Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Nan and Parson's Pleasure

Nan often took Small Sister and I for walks to admire the beauties of Oxford: the Botanic Gardens, Magdalen College Meadows, the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum (highly recommended - dinosaurs and shrunken heads). 
One of Nan's favourite outings was to walk through the University Parks to a spot called Parson's Pleasure.  Strictly speaking we didn't actually go to Parson's Pleasure as it was (is?) a male-only nude bathing area on the river.  No - we went to sit on the other side of the fence that hid the swimmers from view and eat our picnic - banana sandwiches in wholemeal bread, raw carrots and red cabbage.  One August Nan was given a bottle of champagne brandy (cognac) for her birthday.  Thinking it fizzy champagne she thought it an appropriate accompaniment drink for a picnic; given that I was 13 and Sister 4 I think it  safe to assume that Nan was responsible for the empty bottle at the end of the afternoon.  Things got a bit raucous when she insisted on looking through the knot holes in the fence and at the same time warning us not to follow her example as  'it was very shocking and shouldn't be allowed' and at the same time encouraging the gentlemen bathers not to be shy.

The day ended with Nan and Sister walking back to Cornmarket singing such gems as 'I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts' and 'Show me the way to go home' .  With me walking as far behind them as possible and praying I wouldn't see anyone I knew.

This was a sad day.  Up until then I had thought everything Nan did was wonderful; she was the loudest, funniest person I knew - a real 'give me lemons and I'll make lemonade' person.  But from then on I avoided any al fresco event that involved both Nan and alcohol.

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