Well this year’s Oxonmoot was intended to be smaller but the rule of “if you build it they will come” seems to have applied, we ended up with about 120 people all told. Anke and I decided to go between Tolkien 2005 and The Fellowship Festival, when we were all fired up for things Tolkien-y but not yet as tired as we came to be come the September!Friday
We got to Oxford around 5 and found our rooms in the Eurobar (as once was the Welsh Pony – home to the original Oxonmoots), which was quite pleasant and made our way to meet people. Although there was a meal arranged at the Mitre we decided that Friday would be best spent taking a friend out for a meal to celebrate his birthday. So we skipped that although those there say a good time was had by all. As St Peter’s College was between us and both the Mitre and were we'd be eating we stopped off to register and get badges, timetables etc. Thus we bumped into some friends and enjoyed a quick spot of catching up before we headed off to wrap ourselves around a very good indian meal along St Clements.Saturday
Sadly staying in a hotel that overlooks the bus station meant that (despite the room being double-glazed and the bed reasonably comfortable) our early-ish night wasn't that restful: we kept waking up to the noise of late night buses or drunks, and perhaps once a drunken bus. Still a shower and a full English breakfast (veggie for me) plus coffee, cereal and toast, or scrambled egg & smoked salmon and tea for Anke, revived us and thus energised we waddled along to St Peters.
Starting the day was David Doughan’s excellent talk on translating Tolkien and liberties some translators have taken with the text. This was illustrated with examples from LotR and other works of literature and drew in adaptation (into film or for radio) as another form of translation where people have attempted to improve on the original, or where they felt they knew the source material better. As ever the talk was eloquent, insightful and witty. The follow up question session was illuminating too withboth pro and anti film views aired, especially regarding how people saw the films as successfully getting some aspects of LotR onto the big screen and a discussion of the way readers perceive characters. The next talk in this stream had to be cancelled, as the speaker had not arrived from Spain, so instead many of us went for tea and biscuits in the "hostility room" run, as ever, by the larger than life Jeremy Morgan.
After meeting and nattering over the cup that cheers with various people time came around for Andrew McMurry's talk on plotting LotR. This was an hour-long talk about how the book came into existence with Andrew discussing the 'back and forth', 'erase and start from scratch' nature of LotR’s gestation. Andrew took us through the various summaries of the story as Tolkien tried again and again to work out what ought to happen next or how the story would end, whenever the creativity engine ran out of steam. Again the session ended in a Q&A session between the attendees that was illuminating and fun (I pointed out that as well as apparently forseeing the environmental movement JRRT also foresaw computers and the need to 'reboot from start').
As this was a smaller event there was no lunch arranged and people headed off to various places to get something to eat. Taruithorn:The Oxford Tolkien Society had already arranged that they would congregate in the Turf Tavern (a 16th century pub) for lunch at 12.30, so knowing how busy the Turf can get with tourists on a weekend nine of us went there for 12 getting three tables for us to sit and eat in the warm. We ordered food, bought drinks, chatted about forthcoming weddings or looked in horror at some fiend's photos from Oxonmmots '93-'94, when we were all so much younger, hairier or just plain thinner. Much later, after a fine meal, it was discovered that various other Taruithornians had arrived at about 12.45 to sit outside, and the scouts they had sent into the pub had not seen us - so obviously we were the Fellowship in elven cloaks (hang on then, who was Gandalf and why wasn't he noticeable?). We then joined up to sit and chat, and show them what they were, mostly, too young to have seen before. Anyway they recovered well, didn’t laugh too much and we had a long chat.
Various people headed back to the college for more papers & talks, but a core group stayed and chatted. I headed back and remembering to turn the mobile on located Anke and learned that Blackwells now sold dragons as well as books, thus Bartholomew was freed to come join Anke’s horde and party at Oxonmoot (he was to prove very popular).
More tea and biscuits were consumed as the lack of sleep was starting to show, and a bunch of us sat chatting. The next talk was Denis Bridoux’s slideshow on "Dora Baggins’ Illustrations of the Shire". A very enjoyable experience as Denis summarised Dora's life and showed many images not seen before from her oeuvre: she draws and paints aspects of hobbit life and characters that no one else does and often writes short stories to 'explain' them. Dora Baggins is the epesse of Kay Woolard a skilled artist who used to design stained glass, and she can get an amazing amount of texture and expression into even very small pieces of pencil or ink work.
