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Some Dark Materials

August 1st, 2005 (12:53 am)

Last week I was doing some freelancing for the historical research project I call The Other Great Work, and was also letting myself be indolent and going into Oxford an hour or so later than normal. This meant that I was sharing the Park and Ride bus with tourists rather than commuters.

On Wednesday morning I heard a party of American tourists, a mother, father, and children in the 9-12 age range, poring over a map.

"All the colleges are in this area." No, I thought, they are not; but I didn't intervene.

"Can you see Jordan?"

"Jordan College. No, I can't find it on the list. Keble, Lincoln..."

"You'd think you would be able to find Jordan..."

I decided that the time had come for intervention, and moved one seat closer to them. "Excuse me, did you say that you were looking for Jordan College? It comes from Philip Pullman's imagination, and doesn't actually exist. He has said that it was based on Exeter College, which he attended, so you could look at that."

Exeter was duly found on the map. The father asked some questions.

"So did it change its name at some point?"

"No," I replied. "It's always been called Exeter College."

"So, Jordan isn't its nickname?"

"No, the name was made up by Philip Pullman."

The father looks disappointed. "Thank you."

I decided not to remind them of the scene in The Subtle Knife where Lyra arrives in 'our' Oxford and realises that Jordan isn't there, and that this should have been a clue; I could also have pointed out to them that Jordan College is much bigger than Exeter. Instead, I resumed my peace, perhaps slightly embarrassed by my intervention.


Posted by: Pellegrina (pellegrina)
Posted at: August 1st, 2005 08:04 am (UTC)

I'd completely forgotten that was where Jordan College came from ("That's not one of Morse's colleges is it, so where is it from" were the words in my mind), how embarrassing!

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: August 1st, 2005 08:18 am (UTC)

perhaps slightly embarrassed by my intervention

But you only wished to alleviate darkness by the enlightening application of factoids. You were in Oxford, inalieable land of the geek, and they were invading your territory.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: August 1st, 2005 12:03 pm (UTC)

I don't think there was anything threatening or invasive about them, really. I just wanted to leave them room to learn in their own way without my intervening too much and risk spoiling everything for them.