A Personal Reflection

by Giles Woodforde

A nxiously, we awaited the opinion of a vexillologist on the latest development.

No, not a doctor or scientist, but a vexillologist.

The question was this: is the Union Jack that's just been added to the Prime Ministerial jet painted upside down? A vexillologist is an expert in flags (of course), so he should know. "It's correct," came the verdict. "When viewed from the starboard side, an observer will be seeing the reverse side of the flag, so it might just seem to be upside down."

Phew, that's all right then. It would be awful to think that a huge sum had been spent, and they'd still got it wrong. Also, Kidlington bird watchers, seeing the plane approach its base at RAF Brize Norton through their binoculars, might have got a terrible fright if they thought an expensive mistake had been made.

I quote this story just to illustrate how good it's become to find a morsel of news that isn't all Covid gloom — or yet more contradictory advice on how to conduct my life safely, and not be a danger to others. Another snippet that caught my eye was a Matt cartoon in the Daily Telegraph. One village cricketer is watching another roll the pitch: "It's ridiculous that cricket isn’t allowed," he is saying to his friend, "Nobody in our team has ever caught anything."

The start of lockdown already seems a distant memory — was it really only four months ago? Remember the absolutely silent background to the abundant birdsong in the early days? It took me back to my long-ago youth in rural Suffolk. The only sound then was the phut, phut of the diesel generator which supplied our electricity: the mains would not arrive for some years yet. This infernal machine had a malevolent habit of stopping without warning just after you'd climbed into bed with your book. I can still sense that ghastly oily smell.

As the lockdown months have rolled by, Kidlington Voice has published many beautifully written articles — as collected together in its first-edition printed volume. As James Hamilton put it in one of his contributions: "In these odd times one notices odd things". Pavement tarring patterns and manhole lids for instance: if James hadn't written about their infinite variety, I would never have noticed that Banbury Rural District Council had its own lid design, as I discovered on a delightful walk round Hook Norton recently. And John Batchelor made me look afresh at gardens: "Gardens are wonderful places for rest and recovery during the pandemic and in a heatwave they are welcome refuges".

He goes on to remember fondly the link between Oxford college gardens and their midsummer undergraduate Shakespeare productions. That put me right with a vengeance. Previously I have too often linked college gardens with overlong renderings of Romeo and Juliet — as a drama critic I confess to more than once experiencing uncharitable feelings as the midges started to bite, and the college clocks struck eleven. "For goodness sake, Juliet, get on and die," I have thought, "Or I'll miss the last Kidlington bus. We all know that’s how it’s going to end". Now I feel really remorseful, in a year when there is no Oxford summer Shakespeare, or indeed live-audience theatre of any sort anywhere.

And yet — green shoots are appearing, and not just in gardens that have perhaps had more loving attention than usual this year. For me the first sign was the smell of new paint as I walked past the King's Arms on The Moors. Advertisers in Kidlington Voice are coming back to life. I've just met three different people whilst out for a walk. All had new, positive stories to tell. Of course, that in no way minimises the experiences of those who've suffered from Covid-19, or lost loved ones to the illness. But positive stories do suggest that there just might be light at the end on the tunnel.

How will things develop as the year continues? One thing's for sure: there's much still to be written about, so watch this space!

An Emoji in the sky over Kidlington

Meanwhile, my thanks to the aerial team who lifted my spirits by painting a smiley Emoji in the sky one lockdown afternoon. It might have been mildly polluting, but it was fun.

SEE ALSO by Giles Woodforde
Morse, Lewis, Endeavour
Paw Prints
Going to the Pictures
A Personal Reflection
Yellow Bus

Giles Woodforde is a long-time resident of Kidlington village and was once a familiar voice to listeners of BBC Radio Oxford.
He is best known as a feature writer and reviewer for the Performing Arts for The Oxford Times newspaper.

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