Autumn Afternoon

Summer declines, days decrease. Autumn is in everything, colouring fruits and leaves, deepening the blue of the sky and the yellow of the afternoon sun. You can never have enough of autumn colours. They are so physical, almost like food. Manna bread from the sky at the end of summer.

Autumn_Foliage

Wet foliage on the lake slope

Wetness comes with the autumn fog and bleaches the colours out of nature. Glancing over the lake I can no longer make out the distinct silhouettes of trees along the opposite shore line. They have melted into grey shadows and like a silent fleet they are sailing away to some unseen sunny continent. In their luggage they carry the greens with them.

Alster Fog and Traffic Light

Autumn fog and red light

A red traffic-light in the grey distance makes me smile.

 

Oxford Special – Radcliffe Camera, Being in a Turner State of Mind (Part 6)

Radcliffe Camera and Turner’s High Street, Oxford

Yes, that’s Radcliffe Camera, an utmost iconic landmark in a city peppered with iconic landmarks – but don’t be mistaken, the building with its circular leaden dome and cupola is a library. The word camera simply means ‘room’ and has absolutely nothing to do with filming devices or movies. Radcliffe is the last name of royal physician Dr. John Radcliffe who left a large sum of money to build this first circular library in England which was opened in 1749. Which means that Radcliffe does not refer to an actor with the same last name, frequently starring in Harry Potter films. My friends tell me that Radcliffe Camera today is the reading room of the Bodleian Library and right that moment some eager reading-beavers nonchalantly leave the distinctive building – wouldn’t everybody just love to tackle his reference works under the lofty dome of Radcliffe Camera?!

Radcliffe Camera Turner (2)

Reading under an 18th century dome may sound like an extravagant adventure but beware, unsuspecting reader, do not tip your library chair backwards on a floor which spans a subterranean cavern! Looking at the noble building, you find it quite unimaginable that beneath the solid stonework, the northern lawn and the picturesque cobblestones Radcliffe Camera holds some 600,000 books. This underground bookstore of two floors, complete with a tunnel which links Radcliffe library with the Bodleian, was constructed from 1909 to 1912. So, tread carefully, you’re treading on printed wisdom!

Turner's Highstreet Ashmolean

The artwork you see fastened to the fence in front of Radcliffe Camera shows an Oxford street scene in misty golden afternoon light and is a replica of JMW Turner’s painting The High Street, Oxford. Having walked down High Street just an hour ago you cannot believe that the painting is from 1810 and you agree with your friends that Turner’s view of High Street seems nearly unchanged after more than two centuries. Just forget some few traffic signs or modern vehicles, especially the omnipresent bicycles leaning against fences, walls, gates…

Turner's High Street (2)

Turner’s The High Street, Oxford had been on loan to Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum from a private collection since 1997 but recently it was left to the British nation in lieu of inheritance tax. Its immense value of £3.5 m turned out to be more than the tax due:  Ashmolean needed to raise £860,000 if it wanted to keep the painting. Luckily, the museum was granted the enormous amount of £800.000 from Heritage Lottery and other funds, but for the remaining £60,000 it had to launch an exceptional fundraising campaign to turn residents and visitors of Oxford into a ‘Turner state of mind’. Over the summer, the famous painting  was on prominent display in the entrance space at Ashmolean Museum and additionally, twelve full-size reproductions of The High Street, Oxford were installed all over the city. The response to the campaign was extraordinary so that in just four weeks the target was reached.

ashmolean and Turners

Look at the proud people holding up their Turner on the day when High Street, Oxford belonged to the city for ever and let their spirit pass over! Says Dr. Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Ashmolean:

“The museum has been overwhelmed by public support. With well over 800 people contributing to the appeal, it is clear that the local community, as well as visitors to the museum from across the world, feel that this picture, the greatest painting of the city ever made, must remain on show in a public museum in Oxford”

 

POST SCRIPTUM

In September my friends sent me this photo of Turner’s High Street, Oxford, welcoming refugees to Oxford!

Turner's Welcome to Refugees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxford Special – Ancient footprints, a retired fox and having carrot cake with a big spider (Part 4)

Let There Be Dinosaurs!

