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THE MAN ABOUT TOWN: Running home is as good as escaping
While I truly love Oxford, I can’t help but slip into daydreams every time an Oxford Tube or Espress coach crawls past me bound for London.
Same with the Airline coach service, emblazoned as its fleet is with glorious vistas of blue skies, beaches and powder-perfect pistes.
And every single time I wonder who the faces are peeking out at me, where are they travelling to, and why?
Oh, and I hate them. From the bottom of my heart. But it’s not like it’s personal. Just unashamed, unabashed envy because every time I see them, I’m locked into a tie and smell vaguely of county council.
In fact, I think my DNA is imprinted with coach, train and airline timetables, because going anywhere – apart from Swindon – always calms me.
Indeed, I sometimes wonder if I ever actually need to arrive, so great is my love of journeying. Of moving. Of never being contactable.
My condition of course isn’t exactly dampened down by London, Heathrow and Gatwick’s proximity. I could very happily sit all day on the Oxford Tube, just watching the M40/A40 slip by. And train-wise, there really isn’t a journey I wouldn’t take.
Eurostarring Europe, First Great Westerning Britain, sitting 40 to a cabin but with fresh tea in India; it is, to use the cliche, better to travel than arrive.
But I guess best of all I love flying. The take-off, the meal, the movies; and being on top of the world never loses its charm.
For some reason I always think that everyone else’s journeys are far more exciting and dramatic.
For instance, when I’m on the Tube to London, I don’t think for a moment anyone notices as I stop-and-start along the High Street (despite the fact my face is always pressed hard against the window).
But when I’m on the outside looking in, I really notice people’s faces, searching for some clue as to why they’re running away and I’m not.
Thank goodness then I’ve finally found ‘home’ here in Oxford, because wherever else I’ve lived, the thought of ‘coming back’ has always squeezed my colon like an anaconda.
I’ve even been physically sick at passport control, much to the horror of those still wearing flip-flops.
On the way out, my physiology is as spot-on as Lance Armstrong’s; on the way back – or at least until now – I’ve rasped, cramped and fought off nausea.
Which is why Oxford is like morphine to me. It instantly reassures, soothes and rejuvenates, and if you do think I’m being just a tad too Mills & Boon, spend six months in any other city that doesn’t boast a pub like the the Royal Oak, in Woodstock Road, or the Eagle and Child. Plus St Giles Fair. Port Meadow. The Central Library in the Westgate Centre and that pen shop at the bottom of High Street (who actually shops there?).
There’s no doubt I love to ‘run away’, but for the first time ever, I’ve now found somewhere I can run back to just as happily.