We visited Oxford in the morning. It was a tour with the Indian YMCA. Though I slept through most of the beauty of the English country side, Oxford itself was a classic example. We went up a tower from which we could see most of Oxford. It was a small town, (about an hour-and-half from London) with lots of spires and quite an old architecture. The Oxford University is split into many colleges, Magdalen (pronounced Maud-len) being the most famous of the lot. Lewis Caroll (of Alice in Wonderland) and Tolkien (of Lord of the Rings) hailed from here. We went first to Christchurch college. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as beautiful as the grass there, with the possible exception of Hampton Court Palace. From there, we took a walk along a river to Magdalen college.

The river was practically filled with people rowing. It was a saturday, so I guess everyone was practicing, but even then, there were far too many boats. Looks like EVERYONE at Oxford has an elective in rowing or something. It was fun to hear the coaches shout instructions over a microphone to those rowing. After walking along the river for about a mile, we learnt that Magdalen was somewhere else. Not enough time to see it, so we just walked back. On the way we found this troupe, the Huckleberrys, who were performing on the road, opposite to a MacDonald’s. They were even selling CDs of their album. The music was pretty fast, and nice too.

I stepped in to the MacDonald’s for some french fries. The prices were quite reasonable. That reminded me of one of the World Economy classes. We all know that Purchasing Power Parity should determine the exchange rate in the long run. (Those who do not are advised to attend an elementary course on International Finance at IIM-B.) Now, it appears that the OECD estimate of the Japanese Yen against the dollar says that the Yen is overvalued by at least 60%. A World Bank study says its overvalued by 50%. These studies are based on PPP. However, if you look at the price of a Big Mac in the US and in Japan, it turns out that the Yen is perfectly valued.

OK, coincidence, you say. What then of Thomas Friedman’s “Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention” which asserts that no two countries have fought a major war since after both of them have gotten their MacDonald’s? (Yugoslavia doesn’t count. They fought the NATO, so to speak, which is not a country.)

The next leg of the trip was Stratford upon Avon, which is Shakespeare’s birthplace. Being the uncultured bumpkin that I am, the bulk of my Shakespearean knowledge stems from Jeffrey Archer’s “Shall We Tell The President”. Anyway, we strolled over to Shakespeare’s birthplace, but refrained from paying a 5 pound entry fee. Apparantly, in Britain, you pay to see EVERYTHING. They make more money out of tourism than any other single industry. Then we went to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which is the ‘original’ Shakespearean drama company. But the highlight of the trip was the “Teddy Bear Museum”.

Gyles Brandreth had set up this Teddy Bear Museum in 1984, and it had teddy bears from all over the world. Tony Blair’s teddy bear was there on vacation. Margaret Thatcher’s was there. Vivien Leigh’s was there. You name it. It was wonderful, especially since we could cuddle the teddies. They had a teddy library too, stocked with some masterpieces:

Lateral Thinking, by Edward de Bruno
The Goldilocks Conspiracy, by Little Bear
Vanity Bear, by Thackeray
Dr. Spock’s Cub & Bear Care, of the Medibear series
The Hunchbear of Notredame, by Victor Hugo
Bear Watching, by Desmond Forrest
The Complete Works of Shakesbear
Encyclopaedia Beartannica

I’d take up a job there, if they’d offer me one.