New Walk for Next Week – London before and after the Roman Invasion

London before the Romans
View of London from the SE as it might have looked before the Roman Invasion

Tower Hill Underground
Sunday 8th January 2023 11.30pm

The walk looks into the evidence for a prehistoric London and tells the story of the coming of the Romans in AD43

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London.

The walk investigates the City of London before and after the the Roman Conquest. What is the evidence for settlement before the Romans set up town of Londinium? Why did the Romans establish the town on this spot? Who were the early Roman Londoners and what made their choice of site so successful?

The fledgling Town was then burnt down by Queen Boudiccan and her Icenian rebels. We look at the evidence for the Revolt and London’s recovery to became the capital of Britain.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

REVIEWS (from London Walks website)
“Kevin, I just wanted to drop you a quick email to thank you ever so much for your archaeological tours of London! I am so thrilled to have stumbled upon your tours! I look forward to them more than you can imagine! They’re the best 2 hours of my week! 🙂 Best, Sue

To Book:

Happy Christmas!

Beautiful rhyme of a working boat on the Regent’s Canal, Haggerston. Video K Flude from the author’s garden

Not much time to post today as I had to move my boat to a new location. I started at 9.15pm, at Notting Hill and got the boat to Camden to find the Canal shut for major engineering work. Turned round in a small space, and a bit of trailing rope from a garden got caught in my propeller. Moored, got moved on to a suggested new site by the engineers. Found, after mooring and shutting up the shop, that the towpath was closed off and there was no way out to the rest of the world. So, as there are no mooring from Paddington to Camden had to take the boat back almost to where I started. So by 2pm had returned to within 10 minutes of my starting point…….

December 21 – Reflections on the Solstice

Mass Clock Steventon

The Sun is at its lowest at midday; the sun rises and sets at its most southerly position in the whole year. If it continues, life will be extinguished as the world has no light and no heat.

But on this day the Sun begins its rebirth. From this day on, it begins to rise further north each day, the Sun at noon is higher, its sets further north each day. so the arc the rising and settings make is larger, the days are longer; the Sun is getting hotter too.

Symbolically, solstice is an ending as well as a beginning; a turning point and a promise by whatever Deity or non-deity you go by that the cycle of the world will continue. It will turn, the wheel will turn. Warmth and growth will return. Buds already growing in the earth. They will break out and bring new growth soon.

Culturally, its a time to have a party before the weather gets really cold, its a time to evaluate your past life and begin, like the sun, a new and hopefully better cycle.

Note. so if the Sun is at its shortest and weakest why is not the coldest time of the year? That is because the earth and, particularly, the oceans retain the heat of the Sun, and so it is generally colder in January and February. The coldest day varies and can be from November to March, but more often falls in January, then February, then December, more rarely in November and March.

The Solstice and the East Pediment of the Parthenon

British Museum Shop, reproductions of Hestia and Selene’s Horse from the Parthenon Marbles

At the Summer Solstice, I took a group to the British Museum and, a few days later, to Stonehenge, and managed to ‘integrate’ the two into a solstice narrative. At the BM, over years of trying to explain the sculptures, I have been building in my mind an interpretation of the Pediment that gives, I hope, an original insight into the possible intentions of the sculptors. I don’t know how ‘true’ it is, but I do think it gives an insight into metaphor and symbolism in great works of art. Bear in mind that there is a lot of uncertainty about some of the attributions, and, that the male and female virtues that I am talking about are traditional ones, not necessarily how we would express it in the modern world.

Pediment Sculptures Photo by Nicole Baster on Unsplash

At the left of the above photography, you see the horses that take Helios chariot into the sky to bring up the sun to light the world every day. Most sun deities are male, and the Sun gives light and life to the world, without it this earth is an inert block of ice cold stone. The next statue is casually laying back and looking fit, relaxed and not looking as if he is in that position because of the impossible triangular Pediment space he inhabits. He is the epitome of male strength, usually identified with Hercules but other people have other ideas and a young Dionysus is another suggestion. Whoever he is he represents male beauty and strength. So this end of the pediment represents the Sun and male virtues. This is the East Pediment of the Parthenon which is orientated to the rising sun, a little north of east.

