Nobody wanted to be responsible for lost bottle

Peter Unsworth

Peter Unsworth

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

IT looked so forlorn, standing alone yet erect, on a lower step of The Queen’s College main entrance: a baby’s feeding bottle. This was no past-its-best piece of nursery kit. This was a spotless, up-market Tommee Tippee bottle and what was more, it was almost full. Barely a suck or a slurp had reduced the milk level.

“Do you think someone has lost it?”

A reasonable question, it came from Eva, a tiny yet solidly built great-grandmother of 84 summers. (How come people volunteer age details these days? When I was a young reporter it was the devil of a job prizing this from interviewees. It’s as if people reach a certain age now and cast vanity to the wind).

I thought this was likely, to which she felt I should do something about it.

What did she have in mind?

“You could ask around,” she suggested. “Some mother would be ever so grateful.”

High Street was awash with visitors, many with pushchairs, prams and baby slings. My expression was my betrayal.

“Listen for a baby crying. Then pick up the bottle and follow the noise. It won’t break your back.”

By now she was losing patience, especially when I suggested she might help.

“I can’t – my bus is due,” she said.

On cue the Blackbird Leys bus drew up, she climbed aboard, casting a final disapproving look and giving an impressive impersonation of the late Les Dawson in a Cissie and Ada sketch.

I waited until the bus pulled away and gave the bottle one final glance before crossing the road to melt into anonymity offered by the scaffolding and sheeting that hide Rhodes House. Why do I love Oxford so much? That’s easy: it’s never dull.

THEY can’t say they were not warned. Cyclists choosing to ignore the notices – and there were lots of them – by leaving their machines chained, locked or otherwise attached to railings that surround the Radcliffe Camera were in for a surprise on Tuesday when they returned helmeted and trouser clipped.

The bikes had gone. Two Oxford City Council officials in smart monogrammed uniforms, logged descriptions of the cycles. Meanwhile a third, with bulging muscles, brandished stout bolt cutters that easily disposed of any locking devices.

Radcliffe Square was to be a film set on Wednesday for a First World War period piece. Those 21st century velocipedes were – as they say – ‘inappropriate’. A squadron of bone-shakers was assembled and ready for stardom.

I’ll admit to having enjoyed watching this act of officially approved vandalism, and although not wanting to put words into their mouths, I think the trio did as well. However, when I asked if I might use their names, they politely refused.

And who can blame ’em?

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