Boswells Blog

2nd August 2019

Holiday Packing Tips!

Holiday Packing Tips!

With your flights and hotel booked, the luggage is the last thing you need to take care of before heading out on that well-deserved holiday. But packing your bags doesn’t have to feel like a chore, especially if you follow our 6 best expert holiday packing tips!

Limit your liquids

We all know the rules pretty much by now, and yet there’s still mass confusion and hold-up when someone tries to sneak a bottle of water past airport security. Much to everybody’s chagrin, pan-European baggage restrictions state that all liquids carried in hand luggage must be no more than 100 ml per item, and must fit into a one-litre transparent bag (usually available right before security). If you’re carrying any larger liquids, stow them in your checked suitcase.

Bring some just-in-case medications

We’re not asking you to prepare for every illness imaginable, just a small bag with the most necessary pills and medicine. After all, nobody wants to suffer a punishing headache, high-climate fever, upset stomach or all three during a holiday. It might be easy enough to pick up a domestic remedy for your ailments at home, but medicines in the country you are visiting may be limited to prescription only. The same goes for allergy meds and asthma remedies, bring them with you!

Name tags are there to help

Unless you’re an international man of mystery, you shouldn’t have to worry about travelling incognito. Most suitcases come with name tags fitted as standard, so be sure to fill them in just in case you – or the airline – lose your luggage!

Observe restrictions on luggage

Read the fine print when it comes to how much your checked and carry-on bags can weigh

If your airline says: “23kg”, then they mean 23kg! Weigh your bags before you get to the airport and make sure you are within the restrictions, otherwise you’ll be forced to cough up extra cash at the airport or you’ll have to re-pack and redistribute your items until your bags meet the weight restrictions.

Skip the shoes

How many pairs of shoes you should take is very much dependent on how long your holiday might be and what sort of activities you’ll be doing, but we’d suggest that three pairs is a reasonable average for a 1-2 week getaway. More important than volume is versatility, so make sure you’re not stuck hiking in stilettos by bringing a pair of shoes for every planned activity of your trip. Wear your most cumbersome pair on the plane and stuff your socks in the rest – and you’ll save even more space.

Cosmetics – at a minimum!

Unless you plan on travelling to a desert island, it’s likely that you’ll be able to pick up popular shampoo or sun lotion brands in almost any corner of the world.  If you really can’t live without that special face cream, try to take only as much as you’ll need for your trip and nothing more. That way you can discard the empties and save extra luggage room for your trip back home.

So there you have it... The perfect Boswells packing tip for your Summer getaway!

7th June 2019

Oxford Green Week

Oxford Green Week

The annual Oxford Green Week starts this Saturday, 8th June, and runs until the 16th June. It was created with the aim of raising awareness of eco-friendly issues and the amazing people that run projects in Oxford to combat climate change! Here are a few details about eco-friendly products we sell in Boswells, our 1738 Tearoom and Broad Street Cafe.


Eco Chic creates simple, reusable and hard-wearing accessories that work for you and have the planet in mind. 
Made from environmentally friendly materials, their products are designed to help you make little changes to reduce waste and fight against throw away culture. Their bags and accessories are not only environmentally friendly but also are practical solutions that you will love. 


We have a wonderful range of planet friendly rugs, throws and cushions. So super soft it’s hard to believe they are made from recycled plastic bottles! Resistant to stains, mould mildew and moths, ideal for indoor or outdoor use and they are washable – Amazing! 


A fantastic range by esteemed brand Samsonite with luggage made almost entirely of plastic bottles and recycled materials! Perfect for those trips abroad – designed to help the planet, built to travel across it. 


These steel straws are all the craze at the moment, carry one with you and help make plastic straws a thing of the past! They’re easy to clean and so on-trend in their range of metallic colours. Try putting one in the freezer to enjoy even cooler summer drinks!



We stock two wonderful BumbleBee Ciders and a Chadlington Brewery Lager in our 1738 Tearoom; both are created locally, in Oxfordshire by companies who are passionate about protecting the environment. Chadlington Brewery ‘work to leave the smallest carbon footprint possible’ when making their lagers by using Oxfordshire spring water, heated with renewable sources and the spent grains of their English hops and malt are used for animal feed on Oxfordshire and surrounding counties’ farms. With BumbleBee Ciders their ethos is in their name, they are actively playing their part in reversing the decline of the bumblebee species through supporting their conservation. Their passion for this stems from the bumblebees being the chief pollinators of the Somerset bittersweet cider apples, sourced from British farms and orchards, which makes the products taste so good. 


