THE finest spectator sport is the human race, and it’s free to watch! This was the view of my long-time departed Grandad (born 1877) and I’ve never had reason to dispute it. People watching in the city is a joy; hearing some of their comments is a bonus.

Perhaps the American visitor assumed the tall, elderly man wearing a college tie and carrying a couple of bulging folders in Broad Street, was a guide.

“We’ve only an hour here so we want to pop into the most important college,” he said, a New York accent dripping from every word.

The academic – for as such was the other man – peered kindly over his spectacles. His calm response was splendid.

“The most important college doesn’t welcome visitors just to fill time. It’s not a burger bar.”

WHO would have believed a small, black woollen hat would have attracted so much attention?

It was perched on the helmet box of an expensive Honda scooter parked outside the Broad Street ornate doors to Exeter College. How long it had been there I can’t say, but for more than 10 minutes I was entertained by the actions of those passing.

One student stopped, peered at the hat, motioned as if to pick it up, but pulled back sharply as if fearing it was a bomb. Another man, whose wardrobe could have done with improvement, did pick it up, looked in both directions to see who was watching but stopped short of stuffing it in his pocket.

A third man, denim clad, walked past, stopped, returned, grabbed the hat and checked the label (it was a Muddle Puddles) and shook it before dropping it back on the scooter.

Two young women gave close attention, one picking it up before the other suggested it was probably infested, thus causing the first to drop it while screeching unnecessarily.

After 10 minutes I moved on, only to return more than an hour later. The hat was still there even though there had been a brief shower during my absence.

I like to think conscience had triumphed – or had it?

FOUR early teenage girls looked splendid in their Oxford University sweatshirts.

They were posing and taking selfies while maintaining serious expressions. I detected German accents. Using my faded schoolboy German, I said I hoped they were enjoying their stay.

“Danke schön,” chorused three of them while standing smartly – yet unnecessarily – to attention. After all, I’m not Mrs Merkel.

The fourth smiled broadly and declared – in English: “Yes, Oxford is real cool.”

‘Real cool’, eh? I wonder how this would go down with her English tutor back home.