The unremorseful day

December 2, 2019

The ivy covered walls of Oxford University

Keeping up with this idea of unknown unknowns to the point of belaboring it (as we say in New Orleans, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing), Carol and I arrived in Oxford with no thought of signing up for any sort of walking tour of the city. After all, I had spent six weeks here in 1971 matriculating in a summer program at Oxford University’s Exeter College. So the visit to the city began very much as a known known. I simply wanted to show Carol that I was once an Oxford scholar.

The last time I went through this door was in July, 1971

“So it’s no guarantee of later success,” Carol said elliptically. And that’s how I discovered the Inspector Morse, Endeavor and Inspector Lewis walking tour. But let’s circle back to my Oxford scholar days first, shall we?

In the spring of 1971, and perhaps because I was one of only a few who knew about it, and further, because I was one of even fewer who had no summer job, nor any plans to find one, I was awarded a stipend by the well-meaning, but seriously undiscerning English Speaking Union to be one of about fifty “academics” from around Europe and the U.S. to gather at the hallowed, ivy-covered walls of Oxford University in order to…

That’s as far as I can remember about my brief stint as a world class intellectual. But the girls were all cute, the singing pubs were lively and, fortunately, there were no exams or papers to write. So let’s move on now to Inspector Morse.

The dining room where we all nearly starved

I enjoyed the irascible detective who drank, if not to excess, at least throughout his working day. The TV series Inspector Morse ran from 1987 to 1993, but I didn’t discover it until well after both the character and the actor portraying Morse, John Thaw, had died. Then came the spinoff Lewis and the prequel Endeavor. I’ve been a fan of them, and have been enthusiastically introducing all of them to Carol, usually after answering her query, “Isn’t there anything else on?” in the negative.

The Turf Inn, a pub where Inspector Morse and Detective Lewis would pop in for a pint.

So imagine my surprise when the walking tour included a stop at my old stomping grounds of Exeter College, which happened to be the site of several scenes from both the Morse and Endeavor series. The quad was just as I had remembered it (minus the empty beer cans) the lounge where we had our farewell record party (minus the wine bottles), the dining room where we were forcibly starved (and still absent of any sign of food) and the chapel (that we never saw the inside of). This day, the dining  room was closed to visitors (as it had been closed to serving food in my day). But as I was an “alumnus,” I was given free reign to explore and remember. It just made me hungry all over again.

I know most of you are thinking,”Poor Carol. Oxford was all about Reid and his so-called intellectual past.” But as Carol pointed out, as I continued to gush about my experiences here, “In other words, you didn’t crack a book the whole time.”

Maybe some of my supposed unknowns unknowns have been known knowns all along.

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