It was more by design than accident that I headed for the peace of the Forrmosan Tea Bar off the High Street.

A near-miss on Magdalen Bridge when I stepped to the left to avoid a posse of young Italians determined to hold their ground, causing a helmet-less cyclist to swerve into the path of an oncoming bus, followed by a car so near the pavement that my arm struck and moved his wing mirror, led me to believe the area was best avoided.

I was the only male in the bar as young women, many working on tablets and laptops, hogged the mats around the table in the oriental bar. A high stool by the window was haven enough.

Behind the counter was Mo Mo, happy to advise on tea choices. I questioned why she was named after a dumpling delicacy found out east.

In Japan – her home country – she said it was a name frequently given to girls born in March and had nothing to do with dumplings. Education is a wonderful thing.

Suddenly Luca arrived – he is half Italian – carrying an advertisement board attached to a pole which he had brandished for most of the day.

Calm and cheerful barely described him. His tolerance shone forth.

I always reckon 99.9 per cent of the world’s population are decent people. He agreed and while I condemned the 0.1 per cent he put their lapses down to a difficult childhood. Now that’s what I call tolerance.

OUTSIDE once more I met Steve and Vicky, Texans of 70s-plus vintage. Did I know the pub where CS Lewis met his fellow academics?

Before I could reply, diminutive Vicky, with American gusto, launched into a verbal biography of the man, at the same time testing my knowledge of Narnia’s founding father. Did I know where he lived? What was his full name? Where was he born? What was his wife’s name?

I ‘passed’ before pressing home the advantage by correcting her pronunciation of Magdalen ((Maudlin), pinpointing his Headington Quarry address, and introducing her to another of the Inklings – the late Hugo Dyson.

“I didn’t know about him,” she said with a touch of disbelief.

I deposited our American friends at the door of the Eagle and Child and was handed a religious tract on humility.

Was she trying to tell me something?

FINALLY, there are two women whom I respect more than all others – Her Majesty the Queen and children’s hospice founder Sister Frances Dominica.

Nothing has been said over the past 60-plus years to lessen my affection for the former, and nothing has, or ever will, remove my respect for the latter.

Her recent reputation-damaging treatment is both scandalous and cruel.