In which we climb the Magdalen Tower!
Having returned refreshed from my little excursion to Chipping Norton and the omnibus journey through the Cotswold hedgerows I arrived back in Oxford with impeccable timing and deposited my collection of books and bibelots in my room.
My Esteemed Colleage had spent a fascinating morning washing clothes and dealing by proxy with some tawdry domestic issues related to tree lopping so was ready for an adventure.
More wonders of Magdalen were yet before us for The Don had egress everywhere and as the day was perfect (as usual) all of the vistas were delightful and I was particularly delighted to see the chapel and the very choir stall in which CS Lewis was wont to sit. A brass plaque above the pew itself, polished bright no doubt by the reverential caresses of those fortunate enough to visit proclaimed his presence and I wondered if it was here, in the golden light which flooded through the Gothic arches and across the intricate alter piece, that he first conceived the idea of Narnia. There was not unfortunately any large cupboard in view that could have confirmed this supposition so I let it go.
The dining hall in all its paneled glory, the cloister, the porter’s house, everything delightful but the best was yet to come…
As we stood in a courtyard, replete with the joys already bestowed, The Don intimated that we could climb the Magdalen tower and instantly disappeared to get the key. He reappeared with a key of immense size (about a foot long) and of great age, inserted it into the huge keyhole and turned back the bolts to the ancient door.
The ground floor chamber was a dim dark room filled with broken or neglected pieces of masonry. Old friezes and gargoyle remnants were stacked next to rusted ironwork and an ancient oar or to. We were taken to a little door on one side and we all trouped in. (I should mention that we were at this time escorting a group of students who also shared this adventure)
Although the tower is wide, the staircase was tiny and wound up and up. The medieval builders either had small feet or no sense of proportion for the steps were very steep and shallow. This precipitous stairway finally led to a ladder which we climbed up (was this in our risk management strategy? I thought) and popped out onto the roof.
I should not like to be up there in any wind as the edge was not high and the drop staggering, but the view was spectacular. I snapped many pictures as the boys ran about on the leaded roof which sloped towards the outer edges and I expected any moment to see one or another of them plummet to their deaths. As most were taking “Selfies” at the time I am sure their final photos would have definitely got thousands of “like” on Facebook or Instagram or whatever else young people use to expose themselves to the world.
This was a view that few people ever get the chance to see so despite my fears for the students we had to finally leave. Fortunately we all descended without a fall (I going first as the largest object and likely to at least slow down any cascade of students falling from behind) Thus did our tour of Magdalen come to an end.
As I thought it was the last time we would see The Don, I gave him the Diary of a Nobody, which in my haste I had not time wrap or unfortunately erase the price so I felt quite embarrassed but he, as always was ever graceful and he since told me that he has already enjoyed the antics of the Pooters and wants to know more.
As it was now dinner time My Esteemed Colleague and I agreed to eat in the dining hall and for a very reasonable 4 pound 50 p had a slap up meal with more chips and lamb burrito than I could eat and the choice of salad and chick pea casserole did not agree with my companion. As we were eating in one of the oldest and most marvellous buildings in Oxford I was very happy with my meal and My Esteemed Colleague cheered up once we went to a nearby Pub for several refreshing glasses of sparkling apple juice.