Tolkien Collector's Guide
Oxford trip report

Oxford trip report

Jun 1 (edited)

Day one

I landed in Heathrow at 1:30 PM local time on Thursday May 31st after a fast but uneventful 10 hour flight - fast in that we had a tail wind and so were approximately 40 minutes early. I managed perhaps 3 hours of sleep for the overnight flight, but excitement kept me going for the full afternoon and evening reasonably well.

The airport necessities thankfully went extremely smoothly - I was able to get off the plane, through immigration and customs and to the Central Bus Station by 2 PM and thus catch the 2:20 express bus to Oxford. My plans for lodging were to share an AirBnB house in Headington with friends from the US and UK, so I let them know I was on the bus and coming. Lynn Maudlin was coordinating much of the logistics, and let me know Bruce Meyer’s flight had been delayed and to see if we could find each other. Sadly, I saw no sign of him and didn’t get a response to my text message, so I settled in for a quiet 90 minute bus ride.

To my surprise Bruce got on at the Terminal 5 stop! We hadn’t seen each other since The last Mythopoeic Conference in Berkeley five or six years previously, so we had a wonderful chat for the ride into Headington, discussing recent acquisitions for our collections and what we hoped to do and see this weekend.

Bruce and I arrived in Headington around 3:45 and made our way on foot from the bus stop to our temporary residence, a local landmark called The Shark House. It is so called because there is a 10-12 foot long shark sculpture sticking out of the roof and visible from quite some distance - making it quite easy to find! I will add a picture soon as I forgot to take one upon arrival.

We were greeted by Lynn at the door, and came in to say our hello’s to many of our fellow travelers - Aelfwine (Carl Hostetter), Jason Fisher, Pat and Trevor Reynolds, and David Bratman. This was my first time meeting Pat and Trevor, which was quite a pleasure! I have known of them through the Tolkien Society for many years, but this was our first opportunity to chat. Everyone else I was friends with already through the Mythopoetic Society and prior MythCon meet ups.

After an hour and a half of wonderful and wide ranging discussions (I distinctly recall Jason’s pleasure at being able to have a good discussion of the merits of various citation methodologies with this crowd), and a quick shower and change into more appropriate attire, five of us set off in the rain for the invite-only reception and opening ceremony at the Weston Library at 6 PM.

Beren (Pieter Collier) was waiting for me at the entrance with my badge already in hand, as he and I had agreed - he was responsible for my invitation to the reception, for which I am extremely grateful! As the others in our group found their badges as well, Pieter and I went inside and immediately found Marcel Aubron-Bülles, another mutual friend whom I have known for years online but never met until now!

The reception was open for mixing and chatting from 6 until 6:30 before the opening speeches, and there were approximately 300 people attending so there was absolutely no way to even figure out who all was attending, let alone have any significant conversations, but it was quite fun and I had the chance to say hi to many wonderful people including a five minute chat with Priscilla Tolkien, and briefer pleasantries with Alan Lee, Brian Sibley and David Weeks, David Brawn from HarperCollins, Ian Collier, Alan and Louise Reynolds, Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, Cathleen Blackburn from the Estate, Tim Tolkien and a few other family members from Hilary’s side, and many others. Also seen from a distance were Baille, Royd and Michael Tolkien, Verlyn Flieger, Tom Shippey and a few more people I hoped to greet but never managed to.

At 6:30 or so, Richard Ovenden, Librarian at the Bodleian gave a speech to kick things off, thanking everyone involved from all over the world in the multi-year effort to bring this exhibition together, before handing the podium over to Michael Tolkien for the official opening statement. Both were great speakers. With the official opening done, we were allowed to view the exhibition and take advantage of the museum shop for the remainder of the evening.


D301C6EF-AADF-4C9C-85C3-843494EF0197.jpeg

It was mostly quite crowded in the exhibition as many people were only in the area for the evening, and since I am spending Friday at the exhibition as well, I don’t have detailed notes to share except that it was everything I hoped for, and the amount of material on display is incredible!

After the viewing I visited the shop a few times between various conversations, and was able to meet the wonderful sales staff (hi Lucy!) whom I have been corresponding with since last year in preparation for this visit. A few small purchases later (I will be back for more) and after delivering to Ian the books he had ordered from me (and hand carried from the USA) those of us not invited to the private dinner left to find some food in the torrential downpour.


