Not often you can fit all those things into a blog post, but today I can.
A few days ago we were in Gibraltar, and now it seems that we are moored in Jericho! My, how Herbie gets around. Since being here we have been learning a lot about the middle east, because we spent most of yesterday in the Ashmolean musem. Looking at some of the stuff in there it reminds us how late in the day the Western world achieved “civilisation” compared with the middle east. Some of the artefacts there, 5000 or more years old, show an amazing grasp of technology and craftsmanship.
In a more modern area I stood inches from The Messiah, a famous Stradivarius violin – presumably worth a large fortune. The funny thing about violins in particular is that their quality isn’t really all that apparent to the casual observer. A Strad looks much the same as an instrument worth 100 times less. Violins don’t normally have fancy decoration, it’s all about the craftsmanship and the wood.
According to an elderly gentleman I met on the towpath, we are moored opposite what used to be al large steel foundry. Maybe it was there because it had access to the canal. Now it’s a posh residential apartment complex. I suspect the canal, now cleaned up, is also an attraction for the residents of the apartments and contributes to their high rental value. The Oxford tourist blurb described Jericho as the Bohemian part of the city. I dare say many will regret the passing of the industry and the gentrification of the area. I leave it to you to decide.
You could look at the old craftsmanship in the museums and at the loss of industry and think that we are losing our skills. I don’t think so. In many ways we are returning to an older era when the craftsman works for himself rather than big companies. You don’t have to look very far these days to find craft potters, musical instrument makers, jewellery makers, craft brewers, boat fitters and sign writers and so on. None of them are getting rich though.
Back in Jericho, just up the road, we found the Victoria pub which turns out to be a real gem. Victorian decor, an upstairs gallery and low lighting, it has a great ambience (or ambulance as we usually say). Probably the comfiest pub we have visited this year. We sat for hours reading the Sunday papers provided on the bar. A bit difficult as our table was lit by candle light!
For our final day in Oxford today, we are going to do some more museum-ing at the Pitt Rivers and the Natural History. We shall be in danger of being erudite one of these days.