This second draft includes [ excerpts ] from three messages I have received after submitting the first one to several Oxonmooters, marked with A., L. and M.
I feel it is greatly improved, so I will dare to submit the idea to a few more attendees. And I have refrained from adding my own comments, because these would more than double the length of this draft…
>>> My first Oxonmoot -2013- was a hasty one… I had travelled from Ibiza to Oxford using a long chain of transportation means, I got there too late for the first dinner, and I felt that the two days flew… It was very short.
[ L.- I agree that Oxonmoot feels like a very fast trip. I certainly won’t be able to attend when the conference is only two days. For those of us coming from other countries especially, it seems like it would be wonderful to have more events scheduled at the conference or appended onto either end of it. I would love to have a walking tour of Oxford, and/or maybe a tour of other important sites to Tolkien that are within one day of Oxford by bus. ]
>>> My second Oxonmoot -2014- had an extra day, and I booked two extra nights, one before and one after, in order to travel with a bit more leisure… yet I would have liked to have more time in Oxford.
[ M.- I understand what you say about your experience of Oxonmoot 2013. I had the same experience when I went to my first Oxonmoot, in 2003. It had an extra night, and began on Thursday; but I wished I had more opportunities to explore Oxford and other places near to it.
From the time I went to Oxonmoot 2004 to the present day, I have booked accommodation for a few days before it starts, outside of the relevant college, so I have time to look around. ]
>>> How many extra nights is it possible to book, before and after Oxonmoot?
[ M.- I do not know. It would depend on the attitude of the college. For this Oxonmoot, LMH did not mind if people attending booked nights before and after. It might not be the case at all Oxonmoots.
If the college where the Oxonmoot is held does not want to offer extra nights, there are other places in Oxford you can try. I can recommend this website:
The colleges of the University of Oxford (including LMH) offer their student accommodation to people during the summer and early autumn, when the students are away. Before Oxonmoot 2013, I stayed for two nights in a room in Keble College, which I enjoyed very much; because I could see a lot of the college, including the Chapel, which is very beautiful. ]
>>> As to how to organise any extra days, this is up to the attendees themselves. The amount of volunteer work that goes into just a regular Oxonmoot weekend is staggering. I should know, having been a volunteer in quite a few societies. Time is the stuff life is made of…
[ L.- I think you’re probably right, though, that it does take so much work to organize such an event that adding another day or two could be exhausting for the organizers. ]
>>> Maybe a walking tour with a local guide might be arranged. Oxford has a LOT of attractions.
[ M.- The Tourist Information Office and Blackwells Bookshop in Oxford organise walking tours. I was on a couple, which were nice. In terms of things organised by the Tolkien Society, there have been tours organised for places in Oxford connected with Tolkien. ]
>>> The tour should be preceded and followed by quick visits to some pubs, to get at least a smatter of English ‘education in intoxication’.
[ A.- And then of course there is the appeal of just sitting down and having long and deep discussions about anything and everything, preferably over a pint of something. ]
>>> And Oxford is conveniently near London, but not too near.
[ A.- On the whole I find London to be unfriendly and expensive – my personal rule says England becomes more genuine the further from London you get. ]
>>> We could make short dashes to nearby cities, and discuss Middle-earth topics by the way.
[ A.- On the Tolkienian side, sites worth of visits are the Ridgeway, an ancient road that comes quite close to Oxford and passes among others the White Horse of Uffington (possible inspiration for Shadowfax), Uffington Castle (possible inspiration for Helm’s Deep) and Wayland Smithy (possible inspiration for the Barrow Downs). If you look at the area on a detailed map you find many other places with Tolkienesque names. The whole area is a bit difficult to get by train (the Great Western main line passes close by, but does not stop). One good starting point (in my own experience) is the village of Ashbury, a very pleasant and old fashioned typically English village. This is served by a bus from Swindon. If you want to spend more time, the village pub rents rooms (I think it is called The Rose or something like that, they have a website). But be warned, it always rains there, even when the rest of England is bathed in sunshine. I think it’s the Barrow Wights. ]
>>> And last, but not least for me, Britain is Paradise on Earth for railfans. There is a surprising number of them in the Society. Didcot, Swindon and Paddington are not far. Any suggestions?
[ A.- Of course Didcot is a good place to go. It’s possibly one of the best places in England if you like the Great Western. Unfortunately, most of their activities are on Saturdays and Sundays and that would mean missing bits of Oxonmoot, unless you manage to bridge a whole week and take the next or a previous weekend. There is also another steam railway, the Cholsey and Wallingford. Both of these are on the direct rail line from Oxford so easy to do as day trips. Swindon requires a change of train at Didcot. Paddington of course is interesting if you don’t know it already and London has a number of other railfan attractions, including the London Transport Museum.
Catching the train the other way out of Oxford you come to Birmingham which is of course a great city for industrial archaeology, most notably Tyseley works. ]
[ M.- I’m not a fan of railways, but I find them and their history interesting. If you want to check with anyone else in the Society if they would like to go to those places, perhaps you can arrange something before or after the Oxonmoot.
You may have heard of a good UK television series: ‘Great British Railway Journeys’.
It is a documentary where a former Minister of Transport goes around Britain by train, using an 19th century railway guide, looking to see if anything described in the guide is still there, and looking at what has changed since then. The former minister is Michael Portillo, who is half Spanish. Luis Portillo, his father, was a refugee from the Spanish Civil Way, because he was a supporter of the Second Republic. ]
>>> Um… Mr. Portillo… Chance again?
>>> Then again, all this may be like trying to herd cats… In my first trip to Oxford I met some Lewis Carroll fans from Spain. Spaniards are not famous by their innate abilities for teamwork. We hired a flat-bottomed boat. Since nobody knew how to punt, we got paddles… and could not keep a straight course in -perhaps- the mildest river in the world, but it was great fun.
[ L.- Something else I would be interested in would be more scholarly presentations. The ones I saw at Oxonmoot were very good, but I just wished that there were more. I was overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of scholarship I saw at the Return of the Ring conference and would love to see even more of that at Oxonmoot. I wonder if it would be possible to get one more very well known scholar, like Tom Shippey, so that we would have two key note addresses? And then we might also encourage more folks doing scholarly work to attend and give presentations? I won’t push this issue, though, if my voice is in the minority. I don’t want to try to make the conference into something
that it’s not or something that most of the attendees don’t want. ]
>>> My idea is to offer the extra nights as an integral part of the regular registration form in the Society website, and see results. If any…
[ L.- In any case, I think it’s a good idea to go ahead and offer the extra nights, as you say, as an integral part of the regular registration. If folks don’t sign up, then those nights can be cancelled. ]
[ M.- That sounds very nice! It can be difficult to organise people for things, even things they all like. ]
>>> My idea is to agree an hour to have breakfast all together. Then we may discuss what to do «today». A pre-fixed schedule has advantages, but when it comes to planning outdoors activities… As Lester Simons said, we have not a climate in Britain, but we get lots of weather. Of course, it would not be compulsory to go with the main group, but the most enjoyable thing in the Moot is your company. I look forward to getting as much of this as I may, even if I suffer another bad case of P.O.D.S.
Juan Manuel Grijalvo