We offer a range of yummy vegan cakes and pastries. A personal favourite is the Valrhona Chocolate cake but there’s a wide variety if chocolate isn’t your thing. Be sure to treat yourself this Green week, or whenever!



Our Broad Street Café features some top quality beverages at great prices. All of our coffees are made with eco-friendly triple certified coffee beans! The triple certification means the coffee is organic, fairtrade and rainforest alliance certified. Our Broad Street Café is right on the door of Oxford’s Big Green Day out so make sure to drop in if you’re on Broad Street this weekend or any other time… coffee is always a good idea!


Last but not least, our Broad Street Café uses Vegware compostable cups for all hot drinks to help reduce the plastic waste that cafés often produce. To go one better we offer a 25p saving on all hot drinks if you bring your own reusable cup for us to put it in, if you don’t have a reusable cup yet we sell a wide range of those too. 

We hope that you enjoy Oxford Green Week and we look forward to seeing you in store to show you even more eco-friendly products that we sell! 

31st May 2019

Bank Holiday Weekend

Bank Holiday Weekend

We had a great weekend launching our new book, The Boswells Connection.

Six out of the seven authors of the book joined us in the main store window to meet with readers and sign their copies of the book. One lady waited patiently before we began to be the very first customer. She’s been shopping at Boswells since 1975 and had two books signed, one for her and one for her daughter.

It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with some of our customers and hear their stories about the store. Another lady reminisced on getting the one daily bus to Oxford from Woodstock as a child for a shopping trip with her granny, Boswells sold a game called "Pass the Pig" which she remembers playing – and we still sell it now!

The toy department features in quite a few of the stories in The Boswells Connection. It’s not too late to get your own copy and read them for yourself, pick up a copy for our Gift Department or one of the till points today.

That’s not all that went on over the weekend; we had a magician in toys and competitions on all floors. Luggage had a map for customers to guess our holiday destination. One lucky man picked exactly right, we were dreaming of heading off to Malta. In the Lower Ground Floor we had a lucky dip of envelopes; it was one lady’s lucky day when she selected the winning one first thing in the morning!

We had a lot of fun, we hope you did too if you had a chance to join us. Make sure to keep an eye on our social media and website to hear of other events we have coming up!

24th May 2019

'The Boswells Connection'... The Trouble with You

'The Boswells Connection'... The Trouble with You
Tomorrow is the launch of ‘The Boswells Connection’ a book of fictional stories linked to Boswells written by Oxford Inc, a group of writers who compile stories around a common theme. Join us in store tomorrow, 25th May, between 11am – 2pm to meet some of the authors behind the project and to have them sign your copy of the book (which must have been purchased in Boswells). We have lots of other events planned for the weekend too so join our mailing list or follow us on social media to keep updated.
This excerpt is from a story by Karen Gray; Karen has lived and worked in Belgium, France and Egypt at various times and moved to a village outside Oxford 12 years ago. Some of her previously published stories reflected life in other places but all had an insight into family lives. She discovered Boswells while exploring Oxford and this time she writes close to home. Boswells Tea Room and particularly the toy department with its appropriately decorated lift doors reminded Karen of her (now grown) three sons and the cubic metre of Lego they left behind with her. She couldn’t resist the chance to imagine a visit by three generations of one family with consequences that many will recognise in The Trouble with You – and it may not all be fiction!

The Trouble with You

Karen Gray

We don’t usually go on a Wednesday. That’s because I go to school now, and Mum is working. But today is different. Today is half-term and a special day.

When we get to Gramps’s house, Mum goes in to get him and I stay in the car with Abi, as usual. ‘I’ll be two minutes,’ she says. She always says that. It’s never two minutes.

I wasn’t sure about my little sister when she was born but I’ve got used to her now. She doesn’t look like me. She’s blonde and makes funny faces. Gramps says she’s a real cutie, she ought to be on telly, advertising babies’ nappies. She’s good at pooey ones, Mum says. When we take her out, lots of people smile at her and ask what her name is. It’s Abigail but we call her Abi for short. She looks cute but she’s never still unless she’s asleep. ‘Old fidget bottom,’ Gramps calls her. Mum says she’s dreading the day Abi starts crawling.

