HEAVEN knows I tried. Memories of a horrendous journey along crater-strewn Botley Road were put aside as I tried to spread a little sweetness and light.

It was nothing big – just a smile and a brief “Hello” to those walking along the West Street river bank towards Osney Mead and beyond.

Eleven people – seven men and four women – passed.

The smile was universally ignored but it is fair to say there were responses to six hellos – three cheerful and three grunts.

As for the rest, two men wore headphones, one set would not have looked out of place on the ears of some wartime bomber pilot.

All five chose to ignore me.

It is five years since I attempted a similar innocent exercise in human contact along the same stretch of pathway. Alas nothing has changed.

However, on the bright side, the ducks quacked.

MY respect for officers of the law has always been high. Born next to a police station and spoiled by 1940s policewomen who shared with me their meagre sweets ration, these were enduring influences.

However, my near-universal appreciation was damaged this week by the action of two officers, blue lights flashing, who pulled over a quad bike ridden by two young men.

There was no question of the vehicle being driven at an excess speed. It was not in an unsafe condition; on the contrary it was clean and well-maintained.

Its “crime” was that it made a noise disturbing to their ears.

The young men, both smartly dressed, both polite, questioned the need to be stopped. One officer remarked that young men on quad bikes often meant trouble. (Tarring with the same brush?) The owner was advised not to ride into town again on that machine as its noise constituted a disturbance of the peace.

Perhaps it did, but why was it necessary to keep the blue lights flashing, thus attracting unwarranted attention – and suspicion – on the young men?

AFTER a couple of weeks of darkness at the New Theatre – the term we theatre buffs use when there is nothing on – bright lights return next week with the much praised Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a lively musical based on the 1988 film starring Michael Caine. (Not a lot of people know that, as the great man might have said.) I haven’t checked the bookings, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t attract the same crowds as did The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time that played to packed houses a couple of weeks back.

Good stuff always attracts good stuff.

How lucky we are in Oxford to have the New and the Playhouse regularly serving up only the best.