What a bizarre evening it was. As the country waited for Boris’ Lockdown 2.0 announcement, life carried on as normal in UK vaccine capital Oxford.
After a stormy, grey morning, the sun made a surprise appearance so we decided to walk into town early for a night out that would start mid-afternoon.
It’s a fascinating urban stroll through a municipal park with lido and lake, along dilapidated desirable terraced backstreets then over the River Thames, before you know it you’ve arrived.
News that Boris’ depress conference was about to take place at 4pm, then 5pm and eventually more like 7pm didn’t dampen the mood.
Resigned to our fates all of us out and about seemed united in a restrained British desire to make this an evening to remember.
We certainly made the most of our Saturday night of freedom with G&Ts and Mojitos in the cool, vibrant Victors bar on Westgate’s roof terrace (pictured). Was it the funky 80s dance music that uplifted us? More like the early afternoon alcohol on an empty stomach.
The under-employed bar staff all seemed to have an extra spring in their step – the thought of a month off furloughed? – as a make-up artist painted their unmasked faces in various Hallowe’en themed designs.
From here we headed out past smart tourist-Oxford university buildings to the diverse St Clement’s Street area stopping for a quick pint in the nautically themed Port Mahon pub.
Here a loud bar tender in a kimono, which made her look like she’d just got out of bed did, for reasons unknown, a pre-bout Sumo jig with a very overweight bouncer.
Then a lifetime first, Sri Lankan street food at the nearby Coconut Tree restaurant. We were served by a disturbingly pale, skinny mumbling masked “youguys” youth who really didn’t need the black eye shadow to look like a zombie.
The base dish of this tapas style meal was an Egg Hopper – a coconut milk pancake topped with a huge hard fried egg served with caramelised onions and cinnamon. Sounds awful but was great.
Other dishes included goat curry, fried cheese cubes, chickpeas, battered mushrooms, vegetable fried rice and roti bread. Very different and very delicious.
Walking home we remembered a place we’d visited months before – Kazbah – a Moorish-themed cocktail bar full of smiling, happy young people some of whom were dancing – which must surely be illegal in tier 2 Oxford – to Latino sounds.
The Hallowe’en fancy dress worn by many of student revellers and a few golden oldies added to the surreal feel of this dystopian end of the world seeming night.
Another first was that we managed to stay out until closing time which is not so difficult at this time of 10pm curfews.
Next week, all of this will be closed – apart from take-away trade – and once buzzing Oxford’s night life will fall dead for one month, maybe two, six even, who knows.