While Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I were in Australia, we met up with three of her long-standing friends: a school friend in Perth, a college friend in Hobart and a more recent friend in Sydney. Each reunion was refreshing.
LSW has been continuing this sustenance of her friend network since our return. Three friends who we knew when we lived in Kew near London have dropped in to see us. She has also been with other friends from Kew to the People’s Vote March in London and to Bristol to see another long-term acquaintance from work. It is time for me to match her relationship maintenance! I have the time now I am retired, and the only issue is fitting in with the diaries of my old friends who are still working.
For many years, a small group of friends who I got to know shortly after I first moved to London over 40 years ago have been getting together on a regular basis. For the last few years we have been meeting up every few months in a restaurant chosen alphabetically based on country of cuisine. We are up to P for Portugal. I travelled up to London last week for the latest instalment of catching up with personal developments, railing against the inequities of the world and solving (in theory) a few current newsworthy issues. It was fun and informative as usual, and an excellent excuse to spend time in London.
Also, I have also managed to get together with two friends from my college days. My goodness; now we are talking about 45 years ago! We have stayed in touch intermittently since then. Some years we have been completely out of contact with each other and then we have had periods when we have been close. One of these friends was my Best Man (BM) at my wedding and, as those who have read earlier posts will know, I see him off and on at his house near Cambridge. The other now lives with his wife in Oxford and that is where all three of us met.
I have only been to Oxford a few times in recent years. Then, the visits have been mainly to the outskirts to see Forest Green Rovers Football Club play Oxford United or to drop off or pick up Youngest Son from Oxford Brookes University. This latest visit allowed me an almost full day wandering the city alone and then further sightseeing with my mates the next day. It’s a lovely city.
Upon my arrival, the weather was cold and I decided to go for a brisk walk to warm up. I ended up walking a few miles up and down the Oxford canal. This is a much scruffier walk compared to that along the Thames which we did together the following day. Along the canal are mainly dilapidated barges. Some sustain human life but almost all are covered in detritus and the romanticism of living independently on water looked rather battered. The wildlife was plentiful though and the oblique view of the city through small canal-side workshops and back gardens was interesting.
I went to an exhibition of Jeff Koons’ work at the Ashmolean Museum and continued to warm up. I am not sure I like Koons’ work but it is certainly striking. Regardless of whether the pastiche or banality is deliberate, his work isn’t the sort of thing I would want in my home. However, the exhibition explanations of the pieces on show, and a short video interview with the artist, helped me understand at least some of what he is trying to achieve.
Much of the rest of the Ashmolean Museum – apparently the world’s oldest museum – is rather like a stately home with sumptuous furniture, display cases and huge paintings. I didn’t explore all of it but wandered a little aimlessly though impressive collections of porcelain, musical instruments, and modern art by a number of artists I admire such as Bacon, Kandinsky, Matisse and Hepworth.
I dwelt only in two galleries. The first held a small but lovely, lush collection of 12th and 13th century Italian art which had some unusual pictures (one apparently depicting God himself and another showing a time lapse series of poses following the crucifixion). The second covered the Pre-Raphaelites and included accounts of some of the salacious and scandalous relationships between the artists and their partners. I saved the rest of the museum for another visit.
We ate well in Oxford but I walked many miles to work off the calories. The sun came out for our walk around the north end of the city (including a brief stop at the remarkable and rather thrillingly cluttered Pitt Rivers Museum at adjoining the back of the Natural History Museum) and then along the Thames to a pub called The Perch. It was great to get together with these university alumni, together for the first time in years, and to catch up with our ups and downs (in my case, thankfully, almost all ups).
Today LSW and I are off to Cheltenham to see some more old friends. How personable I have become since retiring!