A77E55BC-C3CF-4F47-BACF-61B6C97A4FB7.jpeg

Nearby we found a pub and were able to get food orders in just before the kitchen closed at 9 PM. It was myself, Pieter, Marcel, Ian, and David Bratman, joined by Daniel Helen, Anna Darnena, and Niamh Riordan from the Tolkien Society staff. After food and good conversation, and waiting for breaks in the rain, we disbursed to get to our various places to sleep.
Load previous replies
Jun 2
That was a lovely report. I almost felt like I was there, whatvwith the pics and detailed descriptions

Thanks, and looks like everyone had a wonderful time. So cheers to that!
Jun 3
(edited)
Day three

While everyone else in the house appeared to be sleeping in on Saturday morning, I headed out around 9 to catch the bus into town as I had tickets for 10 AM entry into the exhibition- my third viewing. The plan this time was to go in already me instead of with friends, and take some notes rather than just observing.

I had noted on Friday that the security team was asking attendees to not use pens when note taking, so I bought a pencil and a couple blank note pads in the Bodleian shop when it opened, and headed in. I filled an entire notebook cover to cover with my notes it turned out, and didn’t emerge for more than two hours - well beyond what I expected or knew! This caused me to miss a planned meet up at 11, and with no cell signal (for me) inside, I didn’t get the texts and voicemail until much too late. Obviously my viewing was productive though - I will be working my notes up into a full post next week, I can’t do them justice from my phone keyboard, and they would take much too long to deal with on my precious last day in Oxford.

Quick notes on highlights from this visit:
- The original artwork for The Death of Smaug is laying on Tolkien’s bureau (desk) rather than hanging on the walls like others. Be sure not to miss it! (But also, as one of my favorite Hobbit paintings, it was sadly hard to see clearly at the angle and distance allowed by the cabinet glass. )
- Tolkien’s Wartime Identity Card is interesting (mentioning his distinguishing feature as a “cauliflower ear”) is not in the exhibition catalog so be sure to spend an extra moment looking at it.
- “The Armada can wait but my bowels can’t” (see if you can find where Tolkien wrote that 😁)
- seeing Edith’s handwritten fair copy pages of “Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin” was quite touching
- I still can’t get enough of his maps, and it feels like all of the drafts are on display. Heaven! Be sure to spend an extra moment at the cabinet showing the “first” Lord of the Rings map (~1937-1949) and the “last” map (1969) displayed next to each other.
- I found Pauline Baynes’ second original art (“There and Back Again”) right at the entrance behind where a security person is typically standing, so don’t miss.
- love seeing “The Tree of Amalion” multiple times, it is one of my favorite Silmarillion pieces
- don’t miss the touch screen Middle-earth quiz in the lobby. It is between the cafe and the exhibit entrance, but facing the wall, on the back side of the interactive map for the Bodleian Library complex.


6D64FD0B-E0E8-49B0-BFA2-7F92B4B12318.jpeg

Met by chance with Alan and Wayne in the Bodleian shop, and then Louise and Christina who were in the lobby. Lunch was supposed to be at the Eagle and Child at 1:00, so I headed there with Wayne and Christina on a lovely walk around the back way, as we avoided a large parade. (Alan and Louise moved their car and met with us at the other end). As we were going to have 8+ people at the lunch gathering, we tried to find seating before the rest arrived, with no luck - the E&C is quite small. After gathering up and trying again, we gave up and crossed the street to the Lamb and Flag, where we took over the entire back room. The gathering grew organically to approximately 20 people but we all fit and were able to eat.


9A1F7AE8-DC8A-41E7-9D8F-5FDB2A7649D8.jpeg

Lunch finally petered our near 3 PM, and Marcel had managed an invite to the Strawberry Party being put on by Taruithorn, the Oxford Smial of the Tolkien Society being held in the Master’s Garden on the Christ Church College campus. Eight or so of us headed there and managed to get on campus (closed to visitors at the time) and make the Party. Strawberries and cream, and drinks involving Pim’s and conversations filled (for me) the next few hours, while a contingent went to a bookshop nearby as well.


64DE50B0-09DF-4F55-ABA5-B1575751EA08.jpeg

Jason Fisher joined Marcel and Carl and I around 5:30, and wanted to photograph some of the bits of Christ Church used as sets for the Harry Potter movies, so we (with some lovely assistance from Eleanor) managed the following pictures - during meal time, so apologies to the crowds of anonymous students in n the dining hall!