While we wait for Mum and Gramps to come out I begin to count out loud, as usual. 1, 2, 3... Abi listens for a bit, then starts straining at the straps of her baby seat and kicks her legs. 10,11. I get one of the soft toys out of the bag Mum keeps in the car and wave it at her. She stops kicking and grabs it. I start counting again but she soon throws her toy down onto the floor of the car where I can’t reach it because I’m still strapped in my seat. 17, 18... I hold out another one and Abi bashes it out of my hand. 20. Where’s Mum? I wish she and Gramps would hurry up. By the time I’ve counted to 31, the toy bag is empty and Abi is beginning to scream. She’s not so cute when she screams.

At last, Mum follows Gramps out of his house. It’s only as wide as one door and one window before the next house starts. On the window sill there’s a droopy green plant. It used to have red flowers.

‘Have you got your key, Dad?’

‘Of course I’ve got my key!’ He pats his coat pocket. ‘You don’t need to ask me every time! The trouble with you is you fuss too much.’ Mum bangs the front door shut, comes to hold the car door open and waits while Gramps drops down onto the passenger seat, bottom first. He glares into the back of the car at Abi,

‘What’s all that noise about?’

She stops screaming and stares back at him. Gramps swings his right leg into the car, grunts, then lifts his left leg with both hands and heaves it in alongside the other one. Another grunt. Mum is watching.

‘Alright, Dad?’ He ignores her and she shuts the car door. She gets in on her side, starts the engine and asks, ‘Boswells as usual? Or do you want to try somewhere different today as it’s your birthday?’

‘Why would I want to do that? Bloody silly idea.’

After we’ve parked the car with Gramps’s special sticker and gone into the shop we find a lady with a purpley-blue scarf and a shopping trolley waiting for the lift. She says she’s not in a hurry and lets us go ahead of her. Even Gramps says thank you. He gets in the lift with Abi in the buggy, as usual, taking up all the room because the lift isn’t very big. Mum and I go up the stairs, as quick as we can, and meet them outside the lift on the next floor up. We go round the corner into the café, find an empty table and a highchair, then Mum settles us at the table and sits down herself… 

We hope you've enjoyed reading this little teaser. If you're tempted to read the rest and all the other stories, do come in store to get your own copy of the book!

10th May 2019

'The Boswells Connection'... Two Thinkers

'The Boswells Connection'... Two Thinkers

On Saturday 25th May we’ll be launching a book of fictional stories linked to Boswells written by Oxford Inc, a group of writers who compile stories around a common theme. Seeing as May is ‘Share a Story Month’ we’re posting the start of a couple of the stories over the next few weeks to give you a taste of what’s to come.

We hope you enjoy them!

If you’re tempted to know the ending and read the other varied stories then do come into store and purchase a copy of the book from Saturday 25th May. Four of the authors, including Geoff Bremble whose story is below, will be with us from 11am to 2pm on the Saturday to sign your copies of the book. We have lots of other events planned for that weekend too so join our mailing list or follow us on social media to keep updated.


Two Thinkers

Geoff Bremble

8 June 1933, Oxford

It was late morning and the professor had at last completed the final draft of the lecture he was to give at Rhodes House. He was staying in rooms in Christchurch and had developed the habit of taking a walk along Cornmarket Street at around midday. He was in the company of James Harvey who had been assigned by the University to look after his needs during his stay in Oxford. They were now in the first-floor restaurant in Boswells department store looking out onto Broad Street and across to Saint Mary Magdalen church. Over the last few days he had observed a rough looking man walking with a distinct limp towards him past the church and pulling a small trolley. Its contents were covered by a well-used tarpaulin and, strapped to the trolley, were a couple of long rods both of which had at one end some sort of net.

‘James, see zat man down there, pulling zat trolley. He’s been doing zat at ze same time each day we’ve been here. Any idea why?’ the professor said in a deep guttural voice.

James Harvey leaned over and looked out, ‘He’s a fisherman on his way to the river. I know him, poor chap. He lost a leg in the Great War and has never really recovered from his ordeal. But nice enough.’

