We met a kind woman on the train between Reading and Oxford who was thrilled to listen to the children chattering amongst themselves. She laughed and laughed. A waiter came by and the lady ordered tiny cans of 'lemonade' (we would call it Sprite, and it's delicious here) for them. She said she was from Glasgow, in Scotland, which meant that it was a little bit hard to understand her speech. At least one of our small fry thought the lady was speaking in a different language altogether. The Glasgow accent is something I am fascinated with because I read (listen to, actually, on Audible) books by Alexander McCall Smith. Espresso Tales happens to be one of the best book series I know, and the Narrator is splendid. So I could understand the lady from Glasgow, after a fashion. It was too bad we had only 23 minutes with her, for I would have liked to have had longer. Over a cup of tea, perhaps. That is the trouble with trains. You meet people, and then never get to see them again.
But we were approaching Oxford, and it was time to gather everything up and get cracking. Oxford was/is lovely, filled with warm sunshine and ancient buildings. We had heard utterances of rain to come, and so we wandered around the city in the warmth while we could. There was so much to see, that we could hardly focus on what to see.
But, what was this? Right there, to the left side of our road stood The Eagle and Child pub, where the 'Inklings' used to meet! C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Charles Williams, Warnie Lewis, and others - comparing books, building worlds, having that proverbial pint (plus a plate of chips shared amongst them) as they talked. We crossed the road, peeked in and found 'the room', straightaway. There was the photo of Lewis and of Tolkein; of Joy and Lewis; of other people and things important to that time - and the table where they had sat in that room all those years ago? it was empty! We snagged it, just before a load of other people, eager to snag, followed us in.
There were girls sitting in the table next to ours, Americans (of course), talking of Lewis and saying to each other, "This is the room... THE room." We were all in a sort of awe, in a fit of remembering every Lewis book we ever read. It's rather strange, don't you think, that the only people I ever see in that room talking about Narnia, are the Americans? Every single time, there we are, and there they are, talking about the crunching of snow in the back of a Wardrobe. I later took a long walk out to The Kilns, C.S. Lewis' home a few miles from that pub. On this tour were 10 or 11 other eager Lewis fans, asking questions enthusiastically about his life and his books, his habits (he was apparently notoriously messy), and his brother. We could have talked all day. And it didn't take me long, either, to realize just who I was surrounded by in that living room where Lewis used to sit and smoke.
Americans. Of course.
See you along the way!