I wanted to record my first proper Whole Weekend Off since I started working for myself full time. I have had the odd couple of days where I haven’t worked, but this was a booked, pre-arranged, weekend away, with no laptop and no work. How exciting!

The impetus for the weekend was the LibraryThing Virago Group. LibraryThing is a place where you can catalogue your book collection, and it has groups to join related to various interests. The Virago Group reads and celebrates books published by Virago Press (especially the classic green-spined ones) and, having had a get together in Reading a month or so ago, we decided to  meet up in Oxford.

I didn’t take many photos on the day, but here are the few I did take.  I have been to Oxford a few times in the past, and have general pictures, so I concentrated on the bits I hadn’t seen (like Magdalen). Ali and I travelled down together with much giggling and book chatting, and met the others at Oxford Station (leading to lots of “does that look like a Virago person?” comments). We’d met Simon and Julie before, Julie had Mary and Helen with her, and then Claire and Luci arrived together, so it all worked well. We then went and toured the Oxfam bookshops and a few others, behaving very well when two of us wanted the same book: “You have it, no, you have it!” I was thrilled to discover that quite a few of us are pony book fans and picked up a Mary Webb novel in Oxfam. The lovely Kerry joined us at this point, having been driven in by her husband. “Husbands?!” we all shrieked, but he sensibly did his own thing and kept safe from the marauding hordes of book hoarders.

After book shopping we had lunch at the Nosebag, a lovely little restaurant next to a shop with a large number of Georgette Heyer novels in stock … Claire kindly gave me a green copy of Stevie Smith’s “The Holiday” – I had one once but managed to mislay it. I’ll be more careful with this one! After that, we went to Magdalen, where Simon is studying for his PhD, so we got the inside story and I started taking some photos.  We had the great treat of tea in the MCR (Middle Common Room – the one for graduate students / postgrads) and a good old chat. A quick trip to the upstairs of Blackwell Books and on …

Then it was on the bus to Verity’s house, where we had a marvellous tea (I should have started this post with the story of my cat eating the original pack of crumpets I’d bought – I did source some completely new ones!) Verity had laid on a spread of wonderful treats, catering to our various dietary requirements and even making shortbread and cake decorations in the shape of the Virago apple logo. There was also a shelf of books to choose from, and I finally laid my hands on a copy of Lolly Willowes.

Kerry’s patient husband kindly drove Ali and me round to our hotel, the Peartree Travelodge, which was fairly nearby but tricky by public transport. We checked in, got some decadent dinner from Waitrose and had a lovely evening of Own Time, reading and, in my case, getting a really early night.

On Sunday, we hadn’t arranged to do anything until lunchtime, so had a leisurely breakfast and more glorious reading time, in which I finished my travel book and got half way through “The Return of the Native”, and then walked the 3 or 4 miles into Oxford. A coffee at the cinema and a slightly panicky hunt for the Pizza Express, then met up with my old University friend, Nick – we graduated 20 years ago this month! We had a good old chat that left Ali and me time for a quick whisk round the shops and a gentle stroll to the train station, where there was time for a cuppa (of course) before the train came in.

What a lovely weekend. I really appreciated having time to do nothing except read. I’m planning to do more of this, but mulling over strategies, so will probably leave that for another post …

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