Eleven worldwide instameet days came and went before I had any clue that such a thing could even exist, but I heard about the twelfth last Wednesday, discovered that there was a meet up in Oxford on Thursday evening and on Friday decided on a whim that we’d go. H had to travel to somewhere only slightly nearer than the far side of the moon for hockey and spending lots of time taking pictures in a city I know and love sounded like the perfect way to pass the time without him.
So after ballet class we hustled the girls into some clothes, packed the sling, my camera, Kitty’s pink camera and my old phone in a life proof case for Elma, and headed south. It was AWESOME. And yes I am shouting in a happy smiley sort of a way. We were late to the meetup point at the Museum of Modern Art cafe but everyone was still there and we sat and chatted for a while, labelled all of us (stickers = happy children) and got the girls’ cameras sorted (and watched them go and take lots of pictures of the cake counter – spot the children of an instagrammer) before heading out on our walk.
In such a beautiful city as Oxford there are a million different places for pictures and I love that rather than go around the university and look for the stereotype Oxford-y shots of dreaming spires against blue skies we went off away from the city centre to explore some of the less photographed spots.
The food festival at the Castle smelt amazing and the girls were drawn like moths to a flame to Happy Cakes. After so many pictures it seemed only fair to buy some which Elma assured me were delicious (as she sat on my shoulders and mushed the crumbs into my hair!). It was a great place for pictures, there were signs, posters, old castle and much newer vintage food trucks decked out in sparkle and bling.
From there we headed down to the canal, past ducks (20 pictures from Kitty), narrowboats of every colour of the rainbow, and over a very sweet little hump back bridge complete with narrowboats navigating a lock. Never had they had quite such a big audience and it made for a great group shot.
A little higher up the tow path we headed back over the water and into Jericho. Picturesque isn’t always the word for that part of Oxford; there’s a fair amount of 60’s architecture and student housing around, but there are walls with gorgeous peeling paint that made a great backdrop, an incredible house at the end of a terrace covered in murals of giant ladybirds, and toadstools and vines, and some houses with brickwork that looked like knitting.
Kitty and Elma were getting seriously stuck in by this point; they started by taking a picture whenever anyone else took a shot, following the grown ups’ lead, but then I think the penny dropped that anything and everything was fair game and so I have a whole host of pictures from Elma of her favourite barge’s doormat, pictures from Kitty of everyone standing around or taking their own shots, and one very sweet one of my own of Elma photographing everyone’s legs.
We were walking down the road at one point and she turned to me, asked for her camera, and happily took three pictures of a blue door in a white wall before handing it back so we could scuttle along to catch up with everyone else. I think my work is done!
For little girls with little legs they did really well, Kitty walked all the way and Elma only had an occasional lift on my shoulders until we started to head back to town, which is a tribute to how much fun we had. Pip, mostly happy, occasionally wiggly, placated with cake, was happy as long as we were walking, and once he’d got over some initial shyness at all these new people, spent the rest of the day in full on charm offensive, bestowing smiles and waves to anyone who’d wave a camera near him.
We wandered through the centre of town and ended up in Jericho Coffee Traders (on King Edward Street, nowhere near Jericho) which not only sells pink sparkly cupcakes (full marks from two small, and by this point, rather hungry, girls) but has awesome arrow lights, and a wall of post it notes.
Apart from the lovely Kat (who my girls adore – Elma thinks she looks like Cinderella and Kitty wore her name badge for the rest of the day!) I hadn’t met anyone else before and I’ve discovered so many wonderful new Instagram accounts to follow, and met the lovely people behind them which is just the icing on the cherry on the cake.
The #oxfordinstameet hashtag on Instagram is full of all our pictures, including all the group shots (look for two little faces peering through the bridge), and is definitely worth exploring.
There were moments on the way down to Oxford when I wobbled a bit and wondered whether I was doing the right thing, or whether we’d be happier staying home, doing the washing up and going to the park, but I am so so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone; it was a brilliant meet up, the girls loved it and have been telling everyone they meet all about it, and their only question now is when is the next one?