Tuesday, 3 April 2012
Very much enjoyed a nostalgic weekend back in Oxford, and meeting a wonderfully responsive audience at the Sunday Times Literary Festival. The only disappointment was that the bookshop ran out of copies of Chanel (apologies to all those who queued, only to be turned away; it was as frustrating for me as it was for those who had been kept waiting).
Calm was restored when I found the secret door to Alice's garden (see above; needless to say, it remained locked) and the portrait of Lewis Carroll/ Charles Dodgson in the Christ Church Great Hall (now world-famous as Hogwarts, but hugely impressive for its own extraordinary academic, literary and political history). Time for tea afterwards at the Randolph hotel, and a chance to admire Osbert Lancaster's illustrations for Max Beerbohm's novel 'Zuleika Dobson'. (Not my favourite Oxford novel -- Brideshead Revisited can never be bettered -- but Zuleika, for all the damage she wreaks, deserves some celebration, as the femme fatale approaches the age of 101).
From the Randolph, back to Christ Church to hear Andrew Marr's talk on The Diamond Queen (as entertaining as his television series on the subject), and then a fortuitous meeting at dinner with Bettany Hughes, who told me about her new documentary on the hidden history of women and religion (apparently there were female bishops in the early Christian Church, and a deaconess named Phoebe, mentioned only briefly in the Bible, but intriguing nevertheless).
Alice, Zuleika, goddesses, and the Queen; what more could one ask for? All that was missing was a chance to dance the Lobster Quadrille, but walking across Tom Quad at midnight was almost as magical...