Next are Demeter, the goddess of fertility, the goddess of the earth. Placed here to remind us that the Sun needs the Earth to create life and sustenance. It reminds us that the universe is not male, the male only works in conjunction with the female. Demeter is cuddling her daughter Persephone, the Goddess of Hades. She reminds us that life is a cycle of death and life. Plants die, turn into soil and create the conditions for future life.

Next is Hebe, daughter of Zeus and Hera, wife of Heracles (Hercules). She is the cupbearer to the Gods and gives them the ambrosia that keeps them forever young. She is the Goddess of Immortality, a reminder that the universe is eternal.

Next to Hebe is a void where there was the central statue of the east pediment depicting the Birth of Athena (according to Pausanias who wrote a guide in the 2nd Century BC to the Temple). Athena was born from the head of her father Zeus- a virgin birth. Athena therefore is, in some ways, the greatest of the Olympians, as she has the virtues of her female sex and the virtues of her father’s masculinity (and, dear Gods, hopefully not the massive ‘Me Too’ vices of her father). She is therefore, wise, nurturing, just, intuitive, decisive, a leader; an ideal combination of male and female.

Zeus (sitting) Hephastus to right (looking back with Axe)  Athena just visible above Zeus's head
Zeus (sitting) Hephastus to right (looking back with Axe) Athena just visible above Zeus’s head

I posted about the quite extraordinary story of the Birth of Athene earlier in the year and said

‘So Zeus eats Athena’s mum, Metis, who is pregnant with her. Sometime later he has a cracking headache. Hephaestus, the disabled artificer God hits Zeus over the head to clear the headache. Zeus gives birth to a fully formed Athena from the split in his head.’

Hestia, Dione, Aphrodite, Horse of Selene’s chariot

To Athene’s left is Hestia (Vesta for the Romans). Her name means “hearth, fireplace, altar” and she is the goddess of the domestic sphere, of the comforts of home, of a warm fire enjoyed by a loving family.

The next set are two beautifully draped women languidly leaning on each other, and these are Dione, with her daughter Aphrodite – the Goddess of Love. Dione is the daughter of Gaia and Uranus daughter of earth and sky. So, here, counterpoised to Hercules, are epitomes of women. Women of power, creation and love.

Finally, we have the exhausted horse of Selene. Her chariot takes the moon into the sky, positioned opposite to Helios and the Sun. Selene is the Moon goddess, and the Moon is beautiful, powerful as it gives us the tides and fundamental to the life of humans as she presides over the menstrual cycle. Compared to the movements of the Sun which any fool can work out, and which are relentless (symbolising Justice) the movements of the Moon are mysterious to most of us. So Selene is beautiful, powerful, creative and the Goddess of Intuition.

So, if you put it all together the East Pediment of the Parthenon shows that the world is a union of the male and the female, balanced between the two with Zeus and Athene in the middle, with Athene holding the main part because she, in her person, represents both the male and the female.

Of course we know that the Athenian society was a patriarchal one with women mostly kept in the domestic sphere. But here, at least, women were given an equal billing in the organisation of the Cosmos.

Sculptures from the east pediment of the Parthenon
Sculptures from the east pediment of the Parthenon

I must end by warning the reader that this is only my interpretation. I am not a scholar of Ancient Greece. I have come to my own conclusion based on spending a lot of time looking at the marbles, doing Solstice Virtual Tours, and mostly informed by the labels in the gallery, with of course, some reading including Mary Beard’s book entitled ‘Parthenon’ and the BM’s guide book. In particular, I have not incorporated into my ‘story’ the sculptures that were in the gaps that do not survive or only in fragments scattered throughout the Museum world. Mary Beard was cleverer than I, not reaching conclusions on the basis that we don’t know. But what we do know is that in the centre is Zeus and Athene and at the edges are the chariots of the Sun and the Moon. And so fitting to celebrate the Solstice.

This evening, 21 December 2022 I am doing my London Solstice Virtual Tour

Upton Lovell Shaman becomes a Goldsmith

‘Materials in movement: gold and stone in process in the Upton Lovell G2a burial’

Upton lovell 'shaman' display wiltshire museum
Screenshot from Wiltshire Museum web site

The journal Antiquity reports amazing discoveries in a paper called : Materials in movement: gold and stone in process in the Upton Lovell G2a burial and citing that the paper is

‘advancing a new materialist approach, we identify a goldworking toolkit, linking gold, stone and copper objects within a chaîne opératoire,

Setting aside what ‘new materialism’ and ‘chaîne opératoire’ are for the moment. Briefly, their analysis of the objects found in the Bronze Age burial of two people evidence that the person(s) identified as a ‘shaman’ on the basis of clothing/jewellery was (as well?) a gold worker. What is amazing is that they were using Neolithic axes which would have been hundreds of years old to make gold sheets. There was also evidence interpreted as tattooing instruments. As Upton Lovell is 12 miles from Stonehenge it means this is big news in the archaeological world, making most of the newspapers.

The authors dig deeper into the meaning of ‘New materialism’:

‘This approach advances on traditional technological studies in two ways. First, whereas materials are usually approached as having fixed properties, new materialists argue that these properties emerge relationally; they change through time and in combination with other materials, people and places (cf. Barad Reference Barad2007; Bennett Reference Bennett2010). Second, ‘making’ is seen not as the simple imposition of the will of a maker on an inert material but, instead, materials play an active role in the process.’

Widipedia gives a definition of chaîne opératoire

To put it more simply objects have complicated histories and contexts. You might also like to look at the original article (link below) which is written in a very strange style which gives the objects agency ‘an active role in the process’. Below is the conclusions of the article.


Drawing on microwear, residue analysis and new materialist theory, we have reassessed the Upton Lovell G2a grave assemblage. The empirical techniques attend to the materials, which are reinvigorated by situating them within this emergent theoretical landscape. These approaches reveal how the grave goods disclose an intertwining set of processes. Never static, these objects changed and shifted, requiring modification, repair and reuse. They speak to a complex interweaving of bodies—human and non-human—and their varied histories. There is far more complexity here, in relations, histories, gestures and processes, than could ever be captured under the label ‘shaman’, ‘metalworker’ or ‘goldsmith’. Grave goods are more than representations of a person’s identity. They are more even than critical relations in the construction of identity (cf. Brück Reference Brück2019). What these grave goods stress, when attention is paid to their stories, is quite different. They speak of material journeys, the colour of stone and the texture of gold capturing relations that flow across landscapes. Collectively, as an assemblage, these stone tools reveal a process of goldworking. But this goldworking involves as much the working of stone, in the shaping and upkeep of tools, as it does of metal. Here, we emphasise the repetitive and iterative nature of our chaîne opératoire, each action calling into being further moments of renewal of the polished stone surfaces so essential to the qualities other materials elicited. This goldworking chaîne opératoire is multi-material; it is as much a process in stone working as it is in the working of metal. From this perspective, the similarities in processing and working gold and stone mean that the former emerges as far more like the latter than our modern taxonomies would suggest.’

Materials in movement: gold and stone in process in the Upton Lovell G2a burial

If we analyse this conclusion based on the literary idea of ‘Point of View‘ you will see that the POV of the piece above is just bonkers. There is the ‘we’ of the authors, and the ‘they’ of the objects. ‘They’ are speaking to ‘bodies – human and non-human’. ‘They’ even have the ability to ‘stress’ an issue once ‘attention is paid to their stories’ and to be ‘reinvigorated’.

But its a very interesting find and analysis and does remind us that things are much more complicated than we realise.

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:

December 10 Time for your Beetle & Wedge

The Beetle and Wedge Boathouse Restaurant, Moulsford, Oxfordshire
Photo by Stephanie Musk (Wikipedia)

No season to hedge
get béetle and wedge
Cleaue logs now all
for kitchen and hall.

Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie by Thomas Tusser

A beetle is a hammer and a wedge is used to split logs, so the first thing Tusser enjoins his readers to do for December is to stop digging and hedging and, instead, cut firewood.

He also suggests (if I read the Tudor writing correctly):

Sharpen dull working tooles

Leaue off tittle tattle and looke to thy cattle

and suggests:

Howse cow that is old, while winter doth hold.

But don’t forget:

Out once in a day, to drinke and to play.

He suggests covering strawberries with straw to protect them; Making sure your dried cod and ling don’t rot. Store the products of the Orchard in the attic. Bleed the horse and help the bees with ‘liquor and honie’.

‘Thus endeth Decembers abstract, agréeing with Decembers husbandrie.’

Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie by Thomas Tusser www.gutenbe

Googling yourself to find your book is no 4 in a list of ‘Top Ten History Books’ of 2015!

Now here is the sort of thing you find out about yourself only if you

a. google yourself
b. go down to page 8

And there I find that thebookbag had my book as no 4 in its top ten history books of 2015, with Mary Beard at no 2.

And this is their review:

‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died…: The History of Britain’s Kings and Queens in Bite-Sized Chunks by Kevin Flude


History lives. Proof of that sweeping statement can be had in this book, and in the fact that while it only reached the grand old age of six, it has had the dust brushed off it and has been reprinted – and while the present royal incumbent it ends its main narrative with has not changed, other things have. This has quietly been updated to include the reburial of Richard III in Leicester, and seems to have been re-released at a perfectly apposite time, as only the week before I write these words the Queen has surpassed all those who came before her as our longest serving ruler. Such details may be trivia to some – especially those of us of a more royalist bent – and important facts to others. The perfect balance of that coupling – trivia and detail – is what makes this book so worthwhile.’

135,000 copies to date in 7 editions and formats. I did suggest a new updated edition to add a section on King Charles III but they said ‘they had no plans.’

The Great British Smog December 5th 1952

Image from Facebook

It was on this day, in 2022, that I read, in the Guardian Newspaper, that life expectancy in the UK is reducing for the first time in 200 years, (and that in parts of the UK it has gone down by 10 years during the time of austerity) it is also the anniversary of the Great Smog of 1952.

I’m tempted to say don’t read any more of this and listen to the BBC’s excellent episode of ‘Inside Science: Killer Smog’ instead (or if you cannot use BBC Sounds, then go to the link to a Podcast at the bottom of the piece) Both pieces are based on the work of Dr. Gary Fuller of King’s College, London, detailed in his book ‘Air Pollution: The Invisible Killer’.

But, if you are still with me, what happened in 1952 changed Britain forever, but Fuller makes it clear it did not change Britain enough. What happened was that a terrible smog developed which lasted for a week, beginning on Dec 5th 1952. It killed probably 12,000 people and the hospitals, the emergency services, the mortuaries, the funeral parlours had more work to do than during the Blitz or the Cholera epidemics. Higher deaths than normal were still occurring as late as January 1953,

What changed Britain was that it finally persuaded people that coal-polluted air was a killer. People had debated it since the Victorian period, but did very little about it, some even believing smoke was good for you. After 1952, it was clear what a killer smog was. In 1956, a reluctant government introduced the Clean Air Act which established zones where only smokeless fuels could be used, and other measures including dispersal of polluting industries from the towns, and taller chimneys. This eventually cleared up the problem.

Job done, or so we all thought. Dr Gary Fuller tells us that we are incapable of dealing with more than one pollution threat at a time. In 1962, another smog, created by sulphur dioxide pollution, killed perhaps 1,000 people in London. And London still has a lot of air pollution, not just from traffic fumes, and it is still killing people.

Traffic pollution in London is being dealt with more aggressively, partly as a response to a brave coroner who found that a 9-year-old girl, Ella Kissi-Debrah, died because of air pollution. (girls-death-contributed-to-by-air-pollution-coroner-rules-in-landmark-case). The London Mayor is finally addressing this issue by, first creating and then expanding, the Ultra Low Emission Zone, to encompass all the London Boroughs. This has been very controversial as it has meant many people having to sell cars that do not meet the standard. It has an unfortunate byproduce which was that it enables the unpopular Conservative Party hanging on, by the skin of their teeth, to Boris Johnson’s old constituency. Results in other by-elections and opinion polls suggested they would lose it. Since, then, the Rishi Sunak Government has gone full petrol head, rowing back on Climate Change targets in various areas.

Another front against car pollution are the Local Traffic Neighbourhoods which were set up by local authorities using COVID-19 legislation to introduce traffic reduction methods by blocking off many neighbourhood roads from through traffic. These have been fought tooth and nail by its opponents, but generally has not affected local government elections.

But much less well known are other threats. For example, there is an increasing threat from trendy wood burning stoves which are very polluting, and yet their sales are soaring as people seek ways of mitigating soaring post-Ukraine war electricity prices. Agriculture is very polluting too, with fertiliser, and manure mixing with urban pollution to create dangerous particulates. It turns out that the most polluting time of the year is not Autumn, nor Winter but Spring because of this agricultural activity.

The 1952 episode was created by a temperature inversion which kept a blanket of cold damp air over London, stopping pollutants being dispersed and blown away. What made it such a killer was that Britain, in post-war austerity (this time introduced by the Labour Party) meant that we were exporting our top grade coals and allowing domestic users to use terrible stuff called ‘nutty slack’ which was sludge, dust, and fragments of very low grade and therefore very smokey coal. 18% of the coal used was domestic, but it contributed 60% to the emissions. The fog was yellow and sulphuric, transport was halted as no one could see beyond their hands in front of their faces, and people had to leave cinemas because no one could see the screens.

Following our second (Conservative induced) austerity our systems are in collapse, ambulances, hospitals, water supplies in a terrible condition. Our water companies are pumping sewage into our rivers and seas, a vast tide of Food banks and warm spaces trying to help people in their bitter choices between eating and heating, and the Government has closed down the infrastructures that helped us through the COVID-19 crisis.

We need to stop being short-sighted, not just ‘solving’ one problem before moving onto the next. We need a fundamental revision of our systems to allow us to enjoy the last two of the four freedoms so eloquently expressed by Roosevelt (the subject of this year’s BBC Reith Lectures):

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

Air Pollution Podcast click here:

First Published on December 5th 2022, Revised and republished on December 5th 2023.

The Great Museum of London Reunion! (and closure)

The Great Museum of London Reunion

The Museum of London is reverting to its ‘original name’ the London Museum and moving to Smithfield. The problem is that they have decided to close the old Museum while they build the new one, which I think, sucks. To my mind a Museum’s job is to present its collection to the public: some of the objects are unique and need to be seen. To hide them all for four years because of convenience and cost savings is, I think, an abrogation of its duty. Of course, the Museum also runs the Museum of London in Docklands which is some compensation but all the same – four whole years!

So, today, it closes its doors. Then in the evening it hosts, what I imagine will be a ravening hoard of archaeologists and museum staff, for the greatest of all reunions. I’m very excited. I will be looking out for 2 wives, several ex-girlfriends and loads of old friends and colleagues many of whom I have not met for a very long time. I split up with Julie, my first wife, in our first few months as archaeologists at the Museum and a few years later met Poppy, the mother of our children, who worked as a Conservator at the Museum.

As I was a trade union representative while at the Museum, and co-edited the scurrilous archaeological ‘fanzine’ called ‘Radio Carbon’ I was, therefore, more often than most archaeologists to be found at the Museum. There I got to know quite a few of the Museum staff. So its going to be a blast. The original invitation was for a 2 hour event, which was then increased to 3 hours, and yesterday it was increased to 4 hours with live showing of England’s world cup game.

Radio Carbon (the author is to the left with finger up his nose)

Photos: Left: Kevin Flude in the Museum’s Library, One of my few claims to fame is that I introduced computers to the Museum of London (and the V&A)

Centre: Archaeologists at the GPO site (near St Pauls) the author in the front row with glasses surrounded by so many friends!

Right: Dig Party held at Trig Lane with home made fairground attractions and cocktails such as the Portaloo Flush (as I remember it vodka dyed blue with added raisins.) The author is in the foreground to the left. (photo Derek Gadd)

The original museum for London was called the Guildhall Museum, founded in 1826 and the repository for treasures found in the ‘City of London and suburbs’, and founded by the City Corporation. The foundation of the London County Council changed the balance of power in the metropolis and in 1912, the ‘suburbs’ struck out on their own and the London Museum was founded as a museum of the whole of London. It was encouraged by the Royal Family, particularly Queen Mary, and found a home in the Royal Palace of Kensington.

the London Museum (I think!)

In 1965 an Act of Parliament merged the two museums from which emerged the Museum of London which was purpose built, and it was to be funded one third each by the Government, the City and the Greater London Council. This was changed when Mrs Thatcher abolished the London Council and the funding was swapped to 50% City and 50% the Government.

In the interim before the new museum was built, the Guildhall Museum set up a temporary display at the Royal Exchange, and then moved into a building on the new Barbican High Walk. (thanks John Clark for information on the information on the merger.) The new museum was opened in December 1976, in a brand new building designed by Philip Powell and Hidalgo Moya. Instead of rooms with multiple exits, it was designed to allow only one route through – from the Prehistoric, through to the Romans, and then through a dark tunnel to the Dark Ages, and medieval, then downstairs down a ramp with a ceiling that echoed the Crystal Palace into Modern London. Its ethos was always to tell the story of London rather than highlight the ‘treasures’ and had people friendly, narrative driven displays of great clarity.

It will be much missed.


The Great Reunion was very noisy with competing sound systems and was very jolly. So great to see so many old faces (and still recognise them!) and sorry to miss so many who could not, for one reason or another, attend.

An Oxford Booklist

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayer

I lived and worked in Oxford for three years, working at Keble College as a Research Assistant in an archaeological science Laboratory. I lived first in a farmhouse in the Oxfordshire countryside and then right in the centre of Oxford in a room formerly lived in by Benazir Bhutto. The flat was in St Michael’s Street just by the Anglo-Saxon Church of St Michael’s Church. This where the North Gate used to be and where Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was imprisoned before being burnt at the stake. My room overlooked the Oxford Union where so many politicians have cut their teeth in debate.

St Michael’s Church, Cornmarket, Oxford

Now, from time to time I moor my narrow boat in Oxford either on the Thames or on the Oxford Canal; and take occasional groups of Road Scholars around the City of Dreaming Spires. Sometimes, people ask me for a booklist. So, this is my shortlist of books.

And it must begin with Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred & Profane Memories Of Captain Charles Ryder ‘ published in 1945, it is a beautifully written book, and, so, a pleasure to read. But it also gives a vivid insight into the English ruling classes attending Oxford University. The narrator, Charles Ryder is at Trinity College while the beautiful Sebastian Flyte is at Christ Church. It has, of course, been filmed in several versions but perhaps most notably is the 11-part mini-series by Granada Television in1981.

