Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Zooming into pubs and more

Well it seems a while since I’ve blogged and a lot has happened on the covid front where there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel for the UK at least. I am amazed at the rate of roll out of vaccinations. By the way I find the word covid quite inappropriate for this scourge that has invaded our world, it has a warmth to it that conveys the wrong impression entirely whereas syphilis, pneumonia, pox (big or small), SARS and the black death are all names that seem redolent of their effect.

And now there are signs of spring in the garden. Margaret has all sorts of flowers popping up and my broad beans are peaking through. Meanwhile the chickens are looking more sprightly. I’ve got them working over my vegetable garden prior to seeding and they are doing a grand job. They’re laying plenty of eggs too. I’ve never known such productivity – hybrid vigour I suppose. Other creatures are also sensing the coming of spring. From my office window I can see the little lambs leaping about in the field next to ours: so white, so tiny, so lively. And this morning I witnessed a male wood pigeon trying to make out with a female.

Meanwhile I’m getting on with stuff. Did my first commercial Zoom talk the other day on a subject which is near to my heart: Pubs of Oxford. It went well I think, though I certainly miss the immediate feedback of a live audience. Whilst developing that talk I’ve also made two videos on the same topic. The first, which is an introduction, was great fun to make. I asked a number of people what their favourite pub was and they provided short video answers which I’ve linked together. It’s great fun, have a look.

I’ve also made one on what may soon become a lost pub. It’s the Lamb and Flag, now threatened with closure. On the lighter side that video relates one of my favourite pub jokes (more of those to come). See it here.

I’m also doing a Zoom talk based on my book: The Battle FOR Stow.  That book traced the march made by the Royalist forces in their attempt to reach Oxford and save King Charles I. The march ended in the Battle of Stow and marked the end of the first phase of that crucial 17th century civil war. My book was all about the march (which I repeated 363 years later) together with the battles that take place in Stow-on-the-Wold in the 21st Century. I’ve also just finished reading a fascinating book on the Glorious Revolution which followed the death of Charles I’s son, also Charles and the escape to France by Charles II's brother and successor James II. In a way that revolution was a follow through of the civil war and probably launched Britain on its path towards genuine democracy, empire and the industrial revolution.


Thursday, 4 February 2021

Covid and the Oldest Colleges of Oxford


Had my first covid jab on the last day of January. My wife had hers the day before and it made her quite ill which was a bit worrying (for both of us), but it was certainly not going to deter me. The whole thing was amazingly well organised with off-duty fire officers managing the car park. Other volunteers checked us in and handed out hand steriliser. The enthusiastic doctor then talked me and another chap through the process and grilled us on various topics to ensure that we were fit recipients. He was great, given that he’d probably done it all a hundred times before that day.

I hardly noticed the jab, felt like a little thump that’s all, and the whole thing took little more than five minutes. I was then told to sit in the car for another five minutes “just in case”. So there I sat in the red mini dwarfed by the urban tractors on each side of me. Still we’re all equal before covid.

As the evening wore on I became aware of stuff that had been slipped into my blood stream. I felt light-headed, then the opposite, and just generally odd. Meanwhile Margaret had pretty well recovered.

Next morning I felt a little dull but generally OK. The central heating system failed to come on so I fixed that. I fed the chickens, (they are in semi lockdown for fear of bird flu) collected the eggs, did my usual circuit of exercising: weights, wobble board, punch bag, darts and skipping. All seemed well so I set to work on the video I’m near to finishing.

But I was not right, I had a mild headache, pains in different parts of my body, felt so cold that I had to wear a heavy coat, and had this general sense of not being myself. And of course the work did not go well. Video editing is not an easy task and I made many silly mistakes.

By the third day I was fine and these minor side effects were clearly
dwarfed by the magnitude of the pandemic and the prospect of immunity for all. I am unaccountably proud that the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine was so quickly designed, tested and manufactured in such vast quantities. And I am awed by the rate and scope of roll out in my country. I was nearly the ten millionth recipient I think.

Despite Covid, my work goes on. I have finished that video! It’s a quick streak through the ten oldest colleges of Oxford. It was fun to make but had its usual ups and down: problems with the editor, the presenter, the designer and the scriptwriter. Yeah, that’s me. Have a look, just click here, or on the thumbnail below.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Walking in the Cotswold Hills and videos of Margaret and Benazir

I do enjoy a good long walk, but just now they do not end as I would wish. In this month of January I’ve done two – both alone for obvious reason. There was snow on the ground as I set off for the first, heading in the direction of Wyck Rissington. The weather was great, cold but sunny, but I was tricked. Some four miles into the walk it began to snow, and it got worse. As planned I turned to the north across a ridge in the Cotswolds in order to make a long loop back to my home but the snow became so heavy I had to eat my packed lunch in some farmer’s open sided barn. I took a less ambitious route towards the pretty but soulless village of Icomb and on my way there tripped over a root and fell heavily into the mud – and laughed as I lay there!

The second walk, just two days ago, also started in brilliant sunshine. However it did not snow, but the sun was soon obscured by heavy cloud and the temperature dropped quickly. I did another loop this time passing close to the lovely Slaughter villages and then arrived at one of my most loved spots at the base of Stow hill: Hyde Mill. There I got into conversation with the owners (socially distanced of course) and what did we talk about? Why vaccinations of course.

So, why don’t these walk end as I would wish. Quite simple – the pubs are closed. I enjoy nothing better than stumbling foot weary into a good pub and quenching my thirst on a well-deserved pint of real ale. Roll on the jab.

Walking aside, I’ve been busy. Two new videos are now live on Rob’s Oxford channel which completes the series on Women World Leaders Educated at Oxford. The additions are Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto, both interesting ladies with fascinating lives and a shared alma mater.

Here are the thumbnails, as they are called on YouTube. Have a look via the channel and please subscribe. Every little helps.