So I was in Oxford the other day, to visit my friend Jim and to have a look round the university because I’m hopefully going to be applying/getting offered a place to study on the postgraduate philosophy course there next year (because I want to be an academic and stuff). And Oxford is basically a weird paradise where the debating union has a library and its painted by William Morris and one of the colleges has two deer parks. I’m sure you knew all this already, but I’m actually genuinely quite taken aback by the picturesque strangeness of it all. An industrial city like Manchester sprang up because of money and is always going to be inextricably tied up with money (particularly the University, I mean I’m sure Manchester must all things considered make about half of its money out of the sheer scale of the education that goes on there- well not the education itself but rather the economic presence of all the students, bored out of their heads on their 5-hours-in-a-week degrees and spending their parents money on drink, food, dancing, entertainment etc), whereas Oxford doesn’t really quite have that same feel about it. I mean sure it’s a proper city and everything and it has a high street and things so its not like its some hippy wank camp but what I mean is that you get the impression that whoever’s running this whole show might actually be in it for the love of all this- all the scholars and the pretty college buildings and ridiculous traditions. Or maybe that’s just some sort of false consciousness perk that the other half get, idk. A bit like how they call it the Isis and not the Thames.
Anyway, the crux of all this is: one of the colleges has its own cathedral. (Christ Church) When you do postgraduate stuff, you apply to the faculty really and not the college, but you have to specify a college, and I think I’m going to pick Christ Church because, you know, it has its own cathedral. Jim had never been there before even though he goes to Oxford and he likes cathedrals too (he used to work in York Minster). And its not that obvious, really, from the outside, so I think he just figured that it was a regular college chapel, really, that they call a cathedral. But then was shocked, going in, because ITS AN ACTUAL FUCKING CATHEDRAL. Like, bigger than Birmingham or Manchester. Or about the same size anyway, and a lot better (at least than Manchester). This is mostly due to its absolutely intensely amazing range of stained glass, many by the master himself, Mister Edmund Burne-Jones- a particular favourite (away from the perhaps overly showy St Fridewide Window, telling the story of Oxford’s particular Anglo-Saxon princess taken off to marry some big bad pagan and refusing, pretty much the identical archetype to St Audrey) is the St Catherine Window, the model for which is none other than Edith Liddel, sister of Alice. (Dean Liddel, he the very same of charming daughters fame, used to be the, well, dean of Christ Church). But trumping even B-J is someone presumably amazing called Abraham van Liege, whose 1630s ‘Jonah Window’ is some sort of brilliant colour trip, I think because mostly its painted glass, not stained glass. So, stained glass eat yr heart out. But then, I guess stained glass is usually preferable because it also lets light in? Actually, I don’t quite know the physics of it, which is fine because if I want to be some sort of philosopher I should be entirely more concerned about the metaphysics anyway.