On this rainy day your first glance doesn’t fall on the lawn you are crossing but on the entrance of Oxford University Museum of Natural Science, the OUM, which is your friends’ favourite museum in Oxford and surroundings. They ardently assure you that there are few better ways to spend a day in Oxford than a visit to the OUM. Its holdings – which run into millions of specimens – include a gigantic Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton and a stuffed imitation DODO which provided some of the inspiration for Oxford’s most famous child and book, namely Alice in Wonderland. But right now, your friends somewhat hesitate as if they were waiting for some kind of emotional reaction from you. What am I supposed to do, you think, and follow their eyes’ direction. You see them staring purposefully at the lawn and, politely you, too, turn your attention to the grassy visiting card of the famed museum. Well, the grass is green, even today, and all in all, the turf looks well-groomed which is exactly what you expect from such a prominent British lawn. But then you gasp in horror – one, two, no, a legion of irregular, large mud-holes are meandering across the turf right towards you. What the heck has happened here? Has OUM sacked the gardener and he took a cruel revenge?

Ancient Footprints

Jurassic Footprints

Instantly you are set right! To talk of mud-holes when you actually, eh, at least spiritually, watch a dinosaur striding across OUM’s lawn – blasphemy! What you really see are the giant footprints of Megalosaurus, Oxford’s very own and very special dinosaur!

The fossils, including the Megalosaurus jaw, which is also held in the Museum’s collection, were found in a quaint quarry just outside Oxford. The ancient prints which today span the lawn in front of the museum are modern casts from the fossilised trackway that Megalosaurus bucklandii,  a three-toed carnivore, left some 166-168 million years ago when he roamed the lagoons of Jurassic Oxfordshire! You immediately fall in love with the muddy footsteps and enter the museum in high spirits.

Dinosaurs and Ironworks

Dinosaurs and Ironworks

Dinosaurs in Ironwork Jungle

The architecture of the place is breathtaking. Entering the main court, you first notice how very high and light the structure is, like the nave of an enormous gothic church, but relieved from the weight of stony pillars. Instead, the vaulted glass roof is held aloft by an elaborate system of cast and wrought ironwork, the modern building material of the 19th century. The slender pillars are artfully decorated with botanical ornamentation –  a fanciful iron jungle for Megalosaurus and his relatives!

 

It is reported that John Ruskin, famous builder of the Museum of Natural History, was so taken with the neo-gothic, ironwork architecture that he visited the new OUM every day just to admire the beauty of the place – such as people have done since then unto nowadays.

Iron Jugngle

Iron Beauty

 

Please Touch!

There are fierce animals and lovable ones! The OUM is free of charge and offers fabulous educational programmes, no wonder that the main court is brimming with voices and happy activities of children and parents. Similarly, the outstanding touch-and-feel areas are enjoyed by children and adults alike. Right at the entrance desk a ‘retired’ fox is so adorable that you want to stroke it as much as all the kids do! My friend relates the story of a girl who came for weeks and months just to give this fox his daily cuddle. Surprising, that the soft and silky coat isn’t worn down by all the pettingAdorable Fox.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovable Retired Fox

Lovable Fox!

 

Spiders and columns with your carrot cake

The museum cafe is situated on the upper gallery which is overlooking the dinosaurs in the main court and which lifts your body and mind up into the spheres of pure bliss. Take a seat at one of the wooden tables along the stonework of the first-floor gallery  and admire the neo-gothic arcade and the column chiseled from decorative rock that is right next to you. Each of these columns, which are surrounding the court on the ground floor as well as the first-floor galleries, was made from a different kind of British rock. Each of their capitals and corbels are intricately carved with flora and fauna, beautiful lessons in geology, botany, masonry, art, history… and in inspiration. You could spend hours of inspecting the stones if there were not the big spider right next to your coffee pot. Don’t worry, she just wants to watch, I am assured, and I happily share the delicious coating of the carrot cake with my human friends, only!

