Chapter 6 continued
My esteemed colleague had long begun to panic about what he was to wear to our dinner at Christchurch College, and had instantly taken his suit to be dry cleaned as it had a small wrinkle in it. He returned from the cleaners to tell his tale of woe.
They had not been able to locate a “how to clean” label on the suit so had just pinned little green pieces of paper to it and returned it to him far more rumpled than it had left. He paid the exorbitant sum of 5 pounds to have his shirt ironed as well and this emerged from its bag looking like a tramp’s castoff!
My companion’s horror of appearing ill dressed was infectious and I took another look at my ensemble, realising with a sinking heart that the cream pants I had bought to show my sky blue jacket to advantage really looked more like jeans than ever before, and I ran out to get the students for our private tour of Oxford, petrified that the only other guest, the Dean of the Cathedral, would take one withering look at me in my jeans and my colleague in his tramp suit and the pair of us would be ignominiously hurled into the gutter by a bowler hatted porter, never to rise again.
I had only 5 minutes to fetch the students. Praying to God and reminding him that it was the reputation of the Christian faith in jeopardy should I be sunk low, I raced into Debenhams where a miracle was performed. There on the 70% off rack was one pair of fawn trousers (and in my size) which I bought without hesitation and legged it to Balliol in time to escort the students to Christchurch.
The Don met us at the gates and we dashed up the marble steps and into the private library. A room of such beauty and light dazzled us all and silenced the students who reverentially looked at the row after row of leather bound editions arranged with great symmetry in the beautifully carved bookcases. The spaces between the elegant windows were filled with rococo plasterwork of such fineness and skill that everywhere you looked you were enchanted.
A charmingly restrained librarian thoughtfully explained to the students the history of the room and pointed out many items of interest including the upper gallery which contained countless first editions of the rarest books and a complete set of genuine Chippendale stools which had been specifically crafted for the library by Chippendale himself (naturally!).
We left with reluctance and The Don then showed the students the very stair upon which was shot one of the scenes of Harry Potter which excided the students far more that Cardinal Wolsey’s hat! Further up the stair and the great oaken doors swung wide, revealing the dining hall, where again we stood dumbstruck by the magnificence of the linen fold panelling and rows upon row of ancient tables and chairs.
An itinerant tourist had followed us up the stair and had tried to enter the dining hall but I had, I am afraid with some pleasure, said “I am sorry but this is a private tour” and slammed the great oaken door in his face.
As the students had to be back to prepare for some sort of ball, our tour came to an end and my esteemed colleague and I raced back to attempt to compose our outfits for dinner. Luckily as we ran about the grounds in despair we found a small hidden room at the back of our apartments that contained an ancient iron and we both desperately pressed everything we could to attempt to avoid disgrace.
NEXT: Papa Bouilloire Chapter 6 continues, continued next week on Friday!
Here is a gallery of images of the beautiful library at Christchurch College Oxford. The Chippendale stools are clearly to be seen.
You can view past chapters of Papa Bouilloire’s Oxford adventures by clicking on the links below.