Wednesday, May 20, 2009

speaking at Oxford

I began my talk here tonight by saying, "I don't think I will ever again speak in front of such a beautiful backdrop." The Centre is in a noble manor house - there's a photo of it with a coach and four white horses and footmen in long coats waiting out front - and the garden behind is stunning. The grass is rolled within an inch of its life - perfectly smooth and bright green, with flowers tumbling from beds all around, wisteria, old trees - extremely beautiful. I spoke in an oak-panelled room with old paned windows behind, showing the garden at dusk. I felt very lucky to be there. 

Before the talk began, a man came up and told me he'd been a good friend of my father's in the Sixties in Ottawa; Larry sat near the front and beamed at me throughout. It was a small but good crowd, asked lots of good questions - and after the strain of my talk in Paris, it was great to tell stories in my own language. There was a buffet supper beforehand with wine which I couldn't drink, so I asked one of the staff to save me a glass for later. She saved me a whole bottle. 

As he left afterwards, an elderly gentleman who'd been there gave me his card. "Explore Islam on the Internet," it said. "If you want to know anything about Islam, here you will find it," he said. I thought that was marvellous, given that I'd just talked on the Jewish Shakespeare at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Today, what joy - it did not rain, not once, and the sun was actually present in the sky for long periods of time. I went into Oxford to do some errands and begin my sightseeing - got bus and train tickets and visited Christ Church College and Cathedral, where little Alice Liddell lived and played, and where a friend of her father's, Professor Dodson, grew to love her and turned her into Alice in Wonderland. The whole city is so picturesque it's unbearable, one ancient college and building after another. I will visit it again on Friday.

Oh, and while I was chatting away in Oxford, a location scout whom I'd contacted once came to my house in Toronto and wants to use it as a location for the CTV series "Flashpoint." So while a few score of people have heard me talk about my life's work, hundreds of thousands of people will see my kitchen on TV. My kitchen will be famous. 

Maybe, for a change, I'll just check out Islam on the internet.

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