Once you understand a little about the Oxford experience and the English class system you might begin to have an insight into Boris Johnson. So it is time to dive straight into Simon Kuper’s ‘Chums: How A Tiny Caste Of Oxford Tories Took Over The UK’‘ 2022. As you consider the power of the English public schools, and Oxbridge to propel a talentless privileged elite to run(down) this once great country (if you will forgive a personal opinion), you might like to remember Prime Minister Asquith’s belief that his Oxford education gave him the ‘consciousness of effortless superiority’. For a more balanced view of this great University you might like to read Lawrence Brockliss’ ‘University Of Oxford: A Brief History, ‘ 2018

But its time to get off my high horse and wallow in the joys of a good read. So if you really enjoy the murder mystery, my suggestion is that you spend your time in Oxford with Dorothy L. Sayers and ‘Gaudy Night’ 1935 which is set in one of the early Colleges for female students. Harriet Vane has invited Lord Peter Wimsey’s to investigate strange goings on in Harriet’s alma mater, the all-female Shrewsbury College, Oxford (based on Sayers’ own Somerville College). The events centre around the annual Gaudy celebrations which is the Oxford name for a College festivity.

This brings us to Inspector Morse. My best advice is to stick to the ground-breaking TV series staring the sublime John Thaw, or one of the post-Thaw TV series. Because, frankly, I have been reading Colin Dexter for the first time for this reading list, and am surprised how one-dimensional and dated the novels are. Having said that, Dexter does have the skill to put together a murder mystery which is enjoyable to escape into and reminds us that the writer’s art is not about all about beautiful writing but is grounded in the ability to keep the reader’s nose in a book while lost in an engaging story.

So, you can safely ignore my disdain and enjoy a guilty read of: ‘The Daughters Of Cain‘ 1994, where Morse investigates the death of a College academic. Its a good one to choose as it gives an introduction to 1990s life in an Oxford College with most of the action in the centre of Oxford. Although, surely, even Dexter must think its not a good idea for the investigating Detective to have a (reciprocated) crush on one of the suspects?

As a lover of the Canal system, my second choice is ‘The Wench Is Dead‘ 1990 where Morse is in hospital (where all the nurses, the Sister, and a young female visitor inexplicably fall for the unhealthy, sick and close to retirement Detective). Morse amuses himself by solving an historic case where a woman is found murdered on the Victorian Oxford Canal, and the climax comes on a trip where he can both solve the crime and enjoy a one-night stand with the Sister. She is one of those characters who shakes her hair loose, takes off her metaphorical glasses and is transformed from a harridan into a beautiful woman.

Better written are my next two choices: Max Beerbohm’s ‘Zuleika Dobson: Or, An Oxford Love Story’ 1911 where the devastatingly attractive Zuleika leads an Edwardian satire of Oxford University life in the early 20th Century. A good example of an Oxford mystery is Iain Pears delightful ‘An Instance Of The Fingerpost‘ 1998 based in post Civil War Oxford.

A real treat is to read Philip Pullman’s books ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy and ‘The Book of Dust’ trilogy. At the centre of the alternative universes is a curious steam punk Oxford, where a dictatorial Church oppresses the people. Perhaps the best to read for Oxford content are ‘Northern Lights‘ 1995 (retitled The Golden Compass in the US) where we are first introduced to Lara from Jordan College (based on Exeter College which Pullman attended) and ‘La Belle Sauvage’ (2017) where the baby Lara is rescued by Malcolm who lives at the Trout (a real pub on the river Thames, mentioned in Brideshead, frequented by Morse and Lewis and outside which I love to moor by boat).

The Trout, River Thames. Oxford

Finally, for a birthday treat buy or to borrow from your library Alan Crossley’s sumptuous volume of maps illustrating the history of Oxford., ‘British Historic Towns Atlas Volume VII: Oxford [hardback] ‘ Historic Towns Trust : 2021

Front Cover, British Historic Towns Atlas Volume VII

Other book lists to follow.