CHUMS in our favourite Covered Market café were convinced I had spent the Bank Holiday weekend at the Notting Hill Carnival where violence stole the headlines.

“You’ll do anything to get in the news – even pinch a policeman’s helmet,” said retired Army dentist, Franklin, clearly in a less than benevolent mood. Perhaps he had toothache...

It was only by showing him the weekend programme for Peace in the Park, at the Global Retreat Centre in Nuneham Courtenay, that I was able to clear my name.

This is an annual event I try not to miss. Yoga and meditation are not my thing, but the atmosphere of friendship and peace the three days create in beyond words. Music, dancing, talks and lectures of varying depths of understanding, as well as tasty food, pack the programme.

Strangers speak to each other; children play and explore, and there is no need for alcohol to encourage this, nor drugs to make it last. People of all religions, or none, enjoy each other’s company.

What I get out of the event is that in spite of the dreadful things that happen around the world, I know ours is still a wonderful life and it’s worth preserving.

MIND you, I think the parents/guardian who left the small boy, circa three years old, in a pushchair outside the bookies in Gloucester Green on Tuesday morning was taking more than a gamble.

How long he had been there is hard to say, but I kept a watchful eye for five minutes until someone emerged to take him away.

True, I ran the risk of being branded a stalker or worse, but better that than reading a tragic story in the Oxford Mail.

IT appears 39.2per cent of Oxford cyclists are illiterate.

How can that be?

Applying simple research methods while perching on one of Cornmarket Street’s uncomfortable resting spots, I counted 29 cyclists passing either up or down in a 20-minute period. Of these 11 were riding their machines in spite of the 10am deadline having passed an hour earlier.

There are several boards explaining the curfew times. The bikes were being ridden at various speeds, including one by a young man whose mount and speed would not have been out of place in a velodrome.

The need for refreshment called – it was a hot morning – but I returned to my vantage spot 15 minutes later. My findings were now in tatters. All bikes were being pushed – carefully. What could have happened to bring about the reformation?

The reason became clear when I spotted a police officer and her female community support officer standing outside St Michael at the North Gate.