I’m well aware of my limitations. Painfully aware of them at times. When it comes to all that’s arty, I have my favourites. But as breakfasting with the Telegraph is not on my list of Sunday-morning pursuits, my education in this regard is severely lacking. That could get me down, were I to dwell too much on it. Instead, I revel in the delight of new discoveries that others, better read than I, have long-since enjoyed.
Take Antony Gormley. He of Angel of the North fame? [Another addition to my bucket list.] The artist behind the series Another Time? I’d never heard of him until I was in Oxford last week and happened to look to the skyline while in the vicinity of Blackwell’s bookshop. The last thing I expected to see (not that I had any conscious expectations) was a statue of a seven-foot-tall naked man in all his glory. Inspired by the artist’s own physique, it’s quite a sight and a somewhat refreshing change from the gargle of gargoyles that are more Oxfordy in style.
But that wasn’t the only thing that caught my attention. This sign has me completely puzzled. Sleeping in the loo? What exactly is an overnight facility? And how does that differ from a public convenience? Enquiring minds want to know.
Mind you, if I had to pick one thing that really impressed me – it wouldn’t be the magnificent colleges, the churches, the statues, the Alice Shop, Sunday lunch at the Parsonage, or any of the usual Oxford attractions. Perhaps I was suffering from a slight case of Stendahl’s syndrome – it certainly surprised me that I was so fascinated with something rather mundane. Boring even: a self-service machine at the post office in St Aldates. What does that say about my life, I wonder, that the thoughts of being able to successfully interact with a machine that speaks my language and can, in its own way, smile, delights me. I spend way too much time in the post office as it is. And this would make it all the smoother. I know there are ramifications in the form of job losses and redundancies. I know that machining the life out of social interactions can’t be a good idea. I know that there are myriad social consequences of going self-service… But even knowing that didn’t detract from the sheer pleasure of a hassle-free exchange. Yep – Oxford has it nailed.