“If this is love…there is something highly ridiculous about it.”
Virginia Woolf, Orlando
After the crowded late-Summer bustle of Brighton, Oxford seemed full only of ghosts if it was full of anything: the streets wide and empty, the people, when they came, very quiet. Gone were the calls of the Hare Krishna as they marched, the yelps of excited babes and the storms of hip young traffic. All old; all calm.
As I sat waiting for the clouds to part overhead (they showed some inclination to do so just over Blackwell’s), it seemed to me that all of Oxford was bathed in the most precious of blue-grey light, which made the walls shimmer and the air, though quite cool, as in a dream.
At last I began to feel cold, sitting there on the steps, and glancing idly to my left saw that tiny pub, The White Horse, and thought, just as idly, that I could go and sit in the warmth and have a half-pint of cider and be quite content for a time, especially with a book; and so struck was I with the idea that I leapt up almost at once and began to make towards the place, whose windows glowed appealingly yellow. I was tired of sitting on the hard stone, of watching everyone on their way, of being unmoving; tired of waiting for a friend or acquaintance to pass, and quickly, happily, found myself inside where all smelled of wood and ale. It was warm, too, and this warmth meant a great deal to me, for all the air of summer seemed to have been bled from the day, leaving only a soft Autumnal chill and a grey haze over the city. I asked for a half of cider.
“Just a half?” said the barman, but without any humour. I might easily have been cajoled into a pint by a cheerier ‘tender, but so dry seemed this one that I simply said:
“Yes, just a half,” and took it and sipped, and sat down upon a high bench near the window.