There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie


Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.
~Rumi


May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Two of the beautiful Oxford Christmas cards 
available at the Oxford University Store--
on the High Street or online.


New College in winter.


Magdalen College Choir

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

IROQUOIS PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING


We return thanks to our mother,
The earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams
Which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines
For the cures of our diseases.
We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters,
The beans, the squashes, which give us life.
We return thanks to the bushes and trees,
Which provide us with fruit.
We return thanks to the wind,
Which, moving in the air, has banished diseases.
We return thanks to the moon and starts,
Which have given us their light when the sun was gone.
We return thanks to our grandfather He-no,
That has protected his grandchildren from witches and reptiles,
And has given us the rain.
We return thanks to the sun,
That he has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.
Lastly we return thanks to the Great Spirit,
In whom is embodied all goodness,
And who directs all things for the good of his children.


THE IROQUOIS NATION is a nation of first peoples of North America made up of six nations that called themselves The Ganonsyoni.  The five, and later six, tribes came together as a League of Iroquois, which means the league of peace and power.  The legend is that two men, Dekanawida or The Great Peacemaker, and Hiawatha came together to bring The Great Law of Peace to the fractional tribes.
Their great nation stretched from Canada, down through the Great Lakes, and through the Allegheny mountains into Kentucky and Virginia. They also celebrated a great harvest festival of Thanksgiving.




Sunday, 24 November 2013

Of Tortoises and Colleges

Change in Oxford moves at a snail's pace or slower, if that's possible.  To give you some idea, New College is still called New College, even though it was founded in 1379.  I once read a short story by one of the Turl Street Writers, Linora Lawrence, called The Tortoises of Turl Street.  The tortoises run shops on Turl Street, live in Balliol College, and end up tunneling under Broad Street to get about between colleges.  Slowly, ever so slowly, at a tortoise's pace of course, they move through the underpinnings of the University, slow to react, slow to change, plodding on as tortoises do.


Lincoln College Quad

Because change in Oxford is measured over centuries, rather than decades, there are habits, traditions, and rules that people follow and cling to, while having no clue why.  There's an unyielding rule that runs through every college except Hertford, that no one is allowed to walk on the grass in college quads except *fellows......and the Queen.  Tourists step off the paths in the college quads at their peril, because college porters will let no infraction of this rule go unnoticed.  There are myths and stories surrounding this rule, but no one really knows the reason why and I doubt this rule will ever change.  One day it will only be fellows and King George who can walk on the college lawns.

One of our frequent guests, a student at New College in the 1940's, told us a story that I think perfectly illustrates the tortoise-like pace of change in Oxford.  A group of fellows were discussing at length the plan to install baths/showers in the student quarters.  One of the more senior fellows, who had been snoozing with a pipe in the corner and who no one thought was paying any attention, suddenly said "A bath?!?  A bath for the students???  Why they're only here eight weeks!!"

After living in Oxford for awhile now, I understand the plodding tortoise pace at which the colleges function, and it didn't surprise me at all when I came across the following New College rules:
New College Lane

*Members of the college are to speak Latin at all times.
*Members of the college are not to keep a dog, ferret, hawk, or any other bird of prey.
*Members of the college are to attend mass every day clad in gown and cowl and fur-lined hood, and reciting Ave Maria 50 times on bended knee.


*Members of the college are not to make comparison between men of the south, the north, and of Scotland. 
*After dinner graduates and fellows may return to work, but undergraduates are to go straight to bed.
*Members of the college who break these rules may be denied food.

...........and luckily, even though these rules are still on the books they aren't enforced, or every student at New College would be gaunt, thin, and pale having been 'denied food' for weeks.  And, as far as I know thank goodness, there have been no recent skirmishes between the 'men of the south, the north, and of Scotland'.

*A fellow is an incorporated member of the University, including professors, researchers, and visiting professors.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

THE CHRISTMAS TREE IS
UP IN THE OLD SCHOOLS QUAD

OF THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY,
IN TIME FOR THIS WEEKEND'S
CHRISTMAS LIGHT CELEBRATION

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Covered Market at Christmas





Oxford's Covered Market has been standing, tucked between Market Street and the High Steet, for over two hundred years. Throughout the year it's filled with the sights and smells of flowers, butchers, fish-mongers, bakers, leather shoes, and Cotswold Lavender.  Whenever I'm out shopping, even though I might not need anything from any of the shops, I walk through just for the wonderful smells.  








