I have ranted on in the past about how every high street in Britain is stuffed with the same awful chain shops (I even posted a picture of a timber-frame building in Oxford, dating from the 15th century which is home to Starbucks, last time we were there) and - of course - Oxford is no exception. So I whiled away the time in St. Giles, which seems largely owned by the colleges. This tree appears to be growing from under what looks like the medieval city wall, and further down the lane, you can see an unspeakably ghastly building actually straddling this wall, which looks like student accommodation. How sensitive. Most city planners really do need to be taken out and shot - actually, why not save time by shooting them in their own offices?
And what of my breakfast?, I hear you ask. Well, you remember that one glass of wine too many that I predicted I would imbibe? That turned into about three or four too many (served by an irresistibly charming, Polish waitress), so a combination of that, the quality of the wine (bad), the central heating in the room, the fact that my neck and other joints were so painful that I stayed awake from 3.00 a.m. onwards and that breakfast in Eynsham Hall finishes at 9.00 a.m. meant that it wasn't the delightful experience I had hoped for.
Everyone seemed to be dropping the huge silver lids over the scrambled egg, and there were a pair of extremely noisy Dutch engineers sitting too close to us - they had dominated the dining room the night before, and now they were dominating the breakfast room as well. Breakfast has gone down hill there anyway - they no longer bring you toast, you have to put the bread in one end of a machine that dispenses it from the other (in about 3 minutes) and it is either slightly warm, or burnt black.
H.I. being a fashion-victim, there is no way we could be so close to the Bicester Village outlet without her spending about three hours trolling around it, so we made our way there, where I caught up with my lost sleep in the car while she trolled around - along with about one third of the population of Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Nigeria, Somalia and other assorted nations.
If I was king, I would force every town-planner in Britain to pay a visit to Bicester (pronounced 'Bister') Village, just to see that it is possible to design new buildings which actually fit in with the surroundings. If commercial retail can do it, why can't the public sector?
Eventually, there was a knock on the car window, and we went back into the shopping area to have lunch at the Jamie Oliver joint, situated on one of the Disneyesque streets within.
H.I. queued up for the grub while I sat waiting for her at the only free table outside. As I was sitting there, a loutish man walked up with his wife and child and said pointedly in a loud voice that they would all sit right here, and I told him that one other person would be arriving shortly. He responded by saying that it was customary to queue for your food before you bagged a table, and I said that I was suffering from a condition that made it difficult for me to stand up, so he apologised and walked away. Luckily, he didn't ask the name of this condition - he might not have been so sympathetic if I had told him it was called 'a hangover'.
Just before we left for home, I was approached by a young woman as I waited for H.I. to come out of the toilet. She explained that she ran a blog which featured well-dressed men in classic clothes, and that she wanted - with my permission - to take my photo which would be used in her next post, and I would be this month's 'pin-up'!
As we exchanged email addresses, her husband asked me where I had got my overcoat, and I said 'Bath'. He said that they too lived in Bath - small world.
I'll post a link to my picture as soon as I get it myself. Recognition at last!