‘I vould like to go and vatch him fishing. Vould zat be alright?’

‘Well you’ve nothing fixed for the rest of today, so why not follow him. But don’t disturb him or you might get a mouthful.’

‘A mouthful? I don’t understand.’

‘You will when you get it,’ laughed Mr Harvey standing up, ‘quick, you had better go or you’ll lose him.’

The professor went down the stairs out onto Broad Street and, from a distance, followed the man down George Street. After about ten minutes and having reached Hythe Bridge he paused for a few moments to take in the feverish activity on the Canal Wharf to his left. There were barges lined up on the canal waiting for their turn to offload their goods before turning round to make the return journey north. Further beyond he could see the outline of Castle Hill which he had visited a few days earlier.  After a moment or two he continued over the bridge, crossing the canal and the river Isis. It was then that he nearly lost sight of the fisherman but, looking to the right, he spotted him 50 yards or so along Upper Fisher Row starting to set up his equipment for the task ahead. After about ten

minutes the man was ready and seated on the river bank. The professor watched as he flicked the baited hook upstream before allowing it to float slowly back towards him only to flick it back up once more. Eventually a fish took a bite causing the line to tighten as it made attempts to escape. The fisherman, engrossed in what he was doing, quietly reeled his catch to the bank manoeuvring it into his catching net and then in to the holding net. He began to re-bait the hook and the professor, seeing his opportunity, stepped down from the bridge and walked towards him.

We hope you're as excited as we are! 'The Boswells Connection' out on the 25th May...

11th April 2019

Our Guide To An Unforgettable Easter Egg Hunt!

Our Guide To An Unforgettable Easter Egg Hunt!

Our Guide To An Unforgettable Easter Egg Hunt!

A hunt is no fun if all it takes is the ability to spot the brightly coloured Easter egg basket sitting on top of the fridge and the pile of coloured eggs scattered around the living room. It’s also no fun if it requires the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes and the combination to a padlock. Basically what we’re saying is follow the Goldie Locks rule: not too easy, not too hard, but just right. 

Easter egg hunts should stretch the imagination of your children and make them work for the delicious reward of chocolate bunnies & sugary Peeps. This year, try out one of these themed ideas and make Easter a holiday challenges the mind, works out the body and, of course, satisfies the taste buds!

Dusk Hunt

We’ve heard of the glow-in-the-dark egg hunts, but how about a dusk hunt! It will still be light enough to keep track of the kids, but dark enough that you can give them flashlights and let them go exploring. 

  • Make the game harder with flashlight tag – If a kid is tagged by an adult they must wait five seconds before continuing to search.
  • Make only some eggs that glow in the dark – For a group of all ages, make glow-in-the-dark eggs for the younger kids and require the older kids to search out the regular eggs, this allows for the younger kids to feel like they’ve won, too!

Mini-Game Challenges Theme

It’s no secret that it takes more time to set up an Easter egg hunt than it does for the kids to find and consume the goodies in the eggs. They’re often done and asking for more before you even have time to snap the pictures. This year, extend the hunt with mini-games designed to even the odds of finding eggs between the age groups and allow the kids to have even more fun than usual!

  • Have each game coincide with a school subject: math, science, english, etc. Make them age appropriate questions, then they can continue searching. Ex: fifth graders can only answer fifth grade level questions.
  • Have games require teamwork. Use puzzles, team building activities, quizzes, all games that compel kids to work together before they can continue searching for eggs. Make sure every enough eggs for everyone to feel like they’ve won!

Crack the Code Theme

Add a little mystery to your hunt. Turn your egg hunters into super spies with codes to crack on their way to finding the treasure! It will not only be fun for the kids, but will be stimulate their minds before all the sugar.

  • Provide clues throughout the day that will help them locate the egg stash. Use easy-to-crack codes, magnifying glasses, and backwards writing to challenge the kids. This can be as simple or intricate as you’d like.
  • Provide costumes! If you give the kids glasses, magnifying glasses, and other spy gear it can give the kids the full spy experience and make it truly memorable.
  • Give each child participating one key to deciphering where the eggs can be found. Have them work together to solve each piece of the puzzle and reveal the hidden location of the eggs.

