Monday, 30 May 2022

A project completed and a splendid day in Oxford

I have spent a great deal of time lately producing a video on CS Lewis’ Oxford, well in fact its a mini series of three covering his arrival at Oxford, his earlier years as a fellow and tutor and then his later years living at The Kiln. Here’s the link to part one.

I admired Lewis through his books long before I knew anything about him, and I admire him still and would have dearly loved to take a pint or two with him in the watering holes of Oxford.

Finishing a project like that is inevitably anticlimactic, but now the series is done I will return to a writing project that has been neglected for some time.

Meanwhile the entertainment scene in Oxford is good, though I think that the lockdown years have subtly and sometimes drastically changed the pub scene here (four of them are still closed, three belonging to colleges). Nevertheless I had a wonderful day following the launch of my CS Lewis series. A tour in the morning then an afternoon spent in Jericho sitting beside the canal appreciating live music from a tethered barge followed by pie and chips and a few pints in the nearby Victoria. All of that was capped by a wonderful open-mike evening of incredibly varied music at another local pub. If only you could cask a day like that, and tap it when needed.

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Rob’s Bookshop moves to Amazon

 Though I’m not writing much nowadays video production continues, as does the amount of guiding. I am soon starting work as a Bodleian Guide (working for the University) which allows access to the beautiful Divinity School, Oxford Uni’s oldest building. That’ll be nice. Not been in there for a few years.

I’ve also just bowed to progress by moving all of my book descriptions onto Amazon rather than doing my own in the robsbookshop website. It had become a pain making changes and most of the info is on Amazon anyway. I’ll keep the website going but mostly point it at Amazon.

On the video front I’ve just passed the 500 subscriber mark for my Rob’s Oxford channel which is great. Only another 500 and I will have reached one of the criteria to be paid by YouTube based on the number of clicks generated! However, you also have to accumulate 10,000 hours of watch time per year as well and I don’t think that I will ever get there. Still it’s creative and the occasional plaudit and the satisfaction of creating videos keeps me going OK.

I’ve just recently launched another one. It’s called Oxford University: top university in the world. It explains how the ratings are done by the Times Higher Education team and gives a glimpse of the most prominent buildings in Oxford. Have a look here.


Monday, 21 March 2022

Ukraine and Shame


I did start to write a blog entitled  ‘Why make YouTube videos when you get nothing for them?’ but then I watched a programme of videos entitled ‘Voices of Ukraine’ on TV and my subject seemed utterly trivial against the background of the callous death, injury and destruction rained on  a country that has nothing to deserve such inhuman treatment. Ukraine is being viciously destroyed by the massive and seemingly impassive might of Russia simply because it wishes to be free and democratic.

Like so many we have given money to the Red Cross and sent essential goods via local people who have arranged transport, but it is not enough. I feel ashamed and wish that I could do more.

So we carry on, despite the awful reality of men women and children losing their homes their lives and their livelihoods. I do not pretend for a moment that I have some clever solution to this unwarranted attack by a corrupt and incredibly powerful neighbour. Of course not. But to write about my own petty concerns immediately after watching the terror invoked by the crushing forces of a megastate invading a blameless neighbouring country seems a betrayal to the innocents who are dying, being maimed, and terrified into evacuation by this unforgivable tyrant.

Since writing the rant above, Margaret and I have registered our house at Stow on the Wold with the Homes for Ukraine scheme so I feel less ashamed, and hence able to tell you that I have launched a new video. It is about a bunch of Oxford scholars of the 17th century who changed our world and is entitled The Invisible College of Oxford University. It includes the tale of a woman who survived hanging, a dog that had its spleen removed and a student struck by lightning. Have a look.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Paris and Barcelona by train


For some years I have wanted to visit Paris, but not for the usual reasons. On our many trips through France to and fro to the house in La Fresneda, Spain I have looked longingly at the large blob on the map and copped out, I just could not face driving the motor caravan into that madness. So we took the train.

