‘Perched atop a state of privileged seclusion from the facts and practicalities of the real world, Oxfordshire looks down its nose at the unnecessary bustle below, before adjusting its dressing gown and absentmindedly placing a slice of pancetta as a bookmark in a crusty anthology of Keats.’
To underpin its highbrow thinking, Oxfordshire boasts more libraries per person than any other county in England. These magnificent temples of knowledge provide students with an unrivalled facility in which they can eat sandwiches, have sex and steal newspapers in ruthlessly preserved silence. Yet despite being an area of sustained and world-famous academic prowess, Oxfordshire has not produced anything with a practical application since 1743, with the development of the undergraduate cosh.
Embracing its faithfulness to make-believe, quiet devotion to gowns and abundance of long dining tables, Oxfordshire has skilfully positioned itself as the spiritual home of the Harry Potter series. Undergraduates called up to the university are required to purchase a familiar, or fag, who accompanies them at all times to carry out menial tasks. The sorting hat, played by the sitting Vice Chancellor, is then placed on their head to determine which of the university’s thirty-eight colleges they are to enrol in. After three or four years of wizard scrapes, many eventually go on to join Harry, Hermione and Ron in the Shadow Cabinet.
- LANGUAGES – English, French, Serbo-Croat, Chinese, Japanese, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Parseltongue, Elvish, Vulcan
- EYESIGHT – Destroyed by excessive reading
- PICTURESQUE-ITUDE – 9/10
- LANDSCAPE – Lingering wide angle shots of colleges, meadows, sodding dreaming bloody spires
- CUISINE – Sandwiches, cereal, free-range kebab vans
- HAZARDS – Bicycle crime, Dementors
- IMPORTS – Highly-strung attention seekers
- EXPORTS – Britain’s political class
1167 – Oxford University begins to grow rapidly after Henry II bans English students from attending the University of Paris amid fears that it has access to books other than the Why King Henry is Great series.
13th Century – The Provisions of Oxford are instigated by a group of barons led by Simon de Montfort. Often regarded as England’s first written constitution, its later misinterpretation teaches future politicians never again to write anything incriminating down.
1355 – As many as 93 students are killed in the St Scholastica Day riot after a series of failed attempts to repel attacking townspeople with persuasively argued essays on the hollowness of anarchy.
1517 – Killing half of the city’s population, a ‘sweating sickness’ epidemic devastates Oxford after students and dons are found to be incapable of inventing the fan.
1555 – Bishops Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer are tried for heresy and subsequently burnt at the stake for their religious beliefs and teachings, which included the idea that burning bishops was definitely not cool.
1912 – Morris Motors is founded in Oxford, bringing revolutionary safety features such as the incredibly low top speed within the reach of working class motorists.
1954 – Roger Bannister, a disorganised 25-year old medical student, runs the first authenticated four-minute mile at the Iffley Road running track, before going on to complete the first three-minute mile between Iffley Road running track and the start of his morning shift at John Radcliffe Hospital.
Did You Know?
Prime Minister David Cameron occasionally returns to his small and well-heeled constituency in Witney, in order to him keep in touch with the relatively common man.
By law, all pictures of Oxford’s skyline must be accompanied by the phrase ‘dreaming spires’ and a tired reference to Inspector Morse. (Caption: ‘Endeavouring’ to shoehorn in another crap Morse remark)
Henley is world famous for rowing. Each summer Henley Royal Regatta is held on Henley Reach, which along with Ascot and Wimbledon is a key event in the summer calendar for ill-advised hat choosers.
Banbury hosts a unique gathering of traditional mock animals, from around the UK, at the annual Banbury Hobby Horse Festival, an event which is definitely not in any way a cry for help.
Stately pile Blenheim Palace, built for the Duke of Marlborough after he won the Battle of Blenheim, was also the birthplace of Winston Churchill who during his time in the house had nothing to offer but his blood, toil, tears and poo.
Singer Dusty Springfield has a gravesite and marker in the grounds of Henley’s St Mary the Virgin parish church, where she was once good friends with the son of the preacher man.