Before making this trip to Oxford, the very name of that city brought back some bad memories. Two kick-in-crotch football defeats was the reason behind this, when York’s dreams of promotion had been shattered in a mad few minutes. Those painful defeats had initially made me want to burn Oxford to the ground at the next opportunity, but thankfully I mellowed and let it go. As I boarded the train at Paddington I hoped that these ghosts could finally be laid to rest by visiting the place that had caused me so much anguish. Whether licking its cathedral could help with this remained to be seen though.
Interestingly enough, licking Oxford Cathedral was not the main reason for this journey. My girlfriend, Lisa, and two of her friends (Richard and Anna) were in town to pitch an idea for an animation (check out their company’s website: http://www.glasscannon.co.uk) to the university, so it was a good opportunity for us to see eachother.
Ever since the time I shyly told her of the bet, standing in the shadows of Southwark Cathedral, Lisa has provided stoic support for the venture, being a veteran of 3 licks up to this point. This time she had even gone to find the location of Oxford’s cathedral before my arrival, and had fitted the planned lick into the day’s schedule. What a woman!
We spent the evening in the Eagle and Child, the pub where Tolkien and his friends had gathered for good food and story-telling. We sipped delicious mulled cider, now that winter had arrived, and made plans for the morrow.
Oxford Cathedral has two unique features that make the licking of it somewhat taxing. Firstly, it’s inside a college, Christ Church College to be exact, which you must pay £7 for the privilege of entering. Our collective Yorkshireness groaned under the weight of this fee as we begrudgingly coughed up. Secondly, this is the smallest cathedral in the United Kingdom, making for less hiding places to carry out discreet licks of stonework. This last point would cause us almost no end of grief.
There is no denying that Christ Church College is truly stunning, in a I-wish-I-had-studied-here-you-intelligent-Oxford-bastards kind of way. It was like walking into the Middle Ages, with a multitude of cloisters (can’t get enough of these), high towers and great, hammer-beamed ceilings. Unsurprisingly, parts of it have featured in many a film, most notably Harry Potter. Not being a fan myself, my heart raced no faster upon entering the great dining hall from the films, where Japanese teenagers were having loud seizures of pleasure whilst making their baffling two-fingered peace sign for the cameras.
Cathedral lickers and tourists were prevented from exploring the whole place by cunningly-placed signage and men in suits and hats, who looked unnervingly like they had just come back from an Oddjob lookalike convention. This was all we needed given the true intention of our visit. I had images of my eager tongue, mere millimetres away from my stony goal, being sliced clean off by a well-aimed bowler hat.
My spirits were lifted when Richard suggested making a film out of the whole thing, producing a camera from his pocket with a flourish. I had never had a filmcrew before on a licking trip, so this was going to be a very special experience. So while my support team gave me instructions, I wandered open-mouthed in the gorgeousness that is Christ Church Oxford.
Richard filmed me entering the cathedral itself, the doorway of which appears as if from nowhere in the maze-like interior of the college. Once inside I was unnerved by the silence, then by the elderly attendent who glided over to offer me a guide. The others soon joined me and we instantly began looking for lick locations. As expected, these were few and far between in this shoebox of a cathedral. Beautiful it certainly was, in a very compacted sort of way, but this was largely lost on me. No easy licks here like at Winchester and Salisbury. It appeared that official cathedral signage had been outlawed, or that those two infuriating sign-moving rogues from Guildford, out for revenge, had already been here to scupper my plans.
We searched in vain, and soon aroused the suspicion of a queer-looking lady, who seemed to haunt our every step, wearing an admonishing scowl as she went. She wasn’t even a member of staff but a visitor like ourselves. Perhaps she was trying to lick the place too, I thought, or maybe she had been sent by Adam to perform some subtle anti-licking procedures.
Just when all looked doomed, yet more evidence of divine approval showed itself. Next to a pillar by the altar hung a tapestry, with “OXFORD” emblazoned across it in fine needlework. Somehow none of us had noticed it before and must have walked past it dozens of times. Now I’m not saying it was a miracle, but this was certainly a bit spooky. The saint whose image appeared on the tapestry smiled benevolently, a smile that no doubt confirmed his blessing of my venture, and eternal damnation upon Adam.
Alerting the others, I took up my position. Richard began filming while Anna and Lisa kept a lookout for that scowling crone.
You will notice my thoughts on the taste in the video. It wasn’t as bad as Salisbury, but not far off it, being incredibly salty and gritty. Why do some cathedrals taste so rank? Are people employed to coat the walls in sewage to deter people like me? Anyway, the foulness was outdone by the sense of achievement, and we made our way out joyously, with the crone watching on aghast.
I am truly delighted with Richard’s camera work and editing and hopefully he can help to capture many more licks. Certainly, from now on the licks will become bolder and more risky. The idea of an abseil-lick has also been mooted, and I have a few plans myself, so keep an eye out. If anyone has any crazy suggestions please do let me know.
A thousands thanks to Lisa, Richard and Anna for this very memorable lick.