One of those days where it feels like forever since I’ve seen my knitting group – the Oxford Drunken Knitwits (although I prefer crochet). The knitwits are a group of yarn fiends who meet up at a different pub every Wednesday to drink and yarn-craft, as a rule drinking is optional, crafting is not – we’ve had all sorts from the knitting and crochet, to felting, yarn spinning and occasional cross stitch.
Since it’s inception in 2012 the Knitwits has spawned a further nine chapters (as of November 2018), as far afield as Philadelphia to the west and Brisbane to the east. As many people come to Oxford for work or study, the population here can be quite transient – this also means I’ve made friends with people from all around the world, with a variety of different backgrounds and interests – its one of the things I love most about the group.
This Wednesday we met at the St Aldates tavern, a cosy pub in the city centre – we were given the upstairs room to ourselves, which given how many people showed up turned out for the best. We also had a record number of male crafters turn up which prompted the above photoshoot!
St Aldates’s tavern has a good range of real ales, they are part of a pub group that is included in the City Club App (there’s currently four in Oxford) – I’ve previously been a bit dubious of these apps that keep coming out, but then I’m invariably drawn in by an offer or two. With this app you open a tab on your phone, and show it to the barstaff everytime you order something and at the end of the night you just click pay (you enter your card details on set up), and it whooosh, paid. But that’s not all, you get points for spending money and these can then be redeemed for food, drink, games of pool, tshirts… but hey mostly drinks. And as an added bonus, for using the app in November I got a free gin something or other which I need to claim asap.
The Oxford Drunken Knitwits meet every Wednesday – to find out where we’ll be next week, sign up using the link above.
I feel the need to state that I really like the band from what I’ve heard online, so much so that I fully encouraged my husband to buy the vinyl at the gig when he was uming and ahhing whether to buy it. They’re great! However they didn’t really prove to be super anything tonight.
The gig held great promise – as we entered there were signs ‘warning’ us that there would be ‘inflatables and balloons’ and we’d seen photos from gigs around the U.K. over the past week involving the lead singer ‘crowd surfing’ on an inflatable sea mammal.
However we had none of that , there were two band members who seemed to serve no purpose other than to ‘dance’. Eliminate those and maybe we’re getting there. Then after about 35 minutes the entire band apart from the singer left the stage – I don’t know why? Maybe to ‘perk’ up? But during this time alone with the audience to chat the singer started crying with emotion and then told us how unusual it was for her to do this.
At this point I suspected it was some weird ploy for sympathy before launching the dolphin crowd surfing thing, but no.
Just one final song then leaving the stage after a grand total of 40 minutes. They didn’t even play the entire album. For a gig that was advertised as having an 11pm curfew- finishing at 9:40 is really taking the biscuit.
Part of me is hoping that there is a genuine reason for the short gig other than ‘this is just how many songs we play live’ but we’ll see.
I didn’t plan very well and therefore don’t have much to post about, so here’s a few photos from last weekend when we attended Ritual Union, a one day multi-venue festival featuring a good mix of local and not so local bands. Pictures here include Warmduscher, Boy Azooga, Husky Loops and Peaness. Can’t wait for next years tickets to go on sale
This is a mixed bag of a review, in part because I think the book itself is a mixed bag. I bought this book last year at a signing/launch event at Blackwell’s bookshop here in Oxford – being a huge Nordophile this was right up my street. My memories of the event are now a little hazy, but overall it was funny (one of the authors – Richard, is British with that ever depreciating sense of humour), if a little awkward. On reading the book, I realised that the jokes scattered within had been relayed at the author event – so double edged sword of having heard them before, but being able to read the book in Richard’s jovial manner – I don’t think I would’ve gotten all the jokey/ironic/amusing bits had I not been aware of his manner – which segues into the book. The book itself was really interesting full of historical and more modern day facts about any Nordic/Scandinavian links with Oxford whatsoever (and yes, some are tedious links), the delivery could’ve been slicker – I think I stopped counting after 10 grammar/spelling/wrongly labelled photo errors – but this is down to the publishers/editors – something I might expect from a self published ebook but not something purchased in hard copy from Blackwell’s if I’m honest. There was also a couple of historically incorrect pieces such as the statement that there are 3 days of the week in English that are named after Norse gods – with Tuesday being named after Thor (as we geeks know: Tyr – Tuesday, Thor – Thursday), but again, with a proper publisher, wouldn’t this have been fact checked? 10 seconds on wikipedia will find the answer.
