I love Oxford UK. It is my favourite place to be. In the Australian summer of 2014-2015 I went to Oxford as a Visiting Fellow with the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing to work on my research plan for projects relating to the timing of the diagnosis of dementia. This was supported by a travel fellowship with the Dementia Collaborative Research Centre.
One Saturday we went to visit the Ashmolean Museum. A wonderful place full of treasures. It is so easy to spend a whole day there, looking at the regular collections and the special exhibitions which occur throughout the year. The Ashmolean, founded in 1683, is the University of Oxford's museum of art and archaeology.
While we were there, the town of Oxford were working together to celebrate the work of William Blake during The William Blake Festival. It was a fabulous experience. There were so many ways to learn about the poetry and works of William Blake from different perspectives depending on the location (bookshops, the art gallery, museums). Blake (1757- 1827) lived and worked in London at a time when great social and political change was taking place. He observed the American War of Independence (1775-1783) and the French Revolution (1789) which would have impacted his world view and his writing. In 1780 riots broke out in London and (maybe by accident) Blake found himself at the front of the mob that burned Newgate Prision. Blake's work was not fully recognized while he was alive, but in later years, he was known as 'the greatest artist Britain has ever produced'.
On the Saturday morning we went to the Ashmolean Rooftop Restaurant, for breakfast and a poetry reading. It was something straight out of Anne of Green Gables and was the most splendid thing I have ever experienced. Poetry had never been something that I really enjoyed, but in this instance drama students carried out dramatic readings of portions of Blake's poetry, making it come alive. I am sure poetry is written to be read aloud, and when it is done well, the story and rhythm of it is powerful.
As we were there in winter, it was a cold and brisk morning. No one was sitting outside for breakfast. We sat inside, along with the others, and ordered our Blake inspired brunch. I had Parma ham and poached egg on Ciabatta bread. Wonderful.
If you are in Oxford, do take time to visit the Ashmolean, and the Rooftop Restaurant. The view from the top is lovely at any time of year. I am particularly found of this view, on a cold and foggy morning. I love the cold.