After that it was time to get something to eat, so a party of us (Sally, Rachael, Malcx, Dave from Isengard - the Birmingham smial, Alex, Andrew & Meggie, Tora and Colin) trooped up to G&D’s ice cream café, where we fell upon their selection of bagels, pizza bagels and home made ice creams. After a lot of chat and ice cream we realised we only had 40 minutes to get back and change before the party, so we all trooped back to our various rooms, stopping enroute to print more money as necessary and stock up on room-party supplies.
Then came the Party, this began with Laura the sub-comm Chair tking us through some of the songbook, although surely that should come later when no one cares if we can all sing or not? Followed by the asking of Anglo-Saxon riddles with prizes won (the toys from kinder eggs but without the attendant chocolate!), masqueraders showing off their, very fine, finery and there were lots of non-masquerade costumes on show too, some of them exceptionally nice to look at. There was one excellent Radagast. Plus we had the return of the Trollettes! (See Oxonmoot 93) including some video of their earlier incarnation. The beer ran out (shades of Aston in the summer) and was replaced with slightly sour guiness but it didn't matter as there were room parties to go to. Well after some folks had been seen to their buses home. This did mean though that I got back to the college to find the doors shut fast and a note inside the lodge saying the porter was now off asleep until 5! Luckily he came out in response to my bellringing just as Anke and Sally came along to let me in having realised I'd be stuck! So we trooped off to the room party where madeira was swigged and much late night chatting was chatted: until about 3am when Anke felt we really ought to get some sleep.
Sadly while we actually got to sleep without hearing the buses or drunks, we had to get up at 9 in order to get breakfast, pack and then get to the coaches to Wolvercote and Enyalië,. However, we woke up at 8.30 feeling hungry! And then our plan was to be derailed by some "catering issues", I didn't realise at the time that this was setting the pattern for lunchtime! So off we trotted, not as hungry as we could have been due to the availability of tea, coffee & muesli, thankfully when we did check out we got a refund which paid towards lunch.Enyalië,
Anyway we made our way to St Giles where the buses were waiting to shift people from central Oxford to Wolvercote. The coaches were boarded and the horde was driven out to Wolvercote and made its way towards Tolkien's grave, chatting amongst itself about the number of gravestones that have been attacked by the health & safety brigade (some older memorials lacking in familial upkeep may fall on you if you lean on them and so they have been laid down or propped up, with warning tape and notices - when really the attitude ought to be "What were you doing leaning on it then?" etc). Anyway after more waiting than expected the other coach party turned up, they'd been delayed by having forgetten the wreath!
Chris Crawshaw the TS Chair read out the passage from FotR when Galadriel hands out gifts to the Fellowship on their leaving Lorien and she spoke movingly of the 50th anniversary of LotR and the great gift that Tolkien has given all his readers. There was then the usual silence while people pondered this or were close with their own thoughts, the wreath was laid and Denis Bridoux sang Namárië. As usual people had time afterwards to look at the grave, other notable headstones and many of us followed Claire who had located Humphrey Carpenter's grave. This has a plain, but fine, slate headstone - although oddly the stone looks like plastic. And then people stood in the quiet peace of the graveyard chatting and waiting for everyone to finish taking photos etc.
After the buses brought us all back into town, people sorted out their packing and hotel bills or hung around in bars and then either headed home or went for lunch. Somehow I ended up leading a group towards lunch although no one knew where we should go. We ended up in the Old Orleans as it was nearest. The waitress said she could do a table for us, but they were short of a chef and so there were no starters. The bar man got us drinks while she shuffled tables, except he lost track of who was waiting and so somebody who'd just walked in got served ahead of some of us. Can you see where this is going? Well the food was nice, except for Rachael's, hers never turned up! So she stole chips from the rest of us. But we got her served first for dessert! The snag is that despite the waitress' profuse apologies it took ages to get anything. Luckily they'd given us tables with big pieces of paper on them and crayons, so we drew or played noughts & crosses and hangman. But it was dire. We got in there just before 1pm and left just before 4pm! And they gave us a bill which still had Rachael's food on it despite that being cancelled because it never arrived! Still Anke and Sally had time, while we waited for dessert, to go to Blackwells and buy Rachael a bedsit-warming present for her student digs! And then we all headed home, to sleep!