Arts & Crafts Theme

Let’s face it, parents go through a lot of early morning work hiding those eggs, and store bought plastic eggs do not come cheap! Encourage your kids to get involved by letting your kids decorate the eggs themselves; you can even have the older kids hide eggs for the younger ones so they feel a bigger part of the action.

  • Don’t use eggs! Use found items like cardboard boxes, plastic cups, old soda bottles, anything the kids can decorate to hide the eggs and save you some money.
  • Have kids make eggs for each other. Pair up the kids and let them decorate eggs for their partner, they can make them as specific to the kid as they want. Each child will feel special and they will get to show off their artistic skills too!
  • Once the kids find all their eggs, give them a colouring worksheet and have them colour the eggs on the page as they are in front of them. Hang the coloured pages up on the wall so you can all remember the great Easter you had!
29th March 2019

Mother's Day Weekend Itinerary Suggestions!

Mother's Day Weekend Itinerary Suggestions!

Stuck for ideas this Mother’s Day weekend? We hope that these suggestions for our fellow Oxonians might just be the perfect timeline combination!

Saturday night why not go to the award winning, 40 year long running performance at the New Theatre Oxford of The Rocky Horror Show! Directed by Christopher Luscombe and featuring timeless classics, including Sweet Transvestite, Damn it Janet, and of course, the pelvic-thrusting Time Warp, The Rocky Horror Show is the story of two squeaky clean college kids - Brad and his fiancée Janet. When by a twist of fate, their car breaks down outside a creepy mansion whilst on their way to visit their former college professor, they meet the charismatic Dr Frank’n’Furter. Safe to say it’s an adventure they’ll never forget and definitely a great pre-Mother’s Day evening outing!...

So Sunday means Mother’s Day has arrived, you might have gone to the Rocky Horror Show or done your own thing, either way I’m sure mum is getting hungry! How about Sunday lunch in our very own marvellous 1738 Tearoom for a sandwich and a bit of cake? Our delicious selection of food and beverages are sure to keep mum feeling happy!

Sunday evening there’s only one place we want to go to… The Sunday Afternoon Social at Tap Social Movement in Botley is the perfect chill out location for the whole family! It even says in their Facebook event ‘Bring the kids, bring the dog’! Founded in 2016, Tap Social Movement grew out of a passion for good beer and social justice. We are a craft brewery which provides training courses for people serving prison sentences, offering courses in brewing and business start-up, and providing one-on-one support in securing permanent employment to assist in effective rehabilitation. A valiant cause with delicious drinks to enjoy with mum!

15th March 2019

Early Mother's Day DIY Gift Ideas

Early Mother's Day DIY Gift Ideas

Knowing what to get your mum on Mother's Day is never easy. You could play it safe with chocolates or flowers or try something a bit different that you’ve done yourself. We've rounded up a handful of gifts that fall into the latter category. They might not be for everyone, but they'll definitely surprise and hopefully delight! Remember, Mother's Day 2019 falls on March 31 so you've still got a bit of time to please that special woman in your life.

Coconut Rose Body Polish

Pamper mom this Christmas with a jar of this luxurious DIY body polish. It is made using coconut oil, Himalayan pink salt, sugar and a couple of essential oils which lend a beautiful aroma. Make your way over to Boxwood Avenue to find out all the details of this lovely polish.

Etched Wooden Spoons

If your mom loves to cook, you might consider making her a set of these gorgeous wooden spoons. Begin with plain wooden utensils, then get a basic wood burning kit to customize them with your designs. Head on over to Design Mom to check out the full tutorial.

Floral Embroidery Gift

If your mom loves floral motifs, give this fun DIY project a try. Begin with the free printable, and then add your own embroidery to give it a personal touch. Head on over to the colourful blog Sarah Hearts to check out all the instructions for this creative gift.

Printable Wall Art

If mom loves hanging art on her wall, then she’s sure to love this pretty floral print that has a fun quote – “Home is where Mom is.” And best of all, it’s free! Just print it out and pop it in a frame. Head on over to The Kiwi In The Clouds to download the printable file.

