Archive for January, 2008

And about time

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Well, it’s another year and not only have I not made any resolutions, I’ve broken them all already. As a Guardian columnist remarked, once the big one, stopping smoking, has been cracked one ought to be excused and so I do. My plan, and I put it no firmer than that, was to write a little and often on the site but hey, it’s been a whole month and more.

For a Christmas present I was given a thick book on Web 2.0 blogs and sooner or later I shall get down to seriously learning about leveraging the latest Web technologies and encouraging content development at the very least and goodness know what else it might lead to. Unfortunately, my laptop died during in 2007 and this means I can’t note down things as I think of them (which, to be fair, is normally when I’m walking to work) or in the kitchen cooking something. And another thing, my camera broke. Also, I’m a bit more mentally alert in the mornings so what with the work and no laptop or camera the odds against my plan are short. Still, so what. No-one died.

To start off the year though, I fear that I might be becoming reconciled with the country. Not, of course, the bleak, rain-tossed flatlands leading to an indeterminate horizon, the mist broken only by septic tanks and damp vultures. No, I mean the civilised villages with their very civilised pubs that abound in Oxon. So even a country-phobe like me can appreciate spending a Saturday morning going to a farm shop to buy decent, properly raised meat and then adjourn to a wood paneled country pub for a pub lunch comprising, in my case, seared scallop with spring onion champ (mashed potatoes and spring onion) with bacon. It’s called the Abingdon Arms and I’ve since discovered it was where Evelyn Waugh spent his honeymoon and in the village which inspired the chess match in Alice in Wonderland.

The other bit of country that beguiled was way to the north in Yorkshire when we stopped en-route to Leeds with the returning scholar. We just managed the last day of the Andy Goldsworthy exhibition and it was stunning. And the park is set in magnificent rolling countryside – although it helped that the sun shone. Worth a visit even thought the Goldsworthy exhibition is over.

When I lived in France a century ago I marveled at the small restaurants in town and out in the countryside which served such delicious meals at such a good price. After some thought I realized that the pubs are the British equivalent of the local eatery but then, way back in the early- late 20th century the food was awful and quite often the beer too. The wine could have cleared sewers of rats. But not any more. Despite some ghastly places I could name, the corner has been turned.

Simon Hoggart in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago was commenting on how British pubs seem to get better and better and are so much nicer to break a journey in than a horrid motor-way services. I’m going to start finding some for the Oxford Leeds run where I imagine we’ll come across large numbers of Guardian readers also transporting their offspring to places of learning at the beginning of term. But then, that’s not so bad.