There were two churches on my must see list, the most important was Saint Denis. Through guiding I have developed a strong interest in architecture and the Basilica of Saint Denis is generally regarded as the birthplace of Gothic. Its western frontage was a little disappointing (Romanesque), but the nave, crossing and choir are truly inspiring and very gothic: vast pointed windows plus rib vaulting everywhere and externally the eastern end boasts what must be some of the earliest flying buttresses. What’s more most of the French Royals are buried there including the guillotined Louis XVI and his famed queen, Marie Antoinette.

My other long term ambition was to visit Sainte Chapelle, partly because I have been telling visitors for years that it is the inspiration for Exeter College’s 19th century chapel. It did not disappoint. Though not as grand as Saint Denis its Rayonnant Gothic windows are superlative in design, colour and depiction - and all so lovingly restored.

The train journey from Paris to Barcelona takes about six hours and becomes more interesting the further south one goes. We had the luck to have seats on the upper floor of the train and saw parts of France which we knew quite well, but from a very different aspect. The city was warmer and brighter of course, but we missed the Parisian buildings even though we were staying just around the corner from Sagrada Familia. Most memorable, apart from visiting our grandson Robin, was a trip to Tibidado a high hill topped by a church from which you can see the entirety of that great Spanish city and the Med.

Then, home again for some decent food and drink. And to the horrible news of Putin’s attack on the free people of Ukraine.


Friday, 4 February 2022

Guiding, lectures and prime ministers


Things are returning to normal in Oxford. I’m doing some guiding and had a wonderful tour recently with two couples and a mother and son. They were soooo interested and fun, and that is like an infusion of adrenaline to a flagging guide. After we parted on a mutual high one of them turned back and asked me if I would be offended if he offered me a tip! How sweet. I gave him a book. There hasn’t been a lot of work over January, but that one tour makes it all worthwhile. Trip Advisor ought to have a section for reviews of audiences – would that work?

Also had a little glut of lectures, including one at the Maths Institute by Tim Harford (‘More or Less’) who gave an interesting talk on randomness with some mention of my ex-neighbour Brian Eno and was then followed by music (hence reminding me that I am not Bach fan).

Then I attended two lectures in one evening with a quick dash between distant locations on my bike. The first was on colour perception where I learned that women and men are different. The genes for determining colour pigmentation in the eyes’ receptors are carried on the X chromosome and as you know women have two of these and we poor men have just one. Y is that? Hence women can and often do have the capability of greater colour discrimination in the red and green area. Seems we are about the same for blue, but clearly men and women do see the world differently.

The second lecture on that same evening was on science and religion with a surprising, for me, bias towards the latter. It ended with a seemingly serious discussion on whether animals have souls, a discussion based, presumably, on the presumption that humans do!

As often in these blogs I am announcing a new video. This one is entitled: Why does OxfordUniversity produce so many UK prime ministers? It’s something I have puzzled over for many years so I thought I would have a go at it. It includes a working prime minister pump located in the Radcliffe Camera which is quite fun.

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

On covid, darts and tunnels

Covid is still dragging me down a bit but I am back to jogging and working out. I have however noticed that my dart scores have dropped abysmally. After exercising in my garage I throw three hands of darts at the board hanging there in the hope that it will maintain my hand-to-eye co-ordination or something, plus I like throwing darts. I keep a record but hardly need that to show that I am scoring a pathetic number of 25 or bulls just now. Is this a long covid symptom? I hope not.

However, I have managed to complete another video. Oxford divides into Town and Gown and has done from the very early days of the University (circa 1200, when Oxford was a town). This new video is about secret tunnels beneath the University (Gown) whereas the last one which went a tiny bit viral (locally) was about a secret tunnel beneath the city streets (Town). They were both fun to research and compose, but the Gown one has allowed me to introduce a beer swilling hobbit into my creative efforts and also to attempt a little irony. Have a look sometime.