Overhearing tour guides

· life ·

Our new office has a sort of micro-balcony, on which it is possible to stand (not sit) in the sun and eat a sandwich. While the weather has been nice I've been taking advantage of it and catching a few rays and some fresh air at lunch time. One of the side-effects is that I get to hear the commentary from the open-topped tour buses that go by. These advertise a live^1^ guide, and this poor guy has to run through the same old spiel about 25 times a day, day-in, day-out. The boredom in his voice is palpable.

The story that he invariably tells when he reaches earshot of the balcony is an old apocryphal tale about a patch of land beside the Cherwell River known as 'Parson's Pleasure'. The dons were tacitly allowed to bathe and sunbathe naked in this area, and it was partially screened from surrounding areas. The story goes that one day, the disporting dons were disturbed by a puntful of ladies passing by. While most of the men scrambled to cover their — let's say loins — with books or towels, one serenely placed his book over his face. When his companions asked him what on earth he thought he was doing, he replied, "I don't know about you, but I expect people to recognise me by my face."

^1^ Because a dead guide would be so much less informative and entertaining.