Wednesday, February 20, 2019

OXFORD | Visiting the Colleges; Tour-Bus Stops

For a self-guided tour of the Oxford colleges, take the Oxford tour bus. 

Buy a bus ticket at the City Sightseeing Sales Office at the Railway Station (Stop 1). 

Then hop on, hop off. Get off at one of the 15 (out of 20) numbered stops that have one or more colleges to look at. 

Some colleges may be closed, or require an admission charge. Warning: The college with the highest charges and most complicated booking system is Christ Church. Here is a list of the hours, restrictions, charges and concessions for each college:

Oxford alumni may obtain free admission or concession rates with their alumni card.

Passes for a walking tour may be obtained at Stops 8 and 13.

Stops 1-10
3. Worcester College (famed gardens).
4. Nuffield College and St Peter’s College.
6. Alice in Wonderland Shop and punting on the Isis (Thames).
7. Christ Church (Harry Potter movies filmed here), Pembroke College.
8. Brasenose College, Oriel College, Lincoln College.
9. The Queen’s College, University College, Merton College, Corpus Christi College, All Souls College.
10. Magdalen College, St Hilda’s College.

Stops 11-20
11. Linacre College, St Catherine’s College.
13. New College, Exeter College.
14. Trinity College, Wadham College.
15. Keble College.
16. St Hugh’s College, Lady Margaret Hall.
17. St Antony’s College.
18. St Anne’s College, Somerville College, Eagle and Child (“Bird and Baby"). 
19. Balliol College, St John’s College.

Monday, January 28, 2019

OXFORD UNION | Tony Schwartz, November 4, 2016, "The Truth about Trump"

Tony Schwartz (R) at the Oxford Union.
November 4, 2016–Four days before the U.S. Presidential election, Tony Schwartz tells the Oxford Union what he found out about Donald Trump while writing The Art of the Deal.
Tony Schwartz.

Schwartz was working for New York Magazine when he came up with the title for Trump's autobiography.

When Donald Trump heard the title, he asked Schwartz to write the book and paid him half the advance he got from a publisher.

Schwartz says he regrets having helped position Trump to win the nomination and is fearful of a future with Trump in the White House, should he win the election.

Friday, January 25, 2019

WALES | The Power of Place

A Welsh estate and the family
that lived there.
Wales has always puzzled me. I used to go through it six times a year, on my way from Dublin to Yorkshire when I was at school at Ampleforth College in 1952-55.

It was difficult to figure out how to pronounce some of the place names, or how to remember their spelling. They seemed to belong to some medieval travel book.

As Thomas More said to Richard Rich in “A Man For All Seasons”: “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . but for Wales?

I have been spending time with two recent books that have helped me focus on understanding the importance of Wales.


The first book is by Philip Nanney Williams, about his family estate, Nannau, in Wales and the people who lived there.

As I have read the book, and some other sources to fill in my huge ignorance about Wales, I begin to understand that Wales was never a consolidated nation like England, but rather a collection of Celts who fled to Wales after the Norman Conquest. They were somewhat protected by protected by the topology of the land, their language, and their decentralized structure.

One of my questions about Wales has been: Why is it not represented in the Union Jack? Scotland and then Ireland are woven into the St. George's Cross through the saltires of St Andrew (blue) and St Patrick (red).

My epiphany was learning that it was a Welshman, Henry VII, who conquered Richard III and founded the Tudor dynasty, taking in Henry VIII and Elizabeth I with a few more Tudors in between. These royals laid the foundation for modern Britain and Wales can take pride in that. At Oxford and Cambridge, the dividing line between the "old" and the "new" colleges is the end of the reign of Elizabeth I, 1603.

Welshman Henry VII brought together the Houses of Lancaster and York that had been warring with one another. Though proud to be a Welshman, he never looked back and became a strong English monarch. His son Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church, his daughter Mary I became England's first queen, seeking to restore Catholicism, and Henry VIII's daughter Elizabeth I in her long, tolerant reign shaped modern Britain.

Marians on the Mawddach

Paul Walton with his book.
The other book is by Paul Walton, Marians on the Mawddach, about his Welsh school, St. Mary's, named for Queen Mary I, the Counter-Reformation Catholic Queen.

The Marians are the students and alumni of St. Mary's.

TUDORS | What If Lady Jane Grey Had Stayed Queen?

Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554)
Lady Jane Grey was known as The Nine Days' Queen, although she might be given credit for some more days in 1553.

What would the effect have been if she had stayed in power?