The longer into the book I read I found it becoming more travel guide than Guide to Norse and Nordic Oxford, eg you should visit places X,y,z in Oxford that have no known links to Norse/Nordic culture but are must sees for any travellers to Oxford – I guess I found these snippets unnecessary and some recommendations were repeated several times over the course of the book – but again, I felt that these were things that an editor would eliminate along with incorrectly labelled photos and the photos in the book that were lovely but had no context.
So overall a really interesting book, but due to poor editing gets 3/5
Tomorrow (April 22nd) is the tenth anniversary of Record Store Day, I think I first heard about in 2012 or 2013 and if you’ve never heard of it, quite simply put it’s a day designed to encourage people to shop at independent music shops. They do this by getting hundreds of artists on board to release special and limited edition records (but also sometimes CDs and tapes make it) that can only be bought in Independent record shops or in their own words
A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least 50% music whose company is not publicly owned. In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores – not online retailers or large corporations.
So if you live in Oxford there’s a couple of choices in the form of Truck store and Blackwell’s Music. There is also Rapture (sister store to Truck) but that’s out in Witney, so if you’re visiting Oxford city centre for the day, these are your options and I’ll give you the run down having visited both in 2015 specifically for RSD (In 2016 I was in Newcastle for the weekend, and yes I checked out a few stores there and came back with a few extra records for my collection), although I’ve shopped in both quite a few times over the past couple of years (when i’m not buying directly from artists or bandcamp).
Truck Store, 101 Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1HU
Probably the more well known for RSD, and yes the same Truck who run Truck Festival – the queues here start early, we arrived around half 7 one morning, the shop opening at 8am – we were kept warm with their in house coffee shop taking orders down the line (it was a really cold April morning) and got in the store around 10am. I’m not really familiar with the many possible formats for running a record store day event, but Truck allow a handful of people in the store at a time to browse. This means if a group of people decide to browse for half an hour, tough you’re stuck outside, as far as I remember there wasn’t a particularly logical order to the RSD stock, so it meant literally looking through everything they had for RSD to see if they had what we wanted (yes for 1, no for 2 others). My previous experiences back in Manchester with Piccadilly Records were vastly different (people start queuing the evening before for a start, in fact as I write this people have already been queuing for several hours), they provide people in the queue with a photocopied list of what they have in stock, when items sell out it’s shouted down the queue, so if you’re queuing for that one illusive item and it’s gone, you don’t have to waste another few hours in line only to be disappointed. Another thing I like is that they also hold all the RSD stock behind the counter, so you have to go in and ask to buy/look at it – this leaves the rest of the store free for customers browsing for non-RSD items (and yes there were plenty) and also helps the queue go faster.
Your second option in Oxford, Blackwell’s music : I’ve not been here first thing on RSD, but it doesn’t strike me as somewhere that would generate large queues, and it doesn’t seem to get any press. So last year my husband sauntered down to Blackwell’s at lunchtime and picked up what he wanted, no queuing or fuss. The year before after queuing at Truck, then going to warm up and have breakfast at Tick Tock, we decided to swing by Broad street and found that the sold out items from Truck were here in stock. Obviously they don’t stock a huge range, but they do a fairly wide range of genres and we’ve picked up AIR and Jesus and Mary Chain here along with some RSD slip-mats. The staff are really friendly and it’s a proper music shop in that it sells sheet music, instruments and some pretty cheeky music inspired gifts (a Chopin board anyone?), they can also order stuff in for you.
As well as being one of my favourite book shops in Oxford, the Last Book Shop also has a second hand record section (top of the stairs that go down to the second hand book section), it’s proper crate digging, whether you find a gem or not is anyone’s guess but prices are sensible. They also sell coffee, cake, the aforementioned books – new books are £3 each or 2 for £5, large second hand section in the basement.
Open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – I think Saturday is the best day for records and music although there are stalls on a Thursday selling old records, the guy who is there on a Saturday has a really good selection spanning plenty of genres – also the whole market is a good place to shop for vintage, handmade, quirky stuff.
OK not independent (well not anymore), the recently opened Oxford branch is conveniently located on Gloucester Green Market so you can kill 2 birds with 1 stone if you visit on a Saturday. Good range of vinyl as well as CDs, DVDs, books and good prices, as they’re now owned by HMV they can afford to be more competitive. For me Fopp fills certain gaps that Truck leaves in terms of range but is by no means comprehensive for my tastes. Side note it has a very good foreign DVD range, particularly Nordic/Scandi noir Tv series.
