Whenever I go to a new place, I try to skip the tourist traps (although I shamelessly love one of those bus tours) and check out the quirky things that make the place unusual. So when I discovered Ben le Vay’s Eccentric Oxford in the bookshelves at Waterstone’s, it was like Ben le Vay knew I was moving to Oxford and had written this book just for me.
The walls of Oxford are full of stories, and you’ll be sure to find the strangest ones of them all in this book. Perhaps my favorite one, which I tirelessly tell everyone who cares to listen, is about the mallard that ran through the halls when All Soul’s College was being built in 1437. Since then, it has been a tradition every hundred years for Fellows to parade around the college with flaming torches pretending to look for the duck.
Other than making me the queen of fun facts of every street corner in Oxford, it was a delight to read this book. It is charmingly written, with just enough humour to make the stories and people stick to my fact-repellent brain.
The book also has a useful list of annual oddball events and traditions, along with some really creative and interesting ones. So next time there is a santa run, invisible mallard hunt or literature festival, you’ll be sure to not miss it from now on.
10/10 would recommend.