It would probably have meant no Mary I, since Lady Jane's supporters were out to capture her during her brief reign.

There would have been no temporary revival of Roman Catholicism in England under Mary I's rule. Therefore the two Oxford colleges that were founded by two Catholic knights on the property of the dissolved Durham College would not have been created.

I tell this story here:

The story is based on information collected for my new book, Oxford College Arms

Monday, December 31, 2018

BOAT RACE 2019 | Rowing Blazers

December 31, 2018–It's nearly 2019, and time to starting thinking again about The Boat Race(s), Men's and Women's, in the early afternoon of 7 April 2019.

The Women's Race will be at 2:15 pm and the Men's Race at 3:15 pm. I plan to be in Oxford or London that day.

The Boat Race Dinner in New York City will be on April 25, so it is time also to think about getting a Rowing Blazer (the required dress for men is Black Tie or Boat Club Blazer). I rowed in the Second Eight for Trinity Oxford in 1963 and 1964 and have stayed in touch with the Trinity Boat Club, so a Trinity blazer would be nice to have.
Hours of Rowing Blazers,
except holidays.

So a few days ago I tried to look at the blazers in Rowing Blazers, the new store in Soho, NYC opened by Jack Carlson. 

Carlson is the author of Rowing Blazers. When it was first launched at a Ralph Lauren store, I posted about the book in 2014. Carlson's store, unsurprisingly called Rowing Blazers, is at 161 Grand Street, at the corner of Centre Street in Lower Manhattan.

Before we stopped by Rowing Blazers, Alice and I and our daughter Caroline went to lunch at the fabulous Le Coucou restaurant, founded by Daniel Rose, the American-Chef-Who-Opened-Four-Restos-in-Paris-and-Was-a-Success, and Stephen Starr. 

I once chatted in a Paris cafĂ© with Daniel Rose's father, who was surprised and impressed that his son got a rapid following in the challenging environment of Parisian cuisine. Daniel Rose's first resto, Spring One was too small to make money, but Spring Two was three times as big and the numbers worked better, both a popular place and a financial success. He has opened two other restos in Paris since then and they are doing well; but he reportedly plans to close Spring Two as he did his first resto.

He opened Le Coucou with a partner, Stephen Starr, a high-flying restaurateur. The restaurant has been widely exalted, with the James Beard Foundation picking it as the country’s best new restaurant.

Le Coucou is formal for an American resto,
but informal by the standards of some
cathedrals of French cuisine, like Maison
Pic, in Valence. 

We were lucky to snag a lunch reservation at Le Coucou on fairly short notice. Everything at Le Coucou was perfect. The waitstaff were formal by American standards but laid back by French ones, at least the top French restaurants that we have visited.

Le Coucou is at 178 Lafayette St, a block away from the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), which we passed on the way from Rowing Blazers.
Book talk
at MOCA.

MOCA is having a book talk on Chinese typewriters. 

As the photos in this post show, Rowing Blazers is an upscale store for people interested in rowing. I talked to a friend in mid-December who purchased an English rugby shirt (red rose badge), and he recommended I pay a visit to the store.

Alas, it was closed when we stopped by, but management was away between Christmas and New Year's for a vacation, a very European decision. Alas, we don't expect to be back from Florida until April, so these photos will have to suffice as my report on the store.
Rowing Blazers is at Centre and Grand Streets.

Much of the inventory is available on their website, to which I have provided a link above. I checked out a blue rowing blazer that Rowing Blazers sells. It is cotton with European/ American tailoring, vs. the synthetic fabric used on the blazers sold by Ralph Lauren, which is tailored in Asia. Rowing Blazers is clearly going for quality in this case. 

However, the Ralph Lauren blazer may well be higher quality than the blazers I looked at in Oxford. The Oxford blazers seem designed for student, not alumni, budgets.

Saturday, December 1, 2018


John Ashbery reading from his poetry, 2014.
December 1, 2018–I was browsing on the web, looking for something else, and I ran into the Dactyl Foundation in Soho, New York City.

It has a modest ambition, to reunite science and art.

One of the articles on its site is a critique of fiction in the The New Yorker (yes, The New Yorker) over the years.

I realized that I, too, look eagerly for the nonfiction pieces and have been often disappointed in the fiction. Dactyl Foundation contributions attempt to look fundamental questions like this in the eye. It is unsparing in its anger at mediocre and half-hearted fiction. It is a fierce website.

One of their contributors has posted a poetic appreciation of the late John Ashbery, who was a close neighbor of ours in Chelsea, New York, and from time to time a good friend. Here is the tribute: