The sun has risen over our sleepy college town, but don't sleep too long. Wake up, listeners! Wake up! The old stones have ears and the vaulted rooftops have minds and as you stir and wake, they drowse and slip into their own livid slumber.
As you go about your day, they think only of you.
They dream, only of you.
This is Dreaming Spires Radio. I am your host James Hathaway. Welcome to the city of Oxford.
[theme music plays - Ventoux - Noverim Me]
Mayor Dexter, immortal and verbacious, has issued a statement. As always, I've translated it from the original latin out of caution as well as for the sake of our less well-read residents. We certainly wouldn't want a repeat of the Cosmic Confluence of 2016, now would we? I still haven't gotten the smell of burning parchment out of my favorite pair of lavender socks.
The statement reads as follows: Oxford City Council would like to announce the formation of a new municipal task force. They will be (now here is where the translation gets muddy, listeners) 'Keeping Our Streets Clean'. These are not to be confused with our usual dustmen or municipal workers, nor with The Police, our ever present, ever hawking, ever watching, all seeing - hearing - consuming Indeterminate Gendered Officers In Blue. This new task force should not interfere in any way with our everyday lives but citizens should always remember to ask anyone claiming to be a city employee for their proper identification and corresponding secret handshake. If you see the new workers out en force, noticeable by their black armbands and chartreuse stained mouths, as well as uncanny skill with a push-broom, do not engage.
I repeat: Do Not Engage.
You know I always strive for transparency with you, dear listeners, and so I feel compelled that even at this early juncture in the situation I'm about to describe, to share an experience with you that I had this very morning.
I sat at my favorite cafe, drinking my favorite coffee, neither of which I am permitted disclose due to the terms of my contract and the multitude of restraining orders that have been issued on several of you adoring fans-
[phone sex voice] You know who you are.
I was sitting there, drinking my coffee, strumming lightly on my guitar to the audience of whispering post-dawn mists, and the most astonishing man approached me. He was wearing a pewter colored suit with a crisp white shirt and a periwinkle tie. It was the most subtle and delicate shade, that blue, and complimented his tired, keen, and penetrating eyes so well that I found myself struck, dear listeners. Absolutely struck.
Can you picture it? Me. James Hathaway. Speechless. From a man in a tie.
This man, this remarkably unremarkable man, looked me in the eye and said, 'What're ye even doin, man?'
Of course I looked around. Surely he couldn't be talking to me? Me, simply sitting in the clammy murmuring mist of an Oxford morning enjoying my coffee and cigarette under the usual burning amber sky, flicking the crumbs of a croissant to the limping columba livia, the valiant survivors of a dangerous night and only looking nurse their wounds after their nocturnal battles for dominance over the city's darker pests.
'Pardon me?' I said to him, unsure, truly, of what else to say.
The man paused and looked me over, from my head to my toes, and his tense agitation seemed to release. His perfectly furrowed brow furrowed a bit more perfectly and he pointed straight up at the sky as he said, 'The sky's red, man. You do know that's not normal, don't ye?'
'Ah,' I breathed a plume of smoke into the swirling mists, 'Just visiting?'
He sagged further, his hand dropping from its heavenly posturing and he approached. Each loping step brought him closer and I warmed as if I were a cat basking in the midday sun. I put my precious guitar away, clicked a few warnings to the remaining scavenger fowl, and cleared a place for him at the table.
'Transferred actually, from Manchester.'
Oh his accent, listeners. I would bottle it and keep it all for my own if I could.
'Transferred?' I asked.
'Detective Inspector Robert Lewis,' He put out a broad warm hand, as easy as that, 'Oxfordshire Police.'
'James Hathaway,' I told him as we shook, 'Amber.'
'The sky is amber this morning.' I told him, 'Amber, not red. At best... an ochre.'
Detective Lewis is here in our fine city to investigate some of our unsolved crimes. Remember when that Lonsdale Don disappeared leaving only a smoking pair of Crockett and Jones loafers? Or perhaps when the city's rat population was blamed for a string of grisly, gnawing murders as well as thirteen armed robberies?
Good luck Detective Lewis.
He told me to call him Robbie, listeners.
[low and wistful] Robbie.
If you see him today, out doing that good work and keeping our city safe, be sure to give him a good Oxford hello.
Intern Gurdip has just brought me the traffic report.
Be advised that the usual bouts of gang warfare will be springing up all over the city around mid afternoon. The Narnians have been violating the terms of the Second Breakfast Truce with the Middle-Earthers and have been embarking on raids that have left several missing, dozens injured, and many Oxford homes with trampled and grazed upon lawns over the last few weeks.
