May 2021 - Day 6 - Oxford
Breakfast this was noticeably quieter with not so many excitable brats running around. We were more leisurely to today as we only had a short 36 mile drive to Oxford ahead of us. At this point I need to mention one member of the Holiday Inn staff. He seemed to single handedly running the Hotel on his own. He checked us in. When we walked past the bar he was serving and spoke to us. Today he was taking people into breakfast and then clearing the tables. When we left he was operating the coffee machines. I wish I had got his name as he always cheery and clearly loving his job.
It was a straightforward drive although I have increasingly started to shout at the VW built in Sat Nav. It is not as clear as it could be and I don’t think it always count the correct number of exits on a roundabout. Even Karen agreed although it could just be the fact we are getting old.
We drove to one of the Oxford park & ride sites which my research had shown was the cheapest way of parking. It was all very easy although Karen didn’t feel comfortable being on public transport, not through being too posh for it rather than it bound to be a hot bed for harbouring the virus. Anyhow the parking and bus was £6.80 which for this trip was not too bad.
I cannot believe I have got this far through the trip without mentioning Karen and wearing a mask. EVERY flipping time we go in anywhere she forgets. If I remind her I get moaned at, if I don’t I get moaned at. I have given up now and just put mine on and carry on. I do not think the rules are that difficult to remember. Inside yes unless sitting, outside no. Then whenever we come out of a building I have to remind her after about 5 minutes to take it off. Honestly it is like having a small child with me at times.
Anyhow after getting off the bus in the City Centre, it was time to get Karen a coffee so we headed to get her one from Cafe Nero. As I had been a good boy, I was allowed a cup of tea. It was then time to explore the college area. We started in the covered market and the headed to the Radcliffe Camera. It was all very Harry Potter like. We had tried to book a free walking tour of the area but they only take place at the weekends. The only ones running today were all charging £20 each which seemed a lot of money for 1½ hour walk. We cam across a couple of them, listened a while and decided we were not missing much.
None of the buildings or colleges were open. We were not sure if this was due to Covid or exams taking place. We did come across to a couple of students being ’trashed’ as in the Oxford tradition when they have just finished their last exams. They were both being covered in shaving foam, silly string and confetti. They were loving it as were all their friends inflicting it upon them.
We walked along and found Tom Tower but again could not go in the quad to look around. So we went into Sainsburys on the High Street and ate our wraps we bought for lunch on a bench.
It was then we saw and heard a large crowd of people gathering on the corner quite near to us. They were protesting about the vaccination programme. They had placards blaming the BBC for telling lies about it. Now I would defend their right to free speech (although whether they should have been gathering in such a large number during a pandemic and the restrictions is another matter), but these people are so very very wrong. I was very angry and wanted to start shouting ’twats’ at them but Karen said I would be the one getting in trouble. Yet surely if they are allowed to say what they want, people should not be frightened to express the opposite. On the face of it, they looked normal rational people. What really riled me was when one of them over a megaphone said the vaccines were not necessary as she had visited hospitals and not seen any ‘corridors of death’ as reported nightly by the BBC. What world do these people live in? Where do they get their information from?
Annoyingly they were starting to block the way we were heading and we had to walk through the edge of them. As we got closer I said to Karen loudly to put our masks on as we don’t want to catch anything from these morons. I thought about waving my vaccination record on my phone but didn’t. I was very pleased to see one student sitting in the middle of all them, wearing a mask and waving a banner saying ’Thank you NHS for all you have done to protect us all’.
I am all for using the NHS app as.vaccination passport when things are opened up again. I don’t want to mix with any idiots who do not have the jabs for other than proper medical reasons. I would also ban them from receiving any treatment for the virus on the NHS. Rant over for now. I hope other countries ban them from entering as well. I do have another rant brewing about the test and trace app.
We walked towards Oxford Castle (no I didn’t realise it had one either). It was the city jail and is now an ‘attraction’. We decided it didn’t look worth going in. We would have liked to climb the castle mound, but that was closed as well. Instead we sat outside and just watched the world go by. Karen then needed another drink and after walking all around the castle we found a nice pub terrace in the sun. Pleasingly it was another Wetherspoons and many of the tables were taken by students. We found one and ordered Karen a large glass of rose. I even indulged as with a small glass of white. It was all quite civilised.
By now we had had enough of Oxford. It had been about 30 years since we last visited and I couldn’t remember anything about it. I thought it was a really nice place. Very walkable and a nice blend of the old and new. I was very jealous of the students we saw and heard. They had the whole lives ahead of them with a degree from here opening all sorts of doors for them. I would loved to be or have been a student here. Back when I left school I was not ready or mature enough to even have thought of coming here, not that it was ever actually discussed. I think I would be a great student here now. I would have loved the sports and other clubs and just joining in. I also like the fact they only have 3 x 8 week terms and all the tradition. Sometimes I think these experiences are wasted on the young.
We caught the bus back with no hassle and made our way to our hotel for the final two nights. This was the Holiday Inn Express at the Kassam stadium (Football Ground). The ground is new but only has three separate stands. The Hotel looked new and quite empty. It is the first Holiday Inn Express we have stayed in the UK. It is not the same as the USA. It is more akin to a Premier Inn than Holiday Inn, but was still very acceptable.
For dinner tonight we went across to a Frankie & Benny’s the other side of the football ground. My pasta was very nice although Karen was less impressed with her burger. Over dinner we started to make decision on how to revise our holiday plans for the rest of 2021 before retiring for the night.