When I was in Oxford the other day to give a masterclass at the university, I visited a friend who lives and teaches in one of the Oxford colleges. To reach his rooms, I had to pass through several interlocking courtyards, or Quads as they’re called in Oxford. Each courtyard took me further away from the busy main road and into a more and more peaceful, secluded setting. My friend’s rooms were a vision of loveliness: ancient mullioned windows looking out over the cloisters; a grand piano, beautiful bookcases, a stone fireplace, deep leather sofas and armchairs. ‘Oh, my goodness!’ I said, looking round in amazement. ‘Yes, I’m blessed’, he admitted.
We went for coffee in an outstandingly beautiful lounge reserved for Fellows of the College. Several older gentlemen were reading or working quietly on laptops. My companion pointed out several of them, names known to me from the world of politics and literature. So as not to disturb them, we took our coffee to an adjoining room where I was startled to see some famous paintings on the walls. Although I was only there for a short time, I could feel myself starting to relax and enter an enjoyable trance-like state. Imagine the quality of work one could do there! How different life would be if you had access to such a place whenever you wanted it! Alas, all too soon it was time to tear myself away and do some teaching, but I cherished the image of those peaceful rooms for the rest of the day.