Well it's that time of the year where you can hardly move for the tourist melee in the centre of Oxford.
Each year it becomes more of a battle to negotiate the narrow mediaeval pavements with large tourist groups steaming along or stopping en mass suddenly in front of you and spilling out onto the road, seemingly oblivious to the buses thundering towards them down The High. TEFL students are particularly lemming-like and street unwise and I am amazed we do not see more serious injuries and fatalities to mar their overseas trips as they walk both in the road and across the road without looking.
Now don't get me wrong - Oxford is very definitely a special place that ought to be shared and many of our foreign visitors are charming and lovely, (not to mention much needed economically). However I can't help wishing there were some means by which they could be taught a bit of road sense and general cultural etiquette before disembarking from coaches and being let loose by language schools. Walking along in an orderly 'crocodile' of not more than 2-3 abreast with one chaperone per 20, particularly for our younger visitors would be a great start, short of pedestrian lights, mirrors and indicators! And some cultural pointers such as 'How to queue', when to say 'Please' and 'Thank you' and how not to talk at the top of their voices all the time, bounce balls off shop windows and to turn their mobiles off in libraries and museums would also greatly enhance their experience of Oxford and Oxford's experience of them.
Though of course it is hard to instill British cultural values into visitors when they are bound to observe our own locals showing complete disrespect/disregard/ignorance of same!
Narrow streets aside, Oxford does suffer some serious drawbacks in catering for such large groups of people, no matter that it should be a past master at such.
1. Very few restaurants/cafes/pubs are equipped to cope with groups of more than 10 without prior booking so you invariably see groups of aimless and disappointed overseas visitors traipsing from one to another in the evenings trying to find a space where they can all sit, eat and share their day together.
2. There is no decent large open space in the city centre where they can be dropped off by coaches to mill around and wait for tour guides with plenty of seats, loos and other useful facilities.
3. There is no left luggage facility for the day visitor (which I find extraordinary, considering at least 50% of visitors are day visitors).
4. Our public toilets (bar those in the Town Hall only open when the Town Hall is) are squalid and a disgrace for a city of international repute.
So many international cities have addressed these basics, I shudder to think what visitors must make of Oxford. And don't get me started on the hideous architecture they have to behold in the midst of the beautiful dreaming spire stuff they have really come to see. And to think Hitler purposefully didn't bomb Oxford in WWII as he loved historic buildings so much. Sadly our 1960/70s planners proved far more ruthless in this regard.
Whatever the disadvantages of so much life teeming through our streets every summer though, tourists certainly bring vibrancy, buzz and colour to the city and I doubt we would have two fabulous 24 hr coach London services and exotic eateries springing up all over the place were it were not for their influence.
When asked about my own travels, I often reply; 'well there's really no need to, sooner or later the world comes to Oxford to save me the job!' And I do have a pet theory that at least 80% of the world's population-with-passports will probably pass through this cosmopolitan mecca at some point in their lives.
Some people take the fear that other cultures might 'take over' a little too far though...