Abingdon to Woodstock
I forgot to mention that yesterday’s headline was written by Bob Dylan, not me. It comes from his 1965 smash hit “Mr Tambourine Man” ( a sweetened version by The Byrds is also very good).
Last night’s Premier Inn was pleasant. You couldn’t fault anything except the location which was 2km inland from the Thames and next to the motorway. By the time I reached the river I was ready for a coffee and croissant at Costa Coffee. The same girl who served me yesterday was there again. She gave me a warm welcome and we had a quick catch up. Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t much more to say.
The Thames Path diverted into some muddy woodland but my boots were saved from getting dirty by a dog walker who pointed me at an old railway which is now a cycle path to Oxford. I was tempted to stay on that path but I returned to the river and soon came across a girl with a backpack and walking pole. She was just about to start her breakfast so my attempts at conversation were not enthusiastically received. She told me, unprompted, that she was heading in the opposite direction to me and so I wished her good luck and continued on my way. It might have been her best shot at engaging my attention but it was more likely the opposite. It’s too bad because there are so few long distance walkers out at the moment.
As I walked I occupied my thoughts with memories of some great snubs I received when I was young.
I met several people along the path. They all want to know where I’m going and they ask if I’m camping. I wish someone would ask something different for once, such as whether I’ve read Dante’s Divine Comedy. “Yes” I would say “but only in translation. What’s your favourite level of the inferno?” Perhaps in Oxford?
The rain fell and I put on my wet weather gear. It took me four hours to reach Oxford. I stood on a bridge wondering whether to photograph a pub called The Head of the River when an attractive Italian girl called Sophia chatted me up. She must have mistaken me for a student as I was mostly hidden under several layers of Goretex. In about 30 seconds I learned the essentials. Sophia came from Rome and has lived in the UK for a year learning English. She lives in London which is a lonely city at the best of times but during lockdown she found no one with whom she could practice her English. Things being what they are, she abandoned the big city for a weekend in Oxford in the hope of meeting some nice people.
I briefly considered inviting Sophia along so I could learn some Italian but her tight fitting white jeans wouldn’t have worked on the moors. Also my whole family came out to meet me today and brought my nicely ironed clean shirts etc. I doubt they’d have been too impressed by the sight of the sumptuous Sophia assuming of course that the rain continued all day and I could have stayed hidden under my Goretex. I wished her good luck in Oxford and we swapped photos.
Loneliness is terrible as we all know.
My son Adam who lives near Oxford walked with me to Woodstock where Mandy and Sophie joined us for dinner.
Woodstock. The Summer of Love.
The old railway path
The Thames Path
Sophia can’t quite manage a selfie
Come on, Oxford!!