Lockdown in OX1

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Lockdown in OX1


Reflections from a resident of OX1


The three 'closed' signs are in Little Clarendon Street. The empty thoroughfare is St Giles .

Of course, we miss seeing our friends and family, particularly the grandchildren, who grow up so fast that six weeks may seem a lifetime slipped away. However, last Sunday we had for the first time, 'Story time with Grandma and Grandpa' courtesy of Zoom. I took the main role of Mrs Fluff (a squirrel) in 'Mrs Fluff's Brandy Balls' with Michael, my leading man, as Bruin the Bear. We also played various other rabbits and the occasional stoat who bought the sweets from Sleepy Hollow Store. M played the dastardly thief with aplomb. The children seemed to enjoy it and wanted a longer story next time. We forgave them for changing our code name surreptitiously to The Oldies.

The greatest benefit of lockdown is certainly the lack of traffic. For once we can gaze at the mighty Horse Chestnut tree directly opposite our front window and the roses, hollyhocks and poppies planted by me and my next-door neighbour, without the sight parked cars and white vans and the noise of industrial cranes, skip removers, concrete mixers etc used by builders employed by St John's college on their endless works. The obituary in the New York Times of an American philosopher who had been our neighbour described him as living in "a rural lane". Until lockdown it was more like a building site.

In my walks through the strange, less frequented University Parks I drink in cool, fresh air untainted by traffic fumes. Although ,keeping our social distance, we greet each other or smile as you do abroad when you hear people speaking English. Trying to avoid my fellow man I have stumbled upon previously unknown beds of deliciously scented or subtly colour-coded flowers, pink and blue. Once, following a young man with a dog who seemed to know his way about, I wandered along a dirt track through an unsuspected dark copse.

In the glorious weather we eat most meals under our garden vine and marvel at the peace. Even the four merry children who play at the bottom of the garden (much nicer since they stopped screaming all the time) are mainly indoors.

We know our peace and quiet has been earned at a terrible price and never forget those who grieve. But I have to admit to a fellow feeling with Byron's Prisoner of Chillon :-

In quiet we had learned to dwell,
My very chains and I grew friends
So much a long communion tends
To make us what we are:- even I
Regained my freedom with a sigh.




Museum of Oxford


Jane Allingham





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