E89F03B6-6537-41D2-97A9-49C13E3F43BE.jpeg

6FA4EAB3-5B00-4FD5-9706-C7D716AEF730.jpeg

7B3FE8F1-235A-490F-9FEE-BEA8A035E0F2.jpeg
Dinner was at the Mitre (sausages and mash) for six of us, then more conversation for Jason, Marcel, John Garth and I at The Head of the River, not leaving until 11. Conversation continued for the 10 or so of us at the Shark House common room until 2 AM, (though I was struggling to stay awake for most of it) when I said goodbye to Marcel who had to find his way back to his hotel in Oxford City Center. Hope you made it! The rest of us all went to bed.

1_5b13b6ef45c30.jpeg 2448X3264 px
Jun 3
Awesome write-ups, Jeremy. Really wish I could have been down for the opening, but your posts make up for that... a little.

Super envious!

BH
Jun 10
Delayed due to travel and a bad cold (and coming back to a work email box overfull...)

Day four

Sunday started with no plan for me except to wander and discover a bit. A quick read of fellow house-guest's John Garth's Telegraph review of the exibition started off the day.

IMG_5825.JPG

Having gotten 6 hours or so of sleep (a new record for this trip!) and spending some time in the Shark common room chatting, some options coalesced. The goal was now to do a short excursion (perhaps an hour or so) with John Garth and Jason Fisher, then return to the Shark for lunch, and then tour some landmarks around Oxford. Perhaps tea with some more people who were seeing the exhibition again in the early afternoon, then dinner at The Mitre. Sounded good!

The three of us walked over to John’s former neighbor’s house and obtained a car for the excursion. We had a great conversation on the drive out, a lovely hike and climb, and saw the Uffington White Horse on the horizon (clearly with binoculars we were able to borrow). Can’t say more at the moment, but it was lovely.


IMG_5826.JPG

No WC (loo, bog, and sundry other terms I heard this trip) was present, so we needed to stop in town before heading back. Given the time and the day (Sunday), it was decided that finding a carvery would be quite nice. We each had a giant plate of meat and roasted vegetables of some many sorts, and enjoyed the warm sunny day eating them out on the patio.

It was almost three o’clock when we were back in the Oxford environs at this point, so we were definitely a bit off plan. Still wanted to see landmarks though, and were supposed to be joining up with Sue Dawe. A brief stop at the Bodleian shop to buy a few final items and join with her, we ran across Marcel as well, so we set off on foot and by car.

3 Manor Rd.


IMG_5891.JPG
IMG_5892.JPG

99 Holywell St. (That's Jason showing us about how wide the doorway is)

IMG_5897.JPG
IMG_5904.JPG

21 Merton St.

IMG_5908.JPG

A brief stop at The Eastgate Hotel (an Inkling's hangout before remodel) which has "The Library" Lounge and Bar, and a bit of Tolkien and Lewis scattered about.


IMG_5910.JPG
IMG_5911.JPG
IMG_5912.JPG

Then on to 22 (and 20) Northmoor Rd. The next house over was being rebuilt by a construction company with a dragon as a logo, so I could not resist the superposition.

IMG_5915.JPG
IMG_5923.JPG

After this was a visit to Wolvercote cemetary, with Beren and Luthien's grave, along with Jon Francis Reuel Tolkien and Humphrey Carpenter.


IMG_5943.JPG
IMG_5946.JPG
IMG_5949.JPG
IMG_5952.JPG

Then, on to the Kilns to visit C.S. Lewis' home. Marcel and I posed with the Kilns copy of Bandersnatch in order to send to Diana Glyer, and the four stooges posed for a picture near the pond (with Sue taking this photo).

IMG_5975.JPG
IMG_5965.JPG

A late dinner, another late evening talking, and an early morning rise on Monday to catch the bus for Heathrow and a full day trip home. A wonderful trip!

As an aside for those few of you who have read this far - my raincoat was supposed to come on this trip with me and enjoy all of the sights, but it abandoned me on Thursday evening and did not return until Sunday night just before our return home. I asked it what happened, and here is what I was told.

Coat Trip 2018

My promised cultural trip to Oxford was cut short, due to a case of mistaken identity. I can’t deny that was alcohol was involved, not me as a teetotal but I can say you can’t trust members of the TS not to overindulge in free champagne!

Thursday 31st May - So there I was drinking in the history of the Flask, drying off from the month of rain that had fallen that day. When I found myself being ‘coatnapped’.

Friday 1st June - First stop was Kingston-upon-Thames, placed in the back of the car, there was a long journey. I found out that a lot of English people like to sit stationery in their car on the M25 before getting to work. I got to see Hampton Court on route to Kingston, which was bathing in sunshine. Sunglasses on, lots of sun lotion as I took a tour of the town centre, and a stroll down the Thames (which Kingston is upon). Then a journey back and more sitting still on M25. It was an early night as I was expecting to be united with Jeremy in the morning. Nice to be away but with the uncertainty of going home ever in my mind.

