19 September 2010

Steventon

The other day, we went down to Steventon to have a most enjoyable lunch with the widow of a long-time treasurer of S Thomas's (who also was famous throughout England in ringing circles ... you should just see the list of churches in which memorial peals were rung in his honour).

Steventon was the place where one got off the train back in the days of Mr Newman, when the branch line up to Oxford had not yet been built and the Alma Universitas was resisting tooth and nail the distractions which such a piece of modern technology would bring to the undergraduate body. You will remember how, in Loss and Gain, Newman's semi-autobiographical novel, Charles Reding, after deciding to go for a pre-Ordinariate option, decides (for no very obvious reason demanded by the plot; Newman is clearly indulging his sentiment) to visit Oxford for the last time before his reception in London. "On his arrival at Steventon ... the afternoon being fine, he left his portmanteau to follow him by omnibus, and put himself on the road ... he had passed through Bagley Wood, and the spires and towers of the University came on his view, hallowed by how many tender associations, lost to him for two whole years, suddenly recovered - recovered to be lost for ever! There lay old Oxford before him, with its hills as gentle and its meadows as green as ever. At the first view of that beloved place, he stood still with folded arms, unable to proceed. Each college, each church, he counted them by their pinnacles and turrets. The silver Isis, the grey willows, the far-stretching plains, the dark groves, the distant range of Shotover ... wood, water, stone, all so calm, so bright, they might have been his, but his they were not ..."

Before driving to the house, we stopped briefly outside Steventon church ... I will continue this a little later.

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