Tag Archives: Eating out

A small Oxford miscellany

The Bodleian Library shop is a dangerous place. I only went in because Daughter went in, and because it meant standing still instead of walking even more. I have a very effective do-not-buy filter that I can apply in a situation like this. Still, I went from one item to the next, feeling that as a one-off I really could buy it. Or that other thing. Maybe both.

In the end I channelled my inner Chris Riddell and bought what he had when I last saw him; a notebook covered in the cover off an old – now dead – ‘real’ book. I know, I know. But if it was good enough for the then children’s laureate to doodle in, then what hope could there possibly be for me?

We began Sunday morning by resting on the seat outside Trinity College. As we sat there, Sheena Wilkinson walked past. But these things happen. We’d had our Weetabix in the same college breakfast room as well.

Palm Sunday, Trinity

Anyway, Trinity. Suddenly there was singing from afar. The singing drew nearer and Daughter got up and said people were coming towards us. There was incense and some of them carried bits of what looked like stalks of grain. Finally, the penny dropped and Daughter remembered it was Palm Sunday. They were singing their way to the morning church service.

Very Oxford.

A ‘classmate’ from St Andrews had popped up on Facebook the previous night, and we had arranged to have lunch with him. We chose the biggest tourist trap in town, or so it seemed. But it came with Morse and Lewis connotations. And they had my broom on a beam on the ceiling.

Broom

The classmate had recently started his PhD in this venerable spot. Oxford. Not the pub. It has something to do with doughnuts. I think.

After we’d fed, we staggered round past a few more bookshops, and finished up in the Weston Library. Which is very nice. They have seats. Good baking. And a shop. Saw Ian Beck, presumably on his way to an event.

Then we agreed we’d done quite enough for one day, and walked back to our luggage and a train to take us to the sleeper train home, via another bit of Blackwells. We went in and said we wanted to buy ‘that book in the window.’ They were extremely helpful.

It would be safest never to go back there, ever again.

Lounge mouse

Sleeper passengers get to wait in the lounge at Euston. We met a nice little mouse in there. I suspect it was getting ready to collect the day’s food debris, fresh off the floor. It knew to wait until the exact right moment.

And this is not an invitation to put any traps out. Or poison. It was cute.

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Just a Bite

Maybe they made me fatter. All those copies of Just a Bite that I perused with an eagle eye and an empty stomach.

I see that Egon Ronay has just died. The obituary I saw didn’t mention Just a Bite, which is a shame, since I feel those guide books were more likely to cater to the masses than the grander Egon Ronay guides. If you’ll excuse the pun.

As with so many things it was my Brighton host family, and Mrs G in particular, who introduced me to Just a Bite. They fed me exceedingly well, so it wasn’t that I needed more food while I lived in their house. Less would have been better, all things considered. But Mrs G had an eye for bargains of whatever kind, and good and cheap food out is not to be sneezed at.

I’m fairly certain that she actually gave me my first copy, saying how she’d never found the guide to be misleading. Just a Bite listed tested and tried eating places where the food cost less than a certain amount. That meant it was mostly tearooms and simpler lunch places, but that’s not a bad thing. And she was right, Mrs G, because you could trust any establishment that had made it into the book.

Ever the busybody I made others buy and travel with copies of the guide, too. I’m sure I foisted the idea on the Resident IT Consultant within days of meeting him. In fact, had I not had tea in that tearoom on that holiday I would not have found out about *** and I would not have ***, and so on.  My very own what if. Even Mother-of-witch was persuaded (or possibly ordered) to get a copy.

For years we travelled according to Ronay, and determined the merit of towns and villages based on whether there were any Just a Bite restaurants to feed in. We made detours to places because they got a mention in Just a Bite.

But as I said, maybe I’d have been thinner without them.