Big Spider and Carrot Cake

Friendly Spider and Decorative British Rock

 

 

Oxford Special – Where the oxen trots and the river flows (Part 2)

The Ox and the Ford

After an exceedingly pleasurable breakfast at friendly Oxfork’s we set off on an Oxford walking tour which first takes us to the Thames path opposite the boat houses,”along the reedy shore of silt and mud”, and next to the oxen. We meet the mighty bull in form of a good-tempered English longhorn on the vast green meadows of Christ Church College.

English Longhorn eye-to-eye

Eyeball-to-eyeball with a Christ Church longhorn!

Even an intrusive Spanish selfie stick cannot disturb the oxen’s spirit of pastoral holiday on Christ Church Meadow, which is for sure the most cultural pasture in the whole Commonwealth. Still, you may detect a stubborn bewilderment in the beast’s cocked head as the selfie stick is getting too pushy.

English longhorn not being amused about Spanish selfie stick

English longhorn not being amused about Spanish selfie stick

You count some 9 cows which all belong to the small herd of Christ Church College and are allowed to enjoy their famous pasture without labor or the prospect of being turned into food for the college students some day. In turn, they please native Oxonians, students and tourists alike with their friendly cow manners.

Christ Church Longhorn, studying a tree

Christ Church Longhorn, studying a tree

Nowadays, everybody knows that Oxford’s name derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Oxnaforda’, which means “a ford for oxen”. The Middle English version, ‘Oxenford’, was shortened by time and use to Oxford. The latinized form is Oxonia, something worthwhile knowing in such a learned place! Later, I am allowed a glance at Oxford’s coat of arms and ready to despair at such a gaudy masquerade of (1) a star-spangled black elephant in chains, (2) a Bavarian-tailed, grim beaver with a crown round its neck, (3) a suit of armour bereft of its knight, and (4) a happily grinning lion with a crown on its head, and holding up another coat of arms! Not to speak of (5) all those flowery feathers and trestles which are seaming in the puzzling parade and, not to forget, (6) the Latin inscription! But wait – there is my English longhorn from the meadow, my friendly oxen!

The Oxen and the River

Right in the heart of pomp and circumstance, in the clear and simple square of the circle, you find the answer: In the beginning there were a river and a bull! Fortis Est Veritas. Strength is in Truth. And now let others tell the rest of the story!

Obviously this all has to do with cows, I think to myself under my tartan-coloured umbrella on which the rain patters persistently.  Why was an oxen so important that a city was named after it?  Weren’t there any geese, swine or sheep at the crossroad of River ‘Thamesis’ or ‘Isis’ and  River Cherwell? But can you imagine Oxford having risen to historical immortality by the name of Swineford, or Hogsford, argues my friend. Just unthinkable, I admit, and I faintly remember a German city by such a crude name. Although – not every school – even if it were a school of witchcraft – having a ‘hog’ in its name is doomed to being infamous.Or is it? Nor will it be banned from honorable Christ  Church College, which – founded back in 1524 – is surely the most famous of  Oxford’s ancient colleges. I wonder which kind of weather inspired  the poet to name Oxford the City of Dreaming Spires. This Monday the spires of ancient Christ Church are definitely dreaming of sunny spells midst all the hanging clouds and rain! The incredibly beautiful buildings have had numerous appearances in film and on TV. The impressive entrance way, for example, is familiar to anyone who has seen the movie Brideshead Revisited,  and its incredible dining hall has been glamourised as Hogwarts Great Hall in a series of Harry Potter films. Beauty and Profanity are old acquaintances, so we’ll just wait and see who wins us over this time!

 Christ Church Gallery

“Combat of Beauty and Profane” – Who’s winning?! (Christ Church Gallery, Reni)

The term hasn’t started yet, so you aren’t distracted by any bespectacled, good-looking Harry-Potter-Clones on bicycles and younger visitors will fully concentrate on Potter Paraphernalia in the gift shop of Christ Church College. Deluxe Dobby face-mask anyone? But to be fair,  tourists also praise the true treasures of Christ Church College, as after a guided tour including “Dean’s garden, the cathedral, grounds, and the dining hall. Of course with brilliant explanations. If you don’t mind Christian Stuff” (quoted from trip avisor) “Christian Stuff” at Christ Church – it’s quite a surprise, isn’t?”