As I walk in off Market Street, Cardew's on the left greets me with a heady mixture of Earl Grey, Darjeeling, and delicate coffee smells.  Then Brown's Cafe on the right mixes in it's all day breakfast, followed by the Oxford Cake Shop's vanilla and marzipan.









It's a magical spot all through the year but it's at Christmas that the market really shines and comes alive.  As the season of Advent begins, the halls of the market start filling with lights, Christmas trees, and red-bowed wreaths.  With each week the bustle increases and the racks that hang from the ceiling over the butcher shops start to fill with fat geese and turkeys that would make Bob Cratchet's children clap with joy.  As Christmas draws closer even wild boar, that will grace a college high table, will appear at a butcher's door, as well as venison.  By the time Christmas arrives, the market feels like stepping back into the world of Dickens, and you almost expect to see Tiny Tim and Bob coming around a corner.

The Christmas Lunch Cake

One of the most popular shops is the cake shop at the north-east corner of the market, where they craft very special, one-of-a kind cakes for weddings and celebrations.  Their artistry has grown in the past 25 years since they opened, and the windows are often lined with tourists taking pictures and marvelling at their skill, crafting cakes that look too beautiful to cut into.

An entire afternoon can easily be spent wandering through the halls, from tasting luxury chocolate to getting a haircut, and from trying on a pair of riding boots to buying Oxford Blue Cheese.  Savour the smells of loose-leaf tea at Cardew's and try on a hat at The Hat Box.  At the end of the day treat yourself to one of Ben's marvellously hot and fresh cookies or sit down for a cup of afternoon tea at Brown's Cafe.

The Market is located between the High Street & Market Street, and Turl & Cornmarket Street.  Opening hours are Monday-Saturday 9am-5:30pm, and Sundays 10am-4pm.


Friday, 4 October 2013

HIGHCLERE CASTLE CHRISTMAS FAIR
December 4th and 5th, 2013 (sold out)


Last year Stuart and I were lucky  enough to get tickets to the Christmas Fair held every December at Highclere Castle.   On Thursday morning Stuart must have had a rare moment of fleeting intuition, because out of the blue he asked if I'd gotten tickets for it yet.  Still suffering from jet lag from my trip back to the U.S. last month, the Christmas Fair had slipped my mind.  The tickets are sought-after and sell like hot-cakes, so I had a moment's panic that we'd missed out due to my foggy, jet-lagged brain.

But not to worry, Stuart's intuition was spot on the day, and they went on sale just that afternoon, so we were able to grab our two tickets as fast as we could.  Unfortunately within 2 days all the tickets were sold out, so if you didn't make it this year, plan on it next year.  It's always the first week in December..........and you can read all about last year's Fair below, posted last December.

Originally published December 7, 2012


A while back I wrote about succumbing to the phenomenon that is Downton Abbey.  I resisted it for nearly two years, but in a fit of homesickness for England while I was back in the states, I broke down and watched every episode of both seasons back to back in one week.  Once I returned home I was determined to make the pilgrimage to Highclere Castle where much of the series is filmed.  It's only a forty minute drive from Oxford, so I knew it would be a nice afternoon out.

Unfortunately by the time I started looking into buying tickets to tour the house, they were closed for the season.  Fortunately though, I found something even better.  Every year Highclere puts on a Christmas Fair in aid of the Air Ambulance Service.  It's two days where tables are set up throughout the house selling things that are either Christmasy, lovely, or yummy.  I jumped on the chance and bought tickets for Stuart and I to go to the afternoon session--the morning tickets were already sold out but luckily there were a few left for the afternoon.

We weren't sure what to expect of the Christmas Fair, but driving up the long drive to the house on a frosty winter morning, we were enchanted right from the start.  There were carollers in the great entrance hall and Countess Carnarvon was there signing copies of her book, The Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey.  Everyone was in a jolly, festive mood and we were able to find some special Christmas gifts for the people still left on our list.  We came home with delicious peppermint fudge from Marsden's Fudge and homemade, scrummy cakes from Cakes by Katie B.


