PERHAPS I expect too much. The morning was sunny, the prospects exciting and education’s least favourite minister Michael Gove told to hand in his red box. Surely there was much to smile about.

Alas, not for the dozen people I passed on the East Street towpath. A ‘good morning’ from me was greeted in most cases by a grunt and only one smile – that from an oriental woman who had no clue what I was saying.

Even the resident heron was missing from its usual spot below the Botley Road bridge.

SUDDENLY all changed. I was in the Covered Market when a bell rang. A voice said it was not an alarm test and that we should leave quickly and quietly by the nearest entrance. Could this be the opportunity to re-live my fire engine chasing days of half a century ago?

This instruction was repeated several times over the next 10 minutes and while most of us obeyed, others wandered around wearing a puzzled look.

Just as quickly we were invited to re-enter. No fire engine made an appearance. What had been the reason for the alarm? A chap, known for being something of a know-all, said one of the cafés had burned the breakfast sausages while another declared there was a smell akin to that of an electrical fire.

I tried to find the manager without success but was later assured it had been a practice.

What about the reluctance of some to dash out as instructed? I suppose the answer is plain enough: many were visitors from overseas and English was as strange to them as to the oriental woman. On top of that the alarm was hardly blood-curdling. A Fireman Sam klaxon would have been much more effective. Time for a re-think?

CONTINUING the language barrier theme, spare a thought for the Bodleian member of staff who was vainly pleading with groups of young visitors to observe the ‘Silence Please’ notices in the Old Schools Quadrangle.

The Chinese and the Italians topped the decibel league and while I have every sympathy with the staffman’s mission, the Quad does excite all who have a vestige of romance or drama in their soul.

IT doesn’t take a store long to look unloved and unwanted once the occupants move out. As HMV is no longer in Cornmarket Street, its doorway is a refuge for the homeless. Let’s hope a new tenant arrives rather more quickly than when The Works left neighbouring premises some months ago. Empty shops do nothing for a city’s appearance or reputation.

FINALLY a message seen on a young blonde’s T-shirt in the aforementioned Cornmarket Street: ‘Bad choices make the best stories.’ I couldn’t possibly comment.