Town mouse speaks at Oxford

Oxford might have been Miami Beach, such was the intensity of the sunshine on Sunday. It was about as crowded with tourists as well. Imagine, however, our smugness as we pushed through the crowd that besieged the gates of Christ Church, explaining that I was speaking at the Oxford Literary Festival.

Men in bowler hats kept the human herd at bay, as we walked across a deserted quad. ‘Come within our precincts,’ whispered the stones. ‘We who were put here by Cardinal Wolsey will tolerate the intrusion. You may not be worthy, but your hour is brief. Don’t run. Pretend to be cleverer than you are.’ If this is privilege, give me more of it.

My talk (‘The Arts-and-Crafts Country House’: pity you missed it) was over before lunch. This left us free to relax on a terrace with other speakers, philosophers, historians, someone who’d been in The Pirates of the Caribbean. I recommend lovage cordial in a refreshing punch (courtesy of Hendrick’s Gin, one of the sponsors). At teatime, we found that the Ashmolean also has a terrace, behind the pediment. Oxford City Council may have clouded things by issuing a parking ticket, but if the day quickened our boys’ desire to attend this ancient seat of learning, I don’t begrudge it.