Lady Edith's bedroom in Downton Abbey
In between looking at all the beautiful things to buy, we oohed and ahhed at the house.  I especially loved looking at all the family photographs scattered everywhere--pictures of the Carnarvon family dating back to the 20's and many of them looked like they could have stepped right out of Downton Abbey.  I even spotted a small photo with Princess Diana in it, shiningly beautiful, a guest at a wedding.  We also were able to tour the bedrooms upstairs--rooms that are Countess Cora's, Lady Edith's, and Lady Sybil's bedrooms in the series.  I admit it, I took a photograph inside the house (with my iPhone and the flash off), which you aren't supposed to do, but I couldn't resist.

With our purchases in hand and out of cash, we headed 'belowstairs' to the servant's quarters and kitchens, where lunch awaited.  We sat at a large, long table and ate our pasties and roast turkey--and I half expected to look across the table and see Mr. Bates or Thomas scheming with O'Brien.  As we walked out of the servant's dining room we stopped to inspect the 'modern' bell system for ringing servants.  Each room was labeled--the Steam Room, the Library, bedrooms, bathrooms, morning rooms, smoking rooms, and on and on.  I imagined that many times it was lit up like a Christmas tree and I wondered how they kept from trampling each other as they ran up and down the narrow 'belowstairs' corridors.

Stuart on the newfangled
house phone.










We hated to leave the festivities--and the warmth of the house.  It was too bitterly cold to walk through the gardens but we promised each other we'd return in the summer to walk the grounds and the gardens.  If you'd like to visit next year's Christmas fair, tickets go on sale early October--maybe we'll see you there, since we intend to make it a yearly event every Christmas.  

A blurry picture of
the great hall--taken
quickly, but you get
the idea.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

A Small Act of Kindness

No act of kindness, no matter how small,
is ever wasted.    ~Aesop

Holywell Bed and Breakfast is a traditional English b&b.  We're different than a guest house or an inn, because Stuart and I live in our b&b, it's our home.  Welcoming perfect strangers into your home could be fraught with peril, but I can happily say that 99.9999% of our guests are lovely, honest, and a pleasure to host.  Which of course leaves that 0.0001%.


Last week one of the 0.0001% showed up and when that happens, it can shake your faith in humanity.  I won't go into the gory details of how they tried to sneak a second occupant into what was booked as a single room, or the condition they left the room and bathroom.  Let's just say I was ready to get on the next plane home.

BUT the morning they checked out, I received this email, which shored up my flagging spirits and stopped me from getting on a plane back to the U.S.:

Good Day
I was recently in Oxford on holiday and came across your B and B place while I was busy exploring the city.  Just wanted to send you an email and say I was quite impressed with the look of your place.  If it's as well kept inside as it is on the outside then it must be quite a good place to stay.

I've attached a photo I took of your front entrance as I was walking past.  
This is probably one of my favourite photos from my trip.
Best regards,



So thank you kind stranger, you made my day!

Constant kindness can accomplish much.  As the sun makes the ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
~Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Magical Books

"Oxford, where the real and the unreal jostle in the streets....."
~ Philip Pullman

23 May ~ 27 October 2013, Bodleian Library, Oxford

At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise — a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had broken a giant’s plate…. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end; and there was no Aslan.
“Who’s done it?” cried Susan. “What does it mean? Is it more magic?”
“Yes!” said a great voice from behind their backs. “It is more magic.” They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
“Oh, Aslan!” cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad….
“But what does it all mean?” asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.”  ~L.W.&W, C.S. Lewis
"Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most
inexhaustible source of magic.  Capable of both
inflicting injury, and remedying it."
~ Prof. Albus Dumbledore


“Symbols and emblems were everywhere. Buildings and pictures were designed to be read like books. 
~Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass


"Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found.  I found that it is the small, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the 
darkness at bay.  Small acts of kindness and love."
~Gandolf, JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit

“On the day of the dead, when the year too dies,
Must the youngest open the oldest hills
Through the door of the birds, where the breeze breaks.
There fire shall fly from the raven boy,
And the silver eyes that see the wind,
And the light shall have the harp of gold.