We are taking a new turn now, away from meadows and cows, to the city of Oxford. Let our view of the city be accompanied by the Turner painting “View of Oxford”. The artist is known by the name “Turner of Oxford” and he has his grave here. His landscape sketch shows Oxford taken from a higher point and inviting the visiting wanderer to enjoy with him the sight of some identifiable landmarks: The spire of St. Mary the Virgin, the Gothic twin towers of  All Souls College and the dome of  Radcliffe Camera – No, it’s not named after the actor impersonating Harry Potter! – And all the beauty is held by rosy sunset clouds and a wide, blue sky. We do hope to experience such a sunset later the day, as well!

1024px-William_Turner_of_Oxford_-_A_View_of_Oxford_-_Google_Art_Project “A view of Oxford” by W.Turner

Oxford Special – Riding the Oxford Tube (Part I)

Oxford Tube

The logo is running along both flanks of the coach in plain white letters … all day …  all night … all year… Oxford – London – what a reassuring promise for the traveller from London to Oxford! What kind of motor vehicle will you be riding under this flag of absolute reliability? Well, as a matter of fact it’s a unique crossover – at least as to its naming. When the thing is nearing your bus station in Notting Hill it perfectly resembles a London doubledecker bus but when it pulls in, it proudly displays its name:  “Oxford Tube”. The tube is the tube and not a bus, you are musing, but here we have a  veritable hybrid:

a bus, a tube, a coach. Oxford Tube

Beautifully clad in the colours of the British flag – some curvy, tikka-masala orange added – and displaying a stylish wind-shaped upper deck you feel inspired by the tube’s colourful elegance on this grey and wet Monday morning. And as the door slides open noiselessly you mount the “Oxford tube” without hesitating any longer. Once you’ve settled down upstairs in your comfortable seat, stowed away your umbrella and logged into the free WiFi, you’re hooked! In some 80 minutes your friends will pick you up at St. Clement’s bus station in Oxford. Westward ho!

Meanwhile you look up the words bus, coach, tube in The New Oxford Dictionary.  Let’s add breakfast  to the list because your friends made “a full English breakfast”  the first item on the Oxford itinerary and you want to make sure that full English is compatible with breakfast.

a tube is a tube is a bus

a tube is a tube is a bus

bus – a large motor vehicle carrying passengers by road

coach – a single-decker bus, especially one that is comfortably equipped and used for longer  journeys

tube – a long, hollow cylinder of metal, plastic, glass, etc. for holding or transporting something

breakfast – a meal eaten in the morning, the first of the day

So, I vividly imagine my first meal of the day, a full English breakfast at friendly Oxfork’s, and relax in my long, hollow, double-decker, motorized cylinder, which is comfortably equipped for a longer journey and is holding as well as carrying its load of passengers from London to Oxford by road!

Grace and Beauty

Pleasing Lines

The eye enjoys waving and serpentine lines like in winding walks or meandering rivers. It sweeps along the graceful lines as if it were riding a wave.

Lines of Grace

Feet I Like (Israeli Glass 2015)

And like the surfer needs to taste the  peculiarity of the wave before he will be taken away, the mind takes pleasure in the chase of waving lines. Sometimes you can sail on merely with the lines of grace and beauty.

Sailing On

Chasing Lines  (Lawrence Weiner)

Summer Pleasures – Splash!

Riding the wave

Riding Wild Waters

The fragmented beauty of the surf and the cascading water is caught in a time capsule – just as long as the surfer is splitting the wave open with his ride. A sparkling moment in time and you want to watch it again and again. But then it’s getting somewhat chilly and all of a sudden rain  is coming down in sheets. So, you let your time capsules whoosh down the river – uncaught – and instead seek protection against the summer down-pour under your tartan-colored umbrella. Not exactly a time capsule but an intimate hide-away from further mind-expanding experiences. Walking away from the wild waters, you can’t hear the thundering rush of the wave any longer.

Summer Pleasures

 

Sitting on the balcony and talking through the summer night with friends. They’ve brought a pretty little present.

 

Bouquet and napkins

Some wind lifts the napkins gently

Small puff of wind lifts the napkins

Some wind gently takes the napkins away

Big, white butterfly – gently held back by pink ribbon