Unheard Oxford: Dr Nicholas Waghorn, philosophy tutor


I suppose one of the perks of being a tutor is getting to discuss ideas that you find interesting with intelligent students. When it all works, it’s great. With students passing through every few years, you end up meeting and getting to know lots of new people – I’ve made some good friends among my past students, and still keep in touch with them.

One of the most time-consuming parts of teaching for me is preparing for the tutorials. I’m not one of those people who can read and retain large swathes of information indefinitely, so I like to give myself a bit of a refresher prior to the tute – this is needed less and less the more you teach a given paper, as if you teach something enough you’ll end up knowing it off by heart. But I think that some students believe that you have it all in your head all the time, like a computer – maybe my colleagues do, but I don’t!

Since matriculating in 2000 (I attended Regent’s Park college), some aspects of Oxford have changed – student politics is quite a bit diff erent now from what it was, as far as I recall, and the popularity of nightclubs goes in phases – but with so many impressive listed buildings I think the landmarks of the city, which are the bits people tend to remember when they’re away, will always make Oxford seem familiar when you come back. The things that really change quickly are the shops – the chains have started moving in to Cowley Road and even the Covered Market, which is a bit of a shame, as we’ve lost some great one-off shops: Bead Games, which was covered with beautiful hand-painted murals, the Excelsior café, one of the last greasy spoons left in Oxford, and Palm’s Delicatessen, which was the only place I could source soft turrón as a treat for my mother.

I’ve also noticed that every time a shop closes down in Oxford, for some reason it either gets replaced by a coffee shop or a barber’s, to the point where I can’t imagine it’s economically sustainable (unless there’s some correlation between caffeine and hair growth that I’m not privy to.)

I feel quite sentimental about Oxford. I come from a rural part of Kent, just a small village with a phone box and a pub, so coming here felt like coming to a bustling metropolis, albeit one with nice green spaces. I remember once I got mugged on Magdalen Bridge by a couple of young gents; one of them took all my money, but the other (who, to be honest, I found much more congenial) insisted on giving me £5 back “for the bus fare home. You know that you’re in a civilised city when muggers off er you cashback.

I’ve lived here long enough now to have had a fair few formative experiences here, to get to know the city, to be a ‘regular’ who has ‘the usual’ at certain places (no, not the Cowley Road ‘private shop’). Even when I was doing my PhD in another city, I used to commute in from Oxford – it just feels like home now.


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