Monday, April 30, 2012

May Day Celebrations

It's May Day tomorrow and every year on May Day morning thousands of people gather around Magdalen Bridge at dawn break to hear choristers sing from the Magdalen College tower  – a tradition dating back to 1509. Whilst waking up at the crack of dawn to see a choral performance might not sound like your cup of tea, it is one Oxford tradition that shouldn't be missed!

Make sure you have an early night or prepare for an all nighter as the choristers begin at 6am! Grab yourself a croissant and coffee on the way and join the crowds under the tower, along the High Street or on Magdalen Bridge but be warned, the area is often packed from as early as 5:30am. Arrive any later and you may find that you can’t get close enough to hear the choir! 

Although a more recent tradition, jumping from Magdalen Bridge on May Morning is one tradition students are determined to keep alive. Despite active discouragement following a spate of injuries during the 2005 celebrations where around 40 jumpers were injured and some even taken to hospital you might wonder what keeps driving them, other than alcohol that is. One student interviewed after jumping last year said he “did it for the ladies.” Nice.

Despite the early hour, there's a fantastic atmosphere due in part to the fact that many of the college bars open all night and pubs open from sunrise. Having just woken up or even after sampling a few early morning pints, you might not believe your eyes if you start seeing green bearded men, walking trees or people climbing the lamp posts, but it's all there and much much more! 

The choral performance is followed by general revelry and festivities including impromptu music and Morris dancing which usually begins around 10:30am. In the mean time, treat yourself to a nice breakfast at The Grand Cafe, Zappi's Bike Cafe, Ashmolean Museum or a number of other breakfast spots around Oxford. (Booking is advised). 

Note: If you want to sound like a local remember "Magdalen' is pronounced 'Maudlin.'

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Oxford Morris Men

Have you ever seen such a jolly bunch of men? I didn’t know quite what to think when I first laid eyes on these chaps. Men wouldn’t be caught dead dancing around waving hankies like this where I come from, but hey, maybe they should loosen up a little. There’s nothing wrong with having a dance with your mates, tapping sticks and ringing your bells is there???

Morris dancing is a form of English folk dance which is believed to have descended from pagan spring and summer fertility rituals or “good luck” ceremonies.  Morris dancers have been performing in Oxford since the 15th century and thanks to groups like the Oxford City Morris Men, Morris dancing has lived on in the Cotswold region long after its popularity ceased elsewhere.

You’ll find the Morris Men at pubs in and around Oxford on summer evenings from May to July, at numerous locations at the May Day morning celebrations, at fetes, festivals and other events all year round.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cycle Safety

For many newcomers, the idea of riding in Oxford can be a little daunting at first, but if you can 
drive a car you are off to a great start -  the same road rules apply to cyclists as to drivers! Be mindful of what’s around you, but try not to be too intimidated by the cars. Motorists in Oxford are used to sharing the road with hundreds of cyclists each day and are generally very courteous.  

Here are some safety tips to get you off to a great start
·     Forget your hairdo, wear a helmet. (Note: it is not compulsory to wear a helmet in the UK).
·     Don’t wear clothes or carry bags that might get tangled in the chain or wheels of your bike.     
·     Give clear signals to show other road users your intention.
·     Leave plenty of room when passing parked cars and watch out for opening doors!
·     Always look well ahead for obstructions and avoid swerving suddenly to pass them.
·     Watch out for pedestrians! The footpaths in Oxford are very narrow and they often 
      step onto the road, oblivious to cyclists behind them.

For more cycle safety tips, check out The Oxford Fresher's guide to 'Buying a Bicycle.'

Oxford University Press

Did you know that the Oxford University Press is the largest university press in the world? 

Its rich history spans five centuries and began in 1478, just two years after the first printing press was set up in London. From humble beginnings at the Sheldonian Theatre, (its first central print shop), the press moved to the Clarendon Building on Broad Street in 1713 and again in 1830 to its current location on Great Clarendon Street, Jericho. In 1857, it began one of its most significant projects, the "Oxford English Dictionary" and expanded significantly from the late 1800s, opening 
its first overseas office in New York in 1896.

The Oxford University Press Walton Street, Jericho. (Image © Copyright Fractal Angel)

The Oxford English Dictionary
The first part of "A New Oxford Dictionary," a tiny little bundle of unbound words ranging from 
'A' through to 'Ant' was first published by in 1884. However, it was not until 1928 that the entire work, comprising 128 individually published sections was complete. The title, "The Oxford English Dictionary (OED)," was first used in 1895.

Original slips from the first Oxford English Dictionary.

Oxford University Press Museum 
If you'd like to trace the history of Oxford University's involvement in printing and publishing
from the 15th century, why not visit the Oxford University Press Museum? Admission is free and tours include displays on the 17th century Fell Types, the Oxford Almanacks, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, The Oxford English Dictionary and much, much more. 

Click here for booking details.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Big Scream

Setting up life in a new city is enough to challenge the best of us, but those who arrive with a newborn in tow, have a lot more to scream about than most. If you've recently arrived in Oxford 
with a baby aged 0-1 year old and are looking for a socially acceptable way to let it all out, the 
Big Scream club might be just for you.

Run by The Phoenix Picture House in Jericho, the Big Scream club screens films exclusively for parents with babies under one year old. So the next time you want to 'see' (but not necessarily hear) one of the latest releases, there's no need to find a babysitter or worry about causing a disturbance - Big Scream sessions are for parents and babies only. Low lights are left on in the auditorium and nappy changing facilities are available, but remember, no baby, no entry!

Phoenix Picture House, 57 Walton Street, Oxford.
Click here for details and session times.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Oxford Colouring Book

I stumbled across this colouring book whilst browsing in the Oxford University shop this morning and thought what a fantastic gift it would make for all the 'little' fresher's out there. After all, it's not just us big kids that find moving stressful.

Moving is tough on kids as they often feel as though they have little or no control. Help make their 
transition a smooth one by talking about your move as much as possible - The more you are able to help your kids 'see' themselves in their new location, the less anxious they will feel. Little Ox and his friends might be just the ticket!

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