Exactly ten years ago I spent three wonderful weeks in Oxford. I went to a language school, but I also had a lot of time to explore the town. From this trip, I’ve brought back so many lovely memories — finding the Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, talking a walk through Oxford and through his old college with one of my teachers, the wonders and marvels of the Pitt Rivers Museum … One of the books I bought during these three weeks was the first Inspector Morse omnibus by Colin Dexter. The Morse novels are all set in Oxford, so I thought this would be a great way to remind me of my holiday.
Unfortunately, I’ve never managed to finish any of them: I usually gave up reading after only a few pages because I simply don’t like Dexter’s style. Duh. Still, I’ve kept that book as a fond reminder of those days in Oxford.
When I eventually found out that Dexter’s novels have been adapted for televison, I ordered the first series — and watched all three films (which are based on the three novels in that omnibus edition I bought in Oxford!) last week. I can’t say Morse has become my favourite crime series (can anything surpass the Poirot series with David Suchet?), but I enjoyed all three episodes a lot. Morse is certainly an interesting character — he is a bachelor and something of a loner, even though he tries to form romantic attachments to several women (usually unsucessfully); his methods are often unorthodox and if it suits him he is not above bending the law; he loves classical music and beer (there are some suggestions that he actually drinks too much). But the best thing about the series is the setting: getting all these glimpses of Oxford in all her honeyed beauty is just wonderful. Indeed, I’ve started thinking about another visit to Oxford. To spend more hours in the Pitt Rivers Museum (an anthropological museum, that’s dimly lit and crammed with display cases stuffed with all sorts of strange and fascinating objects*) alone would be sheer heaven!
* Some of the charms I describe in BEWITCHED are based on objects I saw in the Pitt Rivers Museum, e.g. a slug on a thorn to chase away warts, or a bullock’s heart with nails and thorns stuck into it to bring evil to the house in which it was hidden.