By the pleasant lake the Sleepers lie,
On Cadfan’s Way where the kestrels call;
Though grim from the Grey King shadows fall,
Yet singing the golden harp shall guide
To break their sleep and bid them ride.
When light from the lost land shall return,
Six Sleepers shall ride, six Signs shall burn,
And where the midsummer tree grows tall
By Pendragon’s sword the Dark shall fall."

Y maent yr mynyddoedd yn canu,
ac y mae’r arglwyddes yn dod.” 
~ Susan Cooper, The Dark Is Rising Sequence

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

What a difference four months makes...........
Jowett Walk February to June.

Monday, 3 June 2013

New College Choir ~ Oxford

“Whenever there is stillness there is the still small voice, God's speaking from the whirlwind, nature's old song, and dance...” ~ Annie Dillard






Thursday, 30 May 2013

Oxfordshire Spring


"And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty's heightening."
~ Matthew Arnold

As beautiful as the 'dreaming spires' of Oxford are, I often long for the countryside.




Eastern Washington skyline
A country girl at heart, I'm used to the wide open spaces and big sky of the American West, especially the skies of Eastern Washington where I've lived most of my adult life.



The foothills and valleys of Eastern Washington

Oxfordshire, May 2013
The wonderful thing, and it's saving grace for me, is that Oxford is surrounded by countryside and within a ten minute drive the sky starts to open up, green fields appear, and I feel as though I can breathe again.



Every two weeks or so, Stuart and I point the car west on the A40, so I can get my sky/green field fix.  He never complains though, especially since there's always scones, clotted cream, and strawberry jam waiting for us wherever we end up.


The brook that gives Swinbrook it's name.
Last week we had German friends staying with us who come every year for two weeks, to walk in and around Oxford and the Cotswolds.  We invited them along for our fortnightly foray into the countryside and showed them what Stuart and I think is our perfect afternoon off. It began with afternoon tea and a wander around the Burford Garden Centre, followed by a walk from Swinbrook to St. Oswald's Church, and ended with a wonderful meal at the Maytime Pub in Asthall Leigh.



As we left Asthall Leigh, we stopped by the side of the road to say hello to some lambs. Lambs really do 'frolic', so we just had to stop and watch.  It was a magically quiet evening as we watched them hop and skip about, and all seemed well with the world, surrounded by a quiet, spring countryside.





Swinbrook, Oxfordshire, May 2013

The phone box in Swinbrook, enveloped in Queen Anne's Lace.

Lamp-post leading up to St. Mary's Church, Swinbrook,
although I think one day it may lead to Narnia (I'll keep checking).
"This is the land of Narnia, where we are now, and all that lies between
the lamp-postand the great castle of Cair Paravel on the Eastern Sea."
~Mr Tumnus, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Chapter Two

St. Mary's Church yard
"Each thing is of like form from everlasting
and comes round again in it's cycle."
~ Marcus Aurelius

The Maytime, Asthall Leigh

Sunday, 19 May 2013

An Oxford May Morning Walk

"What potent blood hath modest May."  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Holywell Cemetary, St. Cross Road, Oxford
"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

English Bluebells
"I'll wait for you under the bluebells.  I'll be there always."
~ Kim Harrison

Oxford, May 2013
"Now every field is clothed with grass,
and every tree with leaves;
now the woods put forth their blossoms,
and the year assumes it's gay attire."
~Virgil


"And spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of it's wintry rest."
~Percy Bysshe Shelley -- Student at University College, Oxford, 1810

Queen Anne's Lace, Holywell Cemetary, Oxford, May 2013
"April showers bring forth May flowers. "  ~ English Proverb


"Each flower is a soul blossoming out to nature."  ~ Gerard de Neval


"Where flowers bloom so does hope."  ~ Lady Bird Johnson

Eastman House, Jowett Walk, Oxford, May 2013

" Now that the lilacs are in bloom
She has a bowl of lilacs in her room."
~ T.S. Eliot -- Merton College, Oxford, 1914

St. Cross Road, Oxford, May 2013
"Wisteria is my favorite flowering vine.  Do you know why?'
I shook my head.  'No, ma'am'
'Because it's strong, just like me."
~ Beth Hoffman, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt