I’m pretty sure that every town has an Oxford Road. You know the sort. A road with a bit of…atmosphere. With flavourful characters shambling up and down it at 4am. With hundreds of random shops selling world cuisine and personal injury claims. With at least two establishments you’re fairly sure are Houses of Ill Repute, unless the ‘No Appointment Necessary’ facade is an elaborate bluff for the Reading outpost of MI6. And I don’t think it is, do you?
Oxford Road has always fascinated me. Last week, while stuck in a classic Oxford Roadian traffic jam I drifted past the McDonalds – with which, depressingly, I have a more than casual acquaintance – and saw what looked like a fairly decent coffee shop. And I wondered what other gems I’ve overlooked.
So come with me, friends, on a quest of astonishing magnitude: This Week on Oxford Road. Henricus and I will venture inside all of the interesting-looking premises I’ve admired from a distance, and shed light on these mysteries. We will discover which of Elle’s Baguettes is the tastiest. We will enquire about the correct vitamins to produce a physique similar to this fine gentleman.
We will find recommendations for the most Exotic substances in the Exotic Superstore.
We may even find out what makes Raj’s fingers so Golden, though I’m making no promises on that one.
This may result in food poisoning or mental scarring. But screw your courage to the sticking place: we’re going in. Not into any of the Houses of Ill Repute, because, you know. We wish our repute to remain intact. But into some of the other places.
THIS WEEK ON OXFORD ROAD: we headed straight for this dazzling shop front.
I am staggered by that many sequins in one place. You should see it glittering away at night, in the glare of three kebab vans. Stunning. There, I told myself, is a shopkeeper who understands the lure of a good sequin. And on this evidence of his excellent judgement, I’ve always idly wondered what he counted as a Needful Thing.
All sorts of things, we discovered. Large tubs of Vaseline. Pellet guns. A beach ball the size of my pushchair, suspended from the ceiling. Three matching potato peelers in contrasting pastels. A Honey Monster stationery set, most excitingly. We were surrounded by usefulness, and barely knew where to look. In the end, we bought some colouring pencils for £1. This means that the next time I teach a class of four-year-olds, I won’t need to ask them to do some colouring with black biro.
Triumph, by any standards.
Tune in next week. Gosh. Honey Monster Stationery. What will we find next?
(PS – I read The Hunger Games today. Yes, all of it. Yes, today. (Sorry Henry.) I feel slightly ill now – when I read books at a gallop like that I can’t wrench my head out of them afterwards, and have to go around touching things to make sure they’re real – but I couldn’t stop. Where’s the next one? WHERE IS IT? Does Waterstones deliver?)
(PPS – The writing wasn’t brilliant, but it wasn’t awful. You can forgive quite a lot when you’re unable to stop reading and do the washing-up for fear of what might happen on the next page.)