Saturday 2nd June - up early as we were off to Oxford, excited to be going ‘home’ although I had enjoyed my little adventure. Trains delayed, seems that the British haven’t quite got this train things sorted. So train very busy although we managed to get a seat, phew!

My plan was to see the Tolkien exhibition, which I was so looking forward to see. First, there was to be another coat repatriation - the coat I was assumed to be. Carfax was the destination. Carfax is worth a visit, you can climb up the tower and look over Oxford. Oxford looks its best in the golden sun.

Due to poor mobile coverage, I didn’t get to see the exhibition or be returned. For all Americans, be aware mobile coverage is can be very patchy in Oxford.

So back on the train back to the Cotswold countryside. Placed safety in the back of the car, we went off to Burton-upon-water. A lovely village, with a stream running through it that tourist flock to. There are ducks, Birdland, which has penguin and animals that are not birds, a maze, motor museum and a model village. Lots to do. We had fish and chips, sat by the the stream. A drive through the winding roads back to my temporary digs, showed me how lovely the English countryside is. Rolling countryside, full of bees and butterflies.

Sunday 3rd June - We have heard from Jeremy, there are sort of plans that I will be dropped off at Headington that evening. But before then, it’s off to London. Proper London, central London. There are palaces - Kensington and Buckingham, parks - Hampstead, Hyde, Regent, Kensington and Holland. I get to see Harrods but no time to go in, maybe next time.

London is big, very big and full of people. The summer is definitely the time to visit. Well the summer when it’s not raining. Now a drive back to Oxford. Slight nightmare to get out of London as it seems that the whole population is heading out on the A40.

I now heading back home to the Shark House. Everyone in Oxford knows the Shark House. It has a fibreglass shark hanging out of the roof, you can’t miss it.

Releve to be back as we are off to America tomorrow!

Overview :: 4 stars :: Despite the coatnapping I enjoyed the impromptu trip
Accommodation :: 3 stars :: lots of room at nights but little cramped during the days
when the dogs got in
Value for money :: 5 Stars :: as I wasn’t charged


(Thanks Niamh for taking such good care! )
Sep 21
Arrived in Oxford this afternoon for the Bodleian Exhibition & Oxonmoot tomorrow. Drive down from Glasgow was good, bad, then good. Roads & traffic north of Manchester are chronic; 50 miles took 3 hours. After setting off just before 8 o'clock, I thought I'd make Oxford in good time to wander about & then go to the Bodleian for the 4pm slot I'd booked. Ended up arriving at 3:45! Yikes. Funny, I dumped the car in the town on the street (parking pretty limited in Oxford) & when I got out to buy a ticket noticed I'd parked right outside a pub...

Anyway, exhibition is great. I thought the timeslots were half an hour (that's what the ticket says: 4:00-4:30); but the 4pm slot is the last of the day, so I was in the full hour til the 5pm close. So many interesting items...
Sep 21
Also, I overhead someone talking to one the members of staff & he mentioned "Paris & Berlin" in respect to the exhibition. Did I mishear?
Sep 21
From https://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/news/2018/sep-19 :

In late 2019, the Bodleian Libraries and Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF), Paris will collaborate on the largest Tolkien exhibition ever to be held in France, and the first BNF exhibition to ever be held on a non-French author.


So far the BNF and Bodleian have been cagey as to what will be shown at this exhibition - it will be a small portion of the Bodleian collection and other materials from the BNF and elsewhere from what I have gathered so far.

I have not heard anything substantive about Berlin yet, but will ask around some more. That would be interesting!
Sep 21
He mentioned Paris, Berlin, & somewhere else European. Can't recall where though. This wasn't a private conversation; he was speaking to a small group standing around that central interactive map thing. If I'm there again tomorrow I'll ask.
Sep 22
Do ask! I am wondering if the 3D map installation might travel by itself more widely as it is pretty nifty to look at, and not a valuable archival piece (still not an inexpensive installation, but wouldn't need security and glass case, etc.)
Sep 22
Indeed, maybe; it actually makes more sense that he was only referring to that instillation. Went to the exhibition again today, paying close attention to the opened diary page, as directed by garm ;)

Talks have finished now; Garth's talk was certainly the highlight. Those going to private viewing are heading off just now. I appear to be going the pub with garm at this point...
Jump to Last