Multi-storey car park in Winchester
A triple whammy for this month's blog. This link will take you to Oxford University Press's own blog. There, under Editor's Picks, you'll find an account of a field trip to Winchester I took with Jayne Archer and Howard Thomas ("Sid"), during which we gained some insights into sharp financial practice going on in the market city when Keats pitched up there in the summer of 1819. An afternoon spent in the Hampshire Records Office, peeling apart leaseholds, provided us with exciting new information about Winchester bankers, speculators and privatizers, as well as ownership of the city's cornfields. Among the revelations was a likely new location for one of England's most famous fields, the "stubble-plains" of Keats's ode "To Autumn" (the picture above gives a clue). We left having formed some startling conclusions about the famous poem Keats composed in Winchester ... You can read about them over at Oxford University Press's website.
Coverage of this story by The Guardian and The Daily Mail. BBC Radio 4's Today programme and BBC Radio Solent ("Julian Clegg Show") also picked it up, as did The Telegraph. (Update on the update: we also made The Lady, The Huffington Post and The Southern Daily Echo.) For the record, being interviewed by John Humphreys was every bit as nerve-wracking as it sounds. Listeners to Radio Solent sent in "Ode on a Car Park" poems all day, apparently. Part of The Telegraph's Editorial for 23 March 2012 was given over to an ... "Ode on a Car Park", which I think is rather good, and reprint here:
Breeze-block and brick and brutal concreteness,
Give four-wheeled shelter by the hour or day,
By simple rules of model completeness
Governing the ticket that you must display.
The Screen’s nearby; you’re nice and close to get
The South West services for Waterloo;
Convenient world, that’s different by far
From anything that Keats once thought or knew.
From your dark heart, when planning laws are set,
Will you in future years some highway yet
To fresh green lands your rising arm unbar?
All in all, a hectic day, but one that my co-authors, Jayne Archer and Sid Thomas (sunning it in Naples, but very much part of events via email), and I enjoyed immensely. We hope Keats would see the funny side.