most impressed with the dodo, who was surrounded by other taxidermied, Alice in Wonderland characters.
Adjoining the National History Museum is the Pitt Rivers Museum, home of an enormous anthropological artefact collection. In contrast to the way usual collections would be displayed by culture or by time, this museum is organised by function with all of the reed instruments in the same cabinet and all of the shrunken heads on another cabinet. It would be impossible (and foolish) to attempt to enjoy it all in one hit. Harriet’s suggestion was to pick a theme and do that in detail. I looked at the musical instruments and requested dispensation to look at the second category of body modification, where I managed to see some tiny, lotus flower shoes and lament the effects of the oppression of the Chinese patriarchy on the owners of the shoes.
Unfortunately, the History of Science Museum wasn’t open on Mondays so we commiserated with a piece of courgette and lime cake.
I know Harriet because she used to teach me yoga in Brisbane. She now teaches on weekends at Oxford’s Yoga Quota. This is a cosy little studio tucked up above a restaurant, where they run a class for an underprivileged group for every 50 paid class attendees.
#vosstip – If you find yourself in Oxford, do a class with Yoga Quota. You can pre-book here.
We did the Flow at Tea Time, which was a really dynamic class. It was great to salute the sun while looking out at the leafless trees and historic bell tower. It was so good to do some proper yoga, rather than my very very yin self-led practice. I was also chuffed when Harriet commented how strong my practice was getting. She hadn’t seen me since about August last year so I was really happy that the progress was noticeable, even if it wasn’t to me…
Eventually, I caught the bus into Oxford for lunch at Pieminister in the covered market. I had a Deer Stalker – venison, bacon and lentils, topped with fried shallots, cheddar and gravy, with sides of creamy mash and mint mushy peas. It was amazing! I found it enlightening to enjoy my pie and coke while listening to Oxford intellectuals talk about Russian literature patrons of the 17th century. Such a British experience!
I spent the afternoon wandering around shops, visiting the History of Science Museum (particularly to see Einstein’s chalkboard) and then stopped for tea and scones at The Beefeater.
Then, it was yoga time again. This was the second day in a row that I managed to have sweets before quite an active yoga class, but I endured for the hip opening benefits.
In the evening, we ate delicious curry with dumplings and I did a little watercolour postcard of Harriet and Adam’s house while Adam, very generously, drew me a squirrel to colour in. (I still haven’t had time to sit down and do it justice, but I shall post an update when it’s done.)
In the morning, it was time for me to leave Abingdon. I did so reluctantly, because I had had such a beautiful, relaxing time seeing Harriet and Adam, and getting to know Oxford. I really loved seeing places of historical significance, without being shoved by crowds!
Love you, Oxford xoxo