The Pullman pilgrimage

Or the nerd’s day out. Depends how you look at it. The bookwitch had some quality time with Son yesterday, while putting the blame squarely on Laurie Frost and her book The Elements of His Dark Materials. Laurie really wanted to know what the Oxford ring road looks like, and who can blame her? Anyone living in the depths of Alabama would suffer similar urges, sooner or later.

On arriving in Oxford we immediately made our way to where Sunderland Avenue meets Banbury Road. This, as everyone knows, is where Will found the window. We couldn’t see it, but then I believe Will closed it. We hovered for a while on the relevant grass verge and every aspect of the hornbeam trees was photographed. The road, of course, is single lane in each direction with a speed limit of 40 mph, and not an Alabama style monster four lane race track.

A fifteen minute walk took us to the northern end of Summertown, where we found Will’s cash machine on the corner of South Parade. No lurking Charles Latrom.

After nearly killing a cyclist while catching a bus back into town, we ended up at the Pitt Rivers museum. We’ve never come face to face with quite so many dinosaurs in our lives. And there were a few human skulls, so possibly what Lyra saw. I fell in love with some Connemara marble, while Son quite fancied the rather dead and stuffed Shetland pony.

The weather got hotter as we trekked through the groups of foreign language students all the way to the Botanic Gardens. Turning our backs on the fools doing their best to drown themselves by capsizing punts, we found “the seat”. We took turns resting on it, as Will and Lyra can’t sit on it together.

Another hot and dusty trek along the High Street to Exeter College. We could see where Lyra clambered on to the roof, but didn’t try it. Then to the day’s most pointless exercise; the crossroads of Broad Street and Cornmarket. It’s really only a very busy crossroads, with shops, cars, buses and too many tourists.

The Ashmolean was a welcome haven, and offered some nice tea in their courtyard, even though this wasn’t in the book. Then next door for a peep at the Archaeology Institute, where Will did something or other. Waved at David Fickling Books as we went past, but didn’t personally see “the Lancashire comedian”. (This tale is full of literary hints…)

Our final goal for the day was Jericho and the narrowboats. There are plenty of narrowboats still, Laurie, even though part of the canalside was blocked off by you know who. (Not Voldemort.) Jericho’s an attractive little corner of Oxford and we chased up and down most of the small streets.

On the recommendation of Mary Hoffman we finished up at a Lebanese restaurant, where we had a rendezvous with assorted cousins. Ours, I hasten to add. They are virtually neighbours of Pullman’s and couldn’t see why we didn’t come and gaze adoringly at his house. But it was a purely literary trail. For fun. Almost Mecca, Laurie. Almost.

4 responses to “The Pullman pilgrimage

  1. An epiphany: Why am I sitting here in Alabama when there is a fortune to be made conducting walking tours of HDM’s Oxford? I wouldn’t even mind the heat; I know a bit about that…I’d even wear a funny hat (that’s required of tour guides, right?)

    Were there any trepanned skulls? Forgot to ask before you left, but I’m sure you looked carefully for hole-y ones.

    And I’m so glad about the narrowboats.

  2. No, no hole-y skulls that we could see. Quite disappointing.

    Forget the funny hat; I believe waving an umbrella in the air is the thing. And would be handy when the weather turns British. And people in the way can be poked. Yep, this will make a good next career. I should have thought of it first.

  3. Now, I think that when you are ready to give up your day job, and your night job, that the Book Witch is supremely well suited to offer tours to/retreats along the shores of Lake Inari. Rabbit cooked over open fires and some handfuls of berries would be just the thing before bedding down in a cozy cave. So get busy with those Sami language tapes. Think how much more pleasant the ironing will be.

  4. No,no the witch is a vegetarian and those bunnies can stay where they are. Berries, yes.

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