14th February 2019

Half Term Happenings - February 2019

Half Term Happenings - February 2019

We know how difficult it can be keeping the kids entertained during the holidays, so we’ve put together a list of our favourite Oxford activities that both kids and adults will love.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

Rhinos, giraffes, meerkats and penguins might not be what you would usually expect to find in the Oxfordshire countryside but just outside of Burford you will find all these exotic animals and many more at the Cotswold Wildlife Park. With a huge range of animals spread out in the beautiful Cotswold gardens this is the perfect place to spend the day for both young and old.

With restaurants and cafés on site as well as a great adventure playground you really can spend the whole day exploring the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

Millets Farm Centre

Located just a short drive out of Oxford, the Millets Farm Centre is another family favourite. At its falconry centre for example you get a great chance to see over 80 different kind of birds of prey and they have some wonderful flying demonstrations and hands on experiences that are sure to make this a fun day out for all. At the Millets Farm Zoo, you can go say hello to farmyard favourites such as cows, pigs, sheep and horses not to mention they have some rather special alpacas too! While you're there why not also check out the farm shop and garden centre? 

This half term there are plenty of great activities going on at Millets Farm Centre for the kids to get stuck into, such as the Children's Jewellery Making Workshop and a magic show.

Museum of Natural History

A firm Oxford favourite, the University Museum of Natural History is just as well known for its humongous Tyrannosaurus Rex as it is a case of tiny butterflies. There is always something exciting to see!

There are all sorts of family trails that you can download or pick up when you visit to guide you and your family around the museum collections. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of half term between 1 and 4pm there are activities running based on the current exhibition ‘Bacterial World’ and over the weekends there are Science Saturdays and Family Friendly Sundays to get you interacting with all the museum has to offer. 



Ashmolean Museum

One of our favourite Oxford museums, the Ashmolean has an extensive range of collections from across the ages, exploring art and archaeology. You can learn about ancient Egypt in one room and then have a look at Renaissance Italian art in another.

On the 20th and 21st February the Ashmolean are hosting a Chinese New Year celebration between 1 and 4pm which is something you don’t want to miss! Apart from being the oldest museum in the World, one of the amazing things about the Ashmolean is that it’s free to visit (excluding some exhibitions).Ashmolean Museum

The Oxfordshire Museum

This museum is dedicated to all things Oxfordshire! It holds a wide range of natural and social history collections and exhibits all related to our wonderful county. There are a range of hands-on sections which will draw the children and they offer trails, backpacks and explorer bags to lead you on your journey. As well as dressing up, puppets and a dinosaur garden.

On Tuesday and Thursday of half term there are family fun drop in sessions between 2-4pm based on the theme of tea.

Playhouse Theatre

Currently showing at the Oxford Playhouse is The Cat in the Hat, based on the much-loved book by Dr. Seuss. The Cat in the Hat features feline frivolity aplenty, with his acrobatic accomplices Thing 1 and Thing 2. With riotous rhymes that have delighted children for over fifty years, infectious humour and spectacular circus for the grown-ups, this wonderfully anarchic show is the purrfect treat for all the family.

Oxford Castle

The Oxford Castle is a must for anyone visiting Oxford; you can explore the history in the Castle and Crypt, you can climb the mound or you can simply relax in one of the many restaurants. The Oxford Castle Unlocked experience is a great way to learn and have fun.

This half term bring your little ones along to the castle to try their luck at some amateur Archaeology on 18th, 20th, 22nd and 23rd February 2019 from 12-1pm. The event is one hour-long and activities will include a treasure hunt, fossil making and practicing the art of excavating itself! A perfect afternoon for children with an interest in history, or for just a bit of fun and to try something new!


Oxford Castle

Cutteslowe Park

Cutteslowe Park is the largest park in Oxford, spanning over 42 acres… so there are lots of opportunities for activity and adventure. Those with an adventurous spirit can pick up a map from the kiosk and go orienteering over the 18-control course, go geocaching and find hidden treasure or skate the concrete skate park with ramps, but if you’d rather relax then play some mini golf or feed the ducks and visit the butterfly house. There is always an opportunity for a picnic as well, if the weather allows it!

Oxford Spy Mission Treasure Trail

Time to roll up your sleeves! All of those with an adventurous spirit must try this self-guided spy-themed walking trail around Oxford City and Meadow. It takes about 2.5 hours to complete the 2.8 mile loop trail but you can go at your own pace.