Mid-day drivers are to be alert for dryads, satyrs, and any manner of talking beast as they hit the roads. Discarded weaponry should also be avoided at all cost, if glowing, doubly so. Remember to keep all closets, cupboards and wardrobes locked and barred between the hours of 8am and 5pm.
And now - the weather.
[ Ventoux - K.S.B. (the boys in the band) ]
There are no such things as ghosts.
The soul is a myth.
Individuality a lie.
We are all just meat trussed and tied and held together by the hopes and dreams of a slumbering childlike god.
Feed your meat - at Richardsons. Family owned since 1843.
We had an unexpected visitor during the weather break, listeners. Detective Lewis dropped by the station. Now as you all know, the station has no accessible ground level doors after the choral riots last summer and the access to the building is restricted to several hidden tunnels and a series of complicated zip-lines, so you can imagine all of our surprise when the wind whipped man appeared at the studio door flashing his warrant card.
Gurdip was rather concerned, understandably, about our security but Detective Lewis had no idea how he'd gotten in. The police station has been receiving mysterious phone calls that seem to be nothing but Ovid's Metamorphoses, in latin, delivered in a soft gravelly voice. When hung up on, the call would come in again, the voice would call them all 'rather rude' and resume just where the recitation was cut off.
Can you believe it? Tracing the calls led him here to me! But upon arrival Detective Lewis swore that he had no idea how he'd gotten up to the studio door. He seemed shaken.
Now listeners, you know how much I love a bit of latin muttered huskily over a static filled land line, but I swear on all that is holy that those phone calls did not come from this station.
Still, I won't complain about the lovely and unexpected visit. I have offered him my help in his investigation, should he need it, and he gave me his card.
To call him.
A news bulletin!
Our own Intern Julie has returned, miraculously, from her month long spelunking expedition into the Bodleian tunnels. She emerged with a dark tan, large white framed sunglasses and a vintage mink stole. She brought us souvenirs!
She's a bit thin, very thirsty, and keeps slipping in and out of dead languages but on the whole she seems unharmed. No news yet on what she saw down there but Gurdip won't let her sleep until he has her story.
As we near the end of the show, listeners, it's time for our regular segment, sponsored by the Friends of Hathaway. The FOH, of course are the clandestine, militant guerilla terrorist group that calls themselves my fan club. As the FOH's generous monetary donations make up 85% of the show's budget I am, while within the walls of the studio, their indentured servant.
I will now read the list of words and phrases submitted this week my thirsting, slavering but very charming financial overlords.
[phone sex voice]
She sells seashells, by the seashore.
Manage your waste responsibly and legally.
And, as always, like every week-
Julie seems to be speaking proper English again, listeners. She describes her trip as a 'wild ride'. She found a strange door, she says, no different than any other door but upon going through it she found herself in some strange and twisted version of Oxford.
No, listeners, she was not in Cambridge.
No, this was an Oxford without whispering mists or nightly pest wars. She said it was almost the same except, entirely not. No roving gangs of literary purists, no college dons moonlighting as mafia dons, no immortal mayor who appears in the background of every photo even though you don't remember him being there. No elections held via crossword puzzle competition.
We asked Julie what she did in this strange and distorted Oxford.
She said she went tanning. And shopping. She had a spot of tea and came home.
I've just received a text, listeners. It's from Detective Lewis. Robbie.
He's asking for a pub suggestion.
I think perhaps I should offer my help.
So I will leave you, dear listeners, leave you with some parting words.
If the road seems dark, it probably is.
There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, if you happen to be in a tunnel and it's daylight.
The world is your oyster, unless you are allergic to shellfish.
Never look a gift horse in the mouth, unless he's gently offering you a gift with his teeth, in which case it would be very rude to avert your eyes.
Remember that sometimes just when you need it most, a Geordie detective may walk out of the mists and tell you the world is wrong. Don't tease him, listeners, accept him.
Dibs, by the way.
And remember if you find yourself in a strange and distorter version of Oxford, a version where the the Bridge of Sighs is woefully silent and the bells toll, regularly and reliably, and never have silent bouts of depression, go looking for me - James Hathaway.
I couldn't be that different, could I?
[ theme song plays ]
Station Manager Maddox here. The music this week, and every week, is brought to you by James's own band Ventoux. The theme is Noverim Me and the Weather was K.S.B. (the boys in the band), a tribute to Romanticism in three parts. Both are from their album Existential Giraffe, available on our website www.dreamingspiresradio.uk . You can also purchase Dreaming Spires and James Hathaway merchandise, as well as download our show in podcast form.
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Liberate us from the control of the FOH.
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