My husband attended the neighboring Oriel College, but his great-great uncles were Magdalen alums whose names (the Cattleys) were carved into a wall memorializing graduates who lost their lives to war. The plaque is outside the chapel, which hosts a lovely candlelit evensong.
|Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford University|
|Magdalen is known for its gargoyles.|
Another personal connection is our old friend Stewart Wood from our Harvard years, who is now a Magdalen fellow and a politician. Stewart's service to the Labour Party earned him an honorary title and a seat in the House of Lords. The day after the horrific terrorist attack on Parliament, Steward traveled up from London to teach politics and to host us for high table. He spoke of the courage of the security team, who ran towards danger, and the camaraderie among friends, rivals, and strangers during the lockdown. We always enjoy comparing notes on American and British politics.
In front of Stewart's campus office building grows a mighty oak that hatched from an acorn in 1660!
Magdalen's extensive grounds include a deer park and a canal. It's hard to believe you are still in the city of Oxford. The campus was extra peaceful since the students are on spring break.
A different wine accompanied every delicious course, and I drank sparkling water from a tin cup forged in 1888!
By happy coincidence another guest, Matthew Skelton, wrote kid lit too. I felt like a character in a novel myself.
After a three-course dinner we walked through the cloisters...
...to the senior common room for a second dessert of fruits and chocolates.
Our chairs were arranged in a semi-circle before the fire. By tradition, port and madeira are always passed to the left. In front of the fire was a contraption for ferrying the decanter to the other side of the hearth, manned by an Islamic Center fellow and by Stewart on the receiving end. Okay, this must be a steampunk novel!
Several famous children's authors hail from Oxford. Magdalen has a book of wagers including one by C.S. Lewis, who taught English and always won his bets, that time a bottle of port. You can tell who dined at Magdalen high table since guests are weighed on a jockey scale and their weights recorded.
At our last Magdalen high table, we walked across the cloister roof from the smoking room to the dining hall. The smoking room is currently closed for renovations, which were delayed after a medieval skeleton was found under the stairway. Archeologists believe the remains to be from the Jewish cemetery that predated the college. Oxford can be stranger than fiction.
On that chilling note, we bid goodnight to Magdalen College. I may revisit in a novel set there.