Once more, a good friend of mine came over for the weekend. Living in a one-horse town outside of Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is perpetually deprived of the enjoyments of yuppie life in the big city, and he's all too aware of it. When the pain becomes unbearable, he hops into a plane and crashes in London. A weekend of fun is guaranteed for both of us.
This time around, he had rented a car and on Saturday, we drove to Oxford, forty miles from London. Ignorant of the attractions of the city, we just enjoyed the charms of its cuteness. It's full of old limestone houses with a forest of spires and chimneys and façades laced with carved-stone spouts and unique ornaments. Many of these building belong to one or another of the colleges of Oxford University.
Traffic is seriously restricted in town. People walk, and bikes are parked everywhere. There is a small river when you can row, though people had other things in mind in February. Coffee, for example. We found the Queen's Lane Coffee House, according to legend (though not Wikipedia) the first place in Europe to serve this novel concoction so beloved by the Ottomans. I had tea, the traditional way with scones and clotted cream. A treat I should indulge in more often.
At night, back in London, we went to a Spanish bar to some DJ's birthday party, to drink and be merry – and to speak Spanish. This latter part worked well enough to connect with some guys to go to another bar when the first one closed, a hybrid between a night club and a hang-out. Five pounds got us beautiful people, happy bartenders and joyful music. By time we left, a few Tanqueray tonics and spins on the dance floor later and thoroughly exhausted, the last tube had long returned to the depot.
As we were near Oxford Street, there was no reason to worry. Even in the middle of the night, buses run to all places at the rate of three an hour. It was easy to see why. Oxford Street looked like a mid-size town's center on a Sunday afternoon. It was full of people walking in every which direction, coming out of clubs or going to the next party. Fast-food places were open at every corner and bus stops full of night-owls. Close your eyes and the illusion was perfect. It was warmer than it should be on a February afternoon. It was 3:30. We decided to forgo the bus and walk home, across Oxford Circus, along Marble Arch and Hyde Park, through Notting Hill and by Holland Park. An hour later, we were in Shepherd's Bush and collapsed in our beds shortly thereafter.
Despite this nocturnal action, the most memorable moment of the weekend had developed earlier during the day, just when we beheld Radcliff Camera and the adjacent Bodleian Library. My friends looks at me and ask: "Andreas, did we ever pay in the coffee shop?" Well, we hadn't. We had just got up and proceeded to amble through idyllic Oxford for half an hour. Afraid that the police were already canvassing town for two disgraceful bilks, we scurried back. We avoided the SWAT team and got back to the coffee shop unnoticed and unstopped. The guy who had served us was delighted to see us again and present us with the bill. He laughed the whole story off, as – to tell the truth – we had on our way back there.
Always pay for your coffee, my friends.