Editorial: The life aquatic?

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An historic medieval city, its crumbling foundations  shored up by endless restoration work and a tourist industry oblivious to its real concerns and studious preoccupations. A thousand ivory towers with their windows facing inwards. Institutions awash with subsidies and streets simply awash; sunk in its own past and reruns of Brideshead. Yet Venice is still the most compelling city in Europe.Is Oxford really going the same way? Specifically, are future LMH students really going to hail a gondola after one too many at the Bridge? Will the Joe Wellingtons of a later age have no choice but to make their way homewards by water and weir? The proposed new Bodleian building has already been cursed by modern Millenarians prophesying floods; the city’s suburbs grow damper every year; Christ Church students seem unable to step outside without toppling into the lapping waters. The Oxford Mail and the police, organisations never prone to exaggeration or the melodramatic, are already allegedly consulting leading architects about building a new Ark.These days, even the most stalwart of Republican candidates accepts that water levels are on the rise. Oxford is, after all, built on a floodplain. Oxford Waterworld may become a reality one day – but why worry? Think of the potential benefits: plenty of room for the threatened bargemen of Jericho; Oxford as the world’s leading marine research institute; enough depth for Magdalen’s sozzled toffs to jump off their bridge without breaking their legs. Scratch that last one. A valid point remains: the city will survive, it will adapt, and it’ll undoubtedly come up with a new set of winsome nautical ‘traditions’ to draw in a whole new raft of tourists. by Laura Pitel and Tom Seymour, Cherwell editors

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