Oxford is not an easy city to homogenise; but that doesn’t mean you can’t try. I found a vast shopping centre where the Westgate used to be, looking as shopping centres do: lonely, despite its similarity to every other shopping centre. This was confirmed by the signage. New York City loves and misses you, said a sign, which I doubt: surely New York has things to worry about beyond the citizens of Oxford being unable to shop in New York City if they cannot get what they want at the Westgate? Still, I like the idea of shopping centre lamenting shopping centre across the ocean; it expresses the fashionable neurosis that objects are sentient, and worthy of compassion. Oxford is an ideal place to believe this, because the stones are the most convincing thing here.
What restaurants are thriving under pandemic? That is easy: restaurants sited where there are people with money who are unafraid of dying. I have decided that people with money are afraid of dying in Mayfair, but not in Soho. They don’t seem frightened of dying in Oxford either, probably because they are already dead. Don’t write in to complain: I stole it from T.S. Eliot.
In Oxford the ’Bab van is reanimated like Doctor Who, but meat and the Mitre on the corner of Turl Street has closed. I thought of dining at the Eastgate Hotel, which is a sort of monument to repression amid repression — Tolkien loved it — but instead I break a sacred vow and go to the Ivy on The High.
I don’t like the original Ivy, because it exists under a PR enchantment, which is the worst kind of enchantment: it made diners think they could not get a table because they were taken by Donald Sinden and Daffy Duck on a rare trip to Europe.