The Cheeky Guide to Oxford
by David Bramwell
Second Edition, published in 2003, price £5.95

"Comprehensive and highly entertaining" says the blurb on the bottom of the cover. This is the unvarnished truth, and very little further reviewing is needed.
Besides, I suspect that any attempt to illustrate the Guide's comprehensiveness is doomed to be quite dull. You don't want to hear that travel and shopping and eating and drinking and dancing and town and gown and this and that and the other have all been thoroughly addressed.

So instead, I'll just give you a number of examples of the Guide's surreal, subversive humour and then call it a day. In anywhere but Oxford such snippets would stand out as obviously exuberant disinformation, but Oxford has so much peculiar tradition that I occasionally found myself wondering.

Try for yourself, true or false :

"Barges, steamboats, canoes and catamarans regularly bring the more adventurous travellers to the city, although parking is becoming an increasing problem and canoe theft is rife."

"Students still have to take an oath that they won't take sheep inside the Bodleian Library, and statistics suggest that each book in the library is read once every sixteen years."

"The Bridge of Sighs…. was built in the late 19th Century to connect Hertford College Old Quad with the New Quad and to give its students ease of access between the two. After a survey .. revealed that of all the students in Oxford, Hertford's were "the most portly", it was blocked up as part of the college's efforts to ensure its students got more exercise."

"At the beginning of every century, tradition decrees that after dinner on All Souls Day, Fellows and Masters grab sticks and torches and go wandering around the college grounds and rooftops, pretending to search for the ghost of a mallard duck."

At least one of the above is true, to my knowledge.

I should perhaps reassure readers that essential information is presented in a breezy and straightforward style, such that they will not be led astray. And that's it. This, like other Cheeky Guides, of which I've browsed a couple, comes highly recommended. Unless you're a pompous old sod, of course.

Ian Threadgill 4/8/03