Dreaming Spires

for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC) of 30 August 2020, covered.

– When is it, again?

– I told you, it’s in three weeks. Tuesday to Thursday.

Anna was just at the point in her career when she was asked to go to seminars on the firm’s behalf.

– The main speaker is a real hotshot. He’s a former judge, professor at one of the colleges there.

In truth, she and Paul hardly saw each other during the week anyway, so it would not make much difference. She continued:

– This is good stuff, Paul. They want me to go down to Oxford and represent them at an international conference. It shows they’re starting to trust me. Besides, I’ve never been to Oxford, it’s meant to be really nice.

Oxford lies about sixty miles north-west of London, and the train journey up from Paddington Station was completed in an hour on the Monday evening. Not really having much of a clue where she was, Anna passed what seemed to be thousands of pushbikes and caught a taxi to her guest house, located by the Botanical Gardens. The journey only took five minutes, at that time of day.

In fact, that was the main topic of conversation – that the traffic would turn the drive into a half-hour journey, if she happened to get the timing wrong.

She knew she was only on the fringes of the city centre, so she asked the hotel for directions to the Centre for International Studies, where her conference started at 9:30AM the next morning.

“It’s quite straightforward”, said the receptionist, pulling out a small map. “We’re here, you see, just off the High Street. So, out of the door here, turn left, then walk along the High Street into town. It’s only 5 minutes. Then, take a right along Cornmarket Street – you’ll easily recognise it, it’s the main shopping street. It’s pedestrian, apart from all the buses go down there. If you walk the length of Cornmarket Street, the place you’re after is just a bit further, along St. Aldgate’s. The whole journey should only take ten minutes.”

Anna slept well and was greeted the next morning by a good array of items in the breakfast buffet. “I’m quite surprised at the buffet”, she approved. “Normally there’s such little choice, I resign myself to going without. The waiter assured her that, these days, they catered for more and more vegan travellers.

Anna left the hotel and managed to find the Centre for International Studies without any problem. The most difficult part was finding the building itself, just one house along a terrace.

The conference finished for the day shortly before 4PM, and Anna had to retrace her steps back to her hotel. With no time pressures now, she looked around the city centre. Oxford is a charming city, with many students and some wonderful architecture, thanks largely to the colleges. It was not surprising that this was the most affluent city outside of London, that so many people lived out here and commuted in.

Feeling adventurous, Anna wandered through the wonderful architectures, past the Bodleian Library and the Ratcliffe Camera, then up a side street, Anna discovered Oxford’s quaint Covered Market. Too late, she realised that this market comprised mostly of butchers’ shops, and Anna felt that she had to hold her breath until she found the exit.

I used to live in Oxford between about 1990-5, and all the places are accurate as far as my memory goes – the Covered Market certainly did stink! Also, I’ve written a background to these characters, in the posts below.


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