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spires from Carfax

local shops

Oxford, , — September 2011

The little cluster of shops closest to us — around the junction of Magdalen Road with Hurst and Catherine Streets — has just gained two places to eat. OxFork, where the Oxford Cycle Workshop shop used to be, is a fine food place. They're only doing breakfasts and lunches to start with, but they also sell fresh bread from the Natural Bread Company, which will be convenient. Next door to them, replacing a butcher, is the CousCous Cafe, serving Moroccan and Middle-Eastern food.

The established eating place is the Magic Cafe, which serves cheap and hearty vegetarian lunches (and has just announced they will be opening for dinners as well, on Fridays, on a trial basis). This occasionally takes on the appearance of a creche, full of prams and infants, but is always a cheerful place to go.

Right on the junction, there's our local pub, the Rusty Bicycle, which also does lunches and dinners. There's a Punjabi supermarket which stays open quite late (usually to about 9pm) and sells fruit and meat as well as groceries. Sylvester's Stores is an old-fashioned family hardware and homewares store, in an extremely narrow shop that just keeps going. As well as having all kinds of crockery and tools, they also run a nursery from stands out front. And there's a store Chudri Jeweller that seemed empty for ages but now has a tiny supermarket and ads for mobile phone plans.

Continuing eastwards, there's the Inner Bookshop - see my Oxford bookshop guide for information about that. It's nice to have a bookshop so close, even if it is a Mind/Body/Spirit specialist. There's an aquarium shop, The Golden Fishbowl, which has an international reputation, and there's The Electric Transport Shop (which I mentioned in an earlier post).

All told it's rather a nice little "shopping centre".


  1. From your description, where a cafe opens for dinner on trial on Fridays only; there doesn't appear to be nightlife or entertainment in your local shopping centre except the pub. It is just like suburban Sydney. Does downtown Oxford meet people's entertainment, like cinemas, dinning,and shopping needs adequately? The gastronomy department came up short from your previous post.

    I know you're enjoying unseasonal warm autumn weather, I guess when winter sets in, few people would want to venture out at night.

    Comment by DL — October 2011
  2. It all sounds very inviting and familiar. I almost feel homesick!
    We can all do a cafe crawl next year.

    Comment by Vera Yee — October 2011
  3. Doug, this is just the very small cluster of shops right near us. Five minutes away on Cowley Rd there's a whole pile more pubs, some kind of dance/music venue, a small independent cinema, some adult shops, and probably more. The area we're in is more like Sydney's inner-West or inner-East than its outer suburbs.

    And Central Oxford is even livelier, there are a couple of theatres, multiple cinemas, and other entertainments - on Friday and Saturday nights in particular it stays busy quite late.

    Comment by danny — October 2011
  4. So Oxford is not some backwater as I had imagined after all.

    You mentioned there are many cinemas. Let me digress from this point because I was a keen movie goer back over forty years ago. I used to go with my school mates to Cremorne Orpheum and others for Saturday matinees, evening shows or the drive-ins and watch double features.

    These days, I average less than one cinema visit per year. My first visit to a cinema was after my arrival in Hong Kong from rural China in 1956. Back in the village, there was no running water or electricity ( which came in the early 1980s.) Life was simple. Raincoat, for example, was made with overlapping layers of bamboo leaves. I can't remember I had ever seen a movie then, though, I remember the communist propaganda unit came to the village and showed b & w slides and a war film of Mao's guerrillas fighting off the Japanese, in the village square.

    It was a very special time for me in Hong Kong in 1956. I was like the proverbial sponge, there was so much to soak up. For a start, I had to learn a new dialect, the main stream Cantonese. Then, I got to see many, many movies, mostly local productions in Cantonese, because a young child (or two) could get in the cinema for free with an adult.

    I didn't get to see too many Hollywood films. I think the first such film I saw was Niagara, starring Marilyn Monroe. Of course, I did not know a word of English then, or who Marilyn Monroe was. It was many years later in Sydney, when I saw the film again on TV that I realised it was the first English language film I had seen. It was one particular scene which brought it all back. In that scene, MM was pursued up a staircase and eventually died a watery death. It was TERRIFYING for a young boy, I sorted of half-closed my eyes because it was so scary. I would love to see that film again just to re-live a childhood moment.

    ( I am turning in for the night. Interested to hear more? Let me know)

    Comment by DL — October 2011
  5. My lack of English ( still struggling and doing badly ) did not stop me from reading about movie news in the Chinese press. I always read the film reviews, and longed to see those blockbuster movies from the mid-1950s. I knew all the big stars by their given Chinese names, names like Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner, Marlon Brando etc, etc. English came later.

    Some of the big office success or critically acclaimed movies are: Ben Hur, Ten Commandments, Some Like It Hot, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Defiant Ones, Magnificent Seven, Guns of Navarone and more, I had to wait years to see them as re-release, on TV, or on DVD many, many years later in Sydney.

    Two movies I had literally waited over fifty years for are Witness for the Prosecution starring Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich. Of course I had no idea what the title was in English, but I remember the cast. A few months ago (I think it was in April), it was shown on a digital channel one Saturday evening. I made sure I was not going to miss it. It was a court room drama with a very interesting twist at the climatic end. The film received raving reviews by the Chinese press in Hong Kong . It was well worth waiting over half-a-century for.

    The other one is On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando. I dutifully checked the TV guide for years, and flicked through the library's DVD collection countless times to no avail. But I overlooked the obvious; I did not do a catalogue search. My local library did have it , I paid $2.50 to reserve it and at long last I got to see it. It was a very youthful Marlon Brando. He was certainly a heart throb to the sheilas.

    I can think of one more film I wanted to see badly. It is Susan Hayward's I Want to Live. It is a childhood hang up. I just have to see it, to find out for myself why the film was so rapturously acclaimed by the critics in Hong Kong back in the late 1950s.

    These are some of my reminisences of childhood in Hong Kong. Danny, my apologies for hi-jacking your biog with my ranting.

    Comment by DL — October 2011
  6. We've only been to the cinema maybe half a dozen times so far in Oxford, but we should go more often. There's the Ultimate Picture Palace off Cowley Rd, the Phoenix in Jericho, and the mainstream Odeon (Gloucester Green and Magdalen St), and some kind of monster Vue cinema out on the ring road.

    But I should probably post separately about cinema!

    Comment by danny — October 2011
  7. Just want to let everyone know that the Hare Krishna people are back on Sydney Streets. They are appearing near the cinema cluster opposite Sydney's Town Hall in the evening. Sydney is alive again. What joy! what rapture !

    Comment by DL — October 2011

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