A few days ago, I was round at an old university friend’s house for drinks. They mentioned they’d read Oxford Blood and I asked them what they thought.
“I really enjoyed it. It brought back loads of memories. But I think we could find a Facebook picture for nearly every scene.”
So feeling nostalgic and a little tipsy, we proceeded to do just that. The lawyer in me feels compelled to say that the fact that someone appears in one of these pictures in no way implies they inspired any character!
The evening was going to begin with a pirate bop. Harriet fastened herself into the corset top she’d bought for the occasion and looked forward to the fun that would be occurring. She accompanied the top with a short, floaty black skirt and the fishnet tights that were an almost inevitable part of all the women’s bop costumes and half of the men’s. She threaded a ribbon printed with skull and crossbones through the laces of the corset and finished it all off with a pirate hat and sword she’d bought from the fancy dress shop. Having forced her hair into wild pre-Raphaelite curls and put on a ton of black eyeliner.
It was almost a relief when the exams actually started. It was rather surreal to dress up in sub fusc, the required outfit – white shirt tied with a ribbon, black skirt, black tights and shoes and of course the gown. It was traditional to wear a white carnation for the first exam, a red one for the last one and pink ones in the middle, all purchased by friends and given as a sort of good luck gift.
The Founder’s Tower was smaller than the main college tower that the choir would sing from, but still one of the highest points in the city. She’d never been up it before as it wasn’t open on a day-to-day basis. It was worth it when they got to the top. She could see out across the city in all its glory, bathed in the pre-dawn half-light. Always slightly fantastical, it looked like a bizarre medieval toy town.
The second dress was even better. It was almost ethereal, made of different shades of gold and bronze silk that overlaid each other. Tiny crystals subtly covered the bust area. She’d never seen a dress quite as beautiful.
The party began the moment that the sun went down. Each guest had been picked up from their college by an unordered taxi and driven out into the Oxfordshire countryside. One by one they had been deposited in a large clearing in the middle of a wood, several miles outside of the city. Stephanie was enchanted by the lanterns and flaming torches.
As she walked into the hall, Harriet stared in amazement. It was huge – long and wide and high ceilinged. Windows decorated with various crests alternated with giant portraits of kings and soldiers and famous alumni. Some, like Queen Elizabeth I she recognised immediately; others were a puzzle. Long wooden tables filled the hall, each of them covered in candles and silverware and seating around twenty people.
That’ll probably do for the moment, though I’m happy to take requests. Got a favourite Oxford Blood scene or even just a favourite outfit from the book? As long as it’s not sex or murder, I’ll find the appropriate picture…