14 October 2009--Despite the expense, I'm happy to have stayed in Oxford. I did avoid the cost in time and
money of the train trip from Banbury, after all, and I have the morning to see a little of the city and the
university. I spend more time in St Mary the Virgin Parish Church than anywhere else. I'm guessing that the Virgin is
revered at Oxford because she's likely the only one. (That kind of joke was funnier in the '60s...take my word for it.)
It's the spiritual home of the university, as well as its literal origin, being the first place that classes were held
before the colleges popped up all around. From the tower, I can see the whole city, in all directions.
After that, I wander around for a while, lingering in an outdoor market. Then it's time to go. I head northeast almost to Northampton, where the Unthanks have never played. I want to pop into town to get postcards to send to friends in the other Northampton, but I don't have the time. Instead, I jump onto the M1 north, and for the next hour or so I get a taste of the kind of traffic that awaits me when I get home and go back to work. Turn off at the A617 and get lost on my way to Castleton. See some interesting villages that would be worth a visit some day.
I've returned to Castleton because it's not far from the airport in Manchester. The plan, back when I would have been coming from Banbury, was to get back here early enough to go for a walk. Now there is only time to get the bags repacked before dinner at the George. I retire early and finish off my roadie, contemplating my foray into England these past days. As always, I am trying to assess whether the various places I've been would be worth a return visit. Coniston, definitely, and Castleton, as well. I'd be very happy to stay with Pascal in Stratford again, but on balance feel the one visit will probably suffice. The Cotswold towns of Chipping Campden, Moreton-in-Marsh, and Cirencester are very attractive, as is Oxford. I'd love to return, but whether I will or not is an open question. There are so many places yet I want to see, just in the UK. It would be easier, I suppose, if I didn't have the favorite bases to touch every year--Edinburgh, Plockton, Craigellachie--and others I return to frequently--Orkney, Lewis, the Dales. I'm caught between opposing impulses. I don't understand people who vacation every year in the same spot, and never see anything new. Nor do I understand those who travel only to new places every year, and don't have those touchstones. The paradox for me is that I feel most at home on the road. The home-away-from-home places resonate with me, as does the unfolding mystery of undiscovered territory. I can't imagine how I'll feel when I can't travel any more. For better or worse, this is my life, or the best part of it, anyway.