All you need to do is download your Trail now for instant fun (or receive your copy in the post), solve the mission and learn about where you live or explore somewhere new. You’ll need to keep your wits about you, but just in case you get stuck - there is a text service with clues to help you out.

Didcot Railway Centre

The Didcot Railway Centre is a great place for visitors of a wide range of ages, after all you're never too young or too old to enjoy a ride on a steam engine. Located right by Didcot station, the Railway Centre is easy to get to, and easy to find. The Centre will be running their usual weekend Steam Days this half term, with two different lines open to take a trip along, and an impressive collection of locomotives and coaches to take a peek at. There should be plenty to keep the family occupied here, and you could also pick up a quiz and puzzle sheet for the kids.

During half term they're open on Wednesday 20th Feb for an extra Steam Day, so there's no need to miss out if your half term weekends are starting to look a little busy with all of the other exciting activities taking place.

We hope this gives you some inspiration for a wonderful week. Please do look at the location website before heading off to check opening times, prices, availability etc and avoid disappointments. Of course, if you can think of any more great Oxford activities that we've missed let us know!

1st February 2019

Valentines Traditions Around The World

Valentines Traditions Around The World

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and with us being located in the heart of Oxford, a multi-cultural
city, we’ve been inspired to explore some of the traditions and ways to celebrate 14 th February from
around the world. We’ve covered all the continents and here are the most interesting rituals that
we’ve stumbled upon.

The place to start is the country which has really created the current set up for this modern day
holiday, the USA. They start celebrating young with students in school all exchanging cards with each
other. Couples exchange gifts of chocolates, sweets, flowers and cards. Their most popular ‘candy’ is
Conversation Hearts with messages like “Kiss Me” or “Be Mine”. Expectation generally sits with the
men more than women to deliver on this day.

Over in Asia it’s the opposite story. The Japanese and South Korean women are the ones who spoil
the subject of their affections on 14 th February with specific types of chocolate depending on their
relationship status. Then one month later on 14 th March, White Day is acknowledged in which the
original recipients are expected to return the favour by giving their loved ones gifts to two or three
times the value of the chocolates.

For Australian’s the focus is on giving beautiful Valentine’s cards. The origin of this tradition
apparently traces back to the gold rush in the Ballarat Mine in Victoria, somewhere around the mid-
nineteenth century. The surge in status and wealth of the miners caused it became tradition for
them to lavish their beloveds with extravagant cards, intricately designed and beautifully wrapped.

Whilst there are no permanent human occupants in Antarctica there are natives, it’s just that they’re
penguins! Although not exclusive to Valentine’s Day these birds have a special courtship ritual of the
male presenting the female with the significant and rare gift of a pebble. It’s significant because
Antarctic penguins make their nests out of pebbles and small rocks to protect them from the cold,
and rare because these are hard to find on the frozen, barren continent. If the female accepts this
generous gift they bond and mate for life. How romantic!

Celebrating for only one day is nowhere near passionate enough for Argentinians in South America.
Although they do recognise Valentine’s Day on 14 th February they also hold a festival of love called
‘Sweetness Week’ in July. As the name suggests it’s an entire week celebrating love, where kisses are
exchanged for sweets.

Anonymous love letters to crushes are a little too subtle for South Africans. They literally wear their
hearts on their sleeves on Valentine’s Day following the old-age Roman festival of Lupercalia. It is
customary for young girls pin the name of their love on their sleeve for all to see.

Valentine’s Day is called Ystävänpäivä in Finland, which means ‘Friend’s Day’. For anyone flying solo
that’s the place to be! It’s all about celebrating friendship, exchanging gifts of pink roses and cards
with the greeting ‘Happy Friend’s Day’ so no one needs to worry about feeling left out.

Here in England a historical tradition was for women to place five bay leaves on the corners and
middle of their pillows on the eve of Valentine’s Day. This was said to bring them dreams of their
future husbands. However, more recently our celebrations have fallen more in line with those in
America with gifts, cards and romantic meals.

So, there we go, options from all around the world to inspire you this Valentine’s Day. Whether you
plan to spend 14th February like the Argentinians and celebrate with your love for a week, like the
Finnish and gather all your best friends together for a fun evening or to create your own traditions
just remember to spread the love. After all, as the saying goes ‘it’s not love that makes the world go
around but it’s what makes the ride worthwhile’.