Oxford has a plethora of charity shops, really I’ve never seen anything like it in a city so small. I pretty much only visit them for books, but plenty sell records, obviously this is another crate digging expedition to find anything worth while – and the Oxfam shops here are very switched on so you won’t necessarily snag a ‘bargain’. In fact some prices are just ridiculous, one ‘vintage’ shop that shall remain nameless had a box of ‘vinyls’ (yes really) priced from £5, for items that wouldn’t sell at a record fair for 50p!
Day 10, last day! Can’t quite believe I stuck at it, but rather pleased I did. The last day’s challenge is quite simple, to read through your posts from the challenge and choose your favourite. After thinking it over for all of 30 seconds, it wasn’t hard to realise that day 8 was my favourite – taking time out to enjoy myself but reconnecting with creativity at the same time reminded me how valuable non-work actions can be for your work. I realised when writing yesterday’s post what the big take home message was for me – to plan realistically what I want to achieve with each day. As I work full time on my day job, finding time and energy to do my ‘spare time’ job on evenings and weekends when all I want to do is flop or have housework and other life stuff to do can make it difficult and overwhelming. Except with a little planning, and adjustment to my day I’ve found after only 10 days that I’m being more productive in the areas I want to be. Long may it continue.
When I first had this idea for a blog post, I only had three coffee shops to recommend. Thankfully since then I’ve A. explored a bit more and B. a new coffee shop opened adding to the list. I’m in no way a coffee aficionado, in fact my favourite tipple is a latte – but it’s also one of the coffee types that is more often made incorrectly. How many people are thinking eurgh a latte is just a milky coffee? If you are, you’d be wrong, or perhaps a customer of several high street chains, who just throw in extra milk to make a drink medium or large: a good latte is all about having the right ratio of coffee to milk and so few places seem to get this even close to right.
Like all lists, this is by no means comprehensive or finite. It’s my list of places to go first and foremost for quality of the coffee, service, and atmosphere – and I’d love to hear your suggestions to expand the list!
Probably known more for their cocktails and dogs (although as I finished this post, I got wind that the dogs were gone, in place of a much fancier menu), their attention to detail is on point with everything. After my first coffee here, I was heard sighing “why are they not closer to where I live/work/the centre of Oxford”.
The place where beans are roasted for the Missing Bean Cafe on Turl Street, where you can pick up your weekly supply of freshly roasted coffee, try a new blend or pick up a wee treat from A Rosie Life Pop Up Shop. They are also proponents of reusable takeaway coffee cups which gets a big thumbs up from me.
What not to love? apart from the great coffee, the absolutely beautiful cafe, there’s also the super amazing cake! Their loyalty card (collect 9 stamps to get a freebie) gives you a stamp for each coffee or cake. During the recent heatwave, they served me with a coffee with cold milk, I found it way more refreshing than an iced latte, I may be converted. Oh, did I mention that the cake is great? I recently tried the courgette cake and it lasted 3 sittings – immense! Don’t even get me started on the bread….
4. Brew – 75B Banbury Rd, Oxford OX2 6PE
Ok so technically listed as Banbury Road, the entrance is on North Parade – not to be confused with the further north, South Parade. North Parade is a small shopping street, ull of independant delights and regularly closes to traffic to hold their street market. They have this amazingly fancy copper.. coffee machine? (maybe it just heats the water, I really don’t know), and also a record player so you can pick your own tunes if you’re lucky enough to grab one of the handful of seats.
5. Delicatessen Cafe – 42B Abingdon Rd, OX1 4PE
I don’t even know what this cafe is actually called – it’s not listed on google or any where else that I can find on the internet and the address I’ve given is for the hairdressers next door. I stumbled upon this place during Artweeks 2015 and it stuck in my mind. There’s also a good selection of weekend papers to browse whilst you’re there.
So these are my top 5 coffee places in Oxford, all a short walk from the city centre, and coincidentally, all independent businesses – what are you recommendations? I appreciate that not everyone wants to walk outside the city centre just for a brew, so another alternative from high street chains could be Oxford’s own mini-chain Taylors. They have two cafes on the high street (one at either end), and two on the opposite corners of Little Clarendon Street/Woodstock Road. My preference is the high street ones, top tip – a large coffee on the high street is the same size/price as a medium at the Clarendon Street outlets.