Ride a cock horse

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a pale lady upon a pale horse;
With rings on her fingers and a bonnet of straw
She’s the strangest pale lady that ever you saw.

Banbury Market; the clouds proved ominous!It is a queer thing to travel from Oxford to Banbury in search of art and culture, yet so I did yesterday, being betwixt and between my weekly lectures. Truth is I shall not be in want of excuses to get away from Belshade College for what Oxford does not offer in inducement my dreary lodgings more than provides in encouragement.  Not least in effect is the weather which has turned lately damp and cold. Winter will soon be upon us; already the clocks have advanced one hour and my lectures on Tuesday and Thursday end now in darkness.

But to Banbury where the local museum had a delightful exhibition of local etchings depicting the Oxfordshire agricultural scene. One work in particular, by the artist Robin Tanner, rather caught my eye in the pages of The OAK, that is, the Oxfordshire Arts Kaleidoscope magazine.

Banbury Cross, of the familiar rhyme, is alas no more; a victim of that peculiar puritan zeal that swept so much of England in the seventeenth century and which so nearly put paid to the fine medieval rood loft at St James in Avebury. The museum at Banbury has a reconstruction (in plastic, of all things) of the fallen cross and I was dismayed to discover the chief architect of its toppling was one Edmund Warbrook, who, if not a direct ancestor must at least be part of my extended family. Ah well. Let us trust rather more than seven generations have passed since Edmund Warbrook breathed his last.

The exhibition was a joy and the dramatic works of the late Robin Tanner proved him a true heir to the master of the medium, Samuel Palmer. Stanley Anderson’s work also impressed with his quiet, less showy, but perhaps truer to life depictions of ordinary village and farming life of some  eighty or more years ago before the privations and shortages of the Zeppelin War led to the modern quest for agricultural efficiencies and the loss of so many of the old ways. And for what purpose, I ask? So that we may eat apples imported from the other side of the world when our own orchards are burdensome with uneaten fruit. Ha!

 

I recommend the museum whole-heartedly. It is charming in a way that Oxford, for all it impresses, cannot quite manage. Afterwards I was to the Coach and Horses for a pint and a pie and a dram of Owl Service in honour of my sponsors during which time the heavens opened and remained so as I dashed for the train, for, and you can scarcely blame me after my adventures of last week, I was determined to make Belshade College before nightfall. This I did, but not before witnessing the most spectacular rainbow on my return railway journey to Oxford. This snatched photograph through the rain swept window of my carriage scarcely does it justice but was the best I could manage.

Rainbow's EndTowards late evening, by which time I was once more in my garret room at the college, the weather returned with a vengeance, with lightning over Ot Moor and thunder rattling my perilously thin window frames. My coat is, yet again, leaning against the radiator (more in hope than expectation as the college boiler is an inconstant friend) and my shoes have suffered. I hope the weather breaks soon as it is bound to keep me awake.

Principal Stonebreaker has not yet spoken to me since I abandoned her and the students in Oxford last week. Nor, thankfully, has Digby raised (so far as I am aware!) either my late return to college or the sorry state I arrived in. For small mercies we must be truly thankful.

Tomorrow I end my lecture promptly at four and leap into a taxi for Oxford railway station with the intention of arriving home in Avebury by the last bus. Given my encounter with the shade of Stanford Byle you may think me quite mad, but tomorrow night is Halloween and Halloween in Avebury is not to be missed!

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2 thoughts on “Ride a cock horse

  1. I love the etchings and am glad your peregrinations led you there, albeit wetly. It was encouraging for to locate a possible ancestor for now you can escape your hardships in search of more. I look forward to learning of your new learning, if any.

  2. Why thank you Rosalind. Always a pleasure to hear from you. I am, I am certain learning a great deal, not least what a splendid city Oxford is. According to a clever little map thingy (I believe the word is app) I see you are in Salzburg (or possibly Bournemouth). I shall think of you in Salzburg as you are no where near elderly enough for Bournemouth. Best wishes NW.

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