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Former Regal Cinema, Oxford

The good lady heard about this cinema as she was listening to the radio one day and mentioned it to me later.

The cinema is on the corner of Cowley Road and Magdalen Road but I have not seen it myself as we did not get to that part of Oxford when we were there (in 2012.)

The photo below is taken from geograph.org.

Former Regal Cinema

I found other photos of this cinema here, here and here.

It seems to be an entertainment venue now.

Blackout by Connie Willis

Gollancz, 2012, 611 p

Why does Willis have a fascination with the 1940s Britain of the Second World War? One of her most celebrated short stories, Fire Watch, is about the preservation of St Paul’s from destruction in the Blitz, To Say Nothing of the Dog relied on the bombing of Coventry Cathedral for its plot motor and now we have a whole novel (split into two parts – I still have All Clear to come) devoted to the subject. (There are scenes set in the similarly troubled London of 1944 under doodlebug bombardment but these end when one of the characters is apparently hit by a V1 and we are thereafter firmly stuck in 1940.) Fair enough, Pearl Harbor, D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge get mentions but you’d have thought a USian would have been more interested in these scenarios – or the Pacific War. Or is it that the details of those would be more familiar to her core US readership and she thinks she can busk it here? I certainly wasn’t convinced that life during the Blitz was anything like Willis describes it here.

As to details, the back cover puff from the Washington Post “every detail rings true” raises a hollow laugh in a British reader; for the details are what consistently hit wrong notes. For example, we hang out the washing, not the laundry – hanging out a building where washing takes place would be a mite difficult. And again, our trains and buses have timetables, not schedules. The text is littered with such divergences in use of language. This is not a trivial criticism; the characters are supposed to be British (though one has a US language implant) and it is their viewpoints we experience. Even more egregiously, in a chapter heading about not evacuating the princesses to Canada the relevant quote is attributed to their grandmother Queen Mary rather than their mother Queen Elizabeth.

As is usual in Willis’s Oxford Time Travel stories we start in the Oxford of 2060 where historians are “prepping” to make use of the time travel apparatus to experience their periods of study themselves. Between our time and then there has been some sort of disruption (the Pandemic – and a terrorist with a pinpoint bomb has blown up St Paul’s) but the feel of this future is curiously old-fashioned. Desk top telephones for urgent communication?

The plot depends on things going wrong with the mechanism of time travel, preventing the historians’ return to the future. Slippage of location and time of each “drop” are not unexpected – there are apparently inviolable rules for when and where a historian can be dropped and when the drop may reopen plus divergence points to which there is no access. It is not surprising to the reader, though, that not all goes smoothly: disorganised is too mild a word to describe the 2060s lab. This renders all the anguishing of the characters as to why their drops won’t open, that it’s their fault, tiresome.

Blackout is the usual Willis read, though, despite her famous technique, in her presentation of awards speeches, of digression to build up tension being grossly overused. In a novel it only delays getting to the point and is an almighty irritant but I suppose it helps to increase the word count.

I’m at a loss to understand why the Blackout, All Clear combination won the Hugo Award last year. The only other novel on that year’s list I have read, Ian McDonald’s The Dervish House, far outshone this.

Art Deco Oxford (i)

I hadn’t researched Oxford much before going there. I assumed it would be a bit like Cambridge with some Art Deco in the town centre but I wasn’t expecting to see something stunning like this in amongst all the mediæval stuff in the University part of town.

New Bodleian Library, Oxford, Oxfordshire

It was obviously being gutted/refurbished – the insides were all gone and turned into a building site; as witnessed by the crane. It looked even better from the corner!

Full View of New Bodleian Library, Oxford, Oxfordshire

I have since discovered it’s the New Bodleian Library.

More conventional deco was to be found in the shopping areas.

This is the New Theatre.

New Theatre, Oxford, Oxfordshire 1

The facade extends along the street.

New Theatre, Oxford, Oxfordshire 2

There was this set of shops

Giraffe and other shops, Oxford, Oxfordshire

I wasn’t quite sure whether the Job Centre was deco or not. It has a nice doorway whatever.

Job Centre Doorway, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Oxford

On our last day away we visited Oxford.

You can overdose on mediævality there but you can’t go to Oxford and not photograph this if you see it. (The van does kind of ruin it though.)

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford, Oxfordshire

On a wall in High Street, Oxford, I noticed this plaque.

Boyle & Hooke Plaque, Oxford, Oxfordshire

It commemorates Robert Hooke, he of the eponymous law on elasticity, and Robert Boyle who formulated the Gas Law and was the first to use the word cell in connection with living things.

I didn’t stumble on Oxford’s War Memorial but there was some stunning Art Deco (to come in a later post.)

Evesham, Worcestershire

Evesham in Worcestershire was about 10 or so miles from where we were staying.

I’ve heard of the Vale of Evesham but we didn’t really notice it as such until our last day and had a climb up a steepish hill on our way to Oxford and could see back where we’d come from. There were some apple trees in bloom but nowhere to stop to photograph them.

Evesham itself is a bit down-at-heel but with some quaint old buildings.

Evesham Central Market had a deco flourish on its roofline, though.

Evesham Market, Evesham, Worcestershire

Inside there were the usual sort of wee shops found in an indoor market, but only a few of them, plus a set of rooms housing a “junky” kind of antique dealer’s. A bit further up there were two rather less “junky” antique shops side-by-side just off the other side of the main street.

At one end of the street there was this building which doen’t really look very deco apart from the chimney and the decoration between the windows and the roof line.

Deco chimney, Evesham, Worcestershire

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