My Oxford: Alicja Gilroy
As Superintendent Registrar of Oxfordshire County Council’s Registration Service, Alicja Gilroy is responsible for ensuring that all marriage and civil partnership registrations and ceremonies are carried out according to statute (as well of course as recording births and deaths). The service covers the whole of Oxfordshire and registers approximately 8,500 births, 5,500 deaths and 2,500 marriages every year.
Hi Alicja, can you tell us a bit about your relationship with Oxford?
I was born in the West Midlands and spent some time in London and Kent before moving to Oxfordshire 18 years ago. From an early age I had always aspired to visit Oxford because of its history and the reputation of its universities. As my father had only managed to complete one year of university in Poland before the outbreak of the Second World War, he was really keen that my brother and I should have a good education – Oxford was often at the centre of our discussions. I remember my first visit to Oxford in 1974: I was only 16 and had a friend studying at Brasenose College. I came on a day visit for lunch and some punting on the river, the weather was beautiful and we had a splendid day visiting all the major attractions of the city. My husband is a graduate from Wadham College and his love and knowledge of the city has helped me discover parts of Oxford I never knew existed. My younger daughter was born at The Horton Hospital and once she was a toddler I found some part-time work as a Deputy Registrar of Births and Deaths in Banbury and 11 years ago I began working full time in the city of Oxford.
What are your favourite haunts around the city?
I love to drive through St Giles at different times of the year observing the trees, either with their rich and red autumn leaves or their Christmas lights. I have visited several of the University colleges both in my work and leisure time and always find a visit to The Bodleian Library uplifting. The Oxford Union on St Michael Street stands out for me, and coming out onto Radcliff e Square from Brasenose Lane when you can see the lights in All Souls Library at dusk in the winter is a truly magical experience. Oxford Town Hall is a magnificent Victorian building and we hold many ceremonies there, so it is a favourite with our public as well. A visit to the Covered Market is a must and I am looking forward to the opening of the new shopping centre next year.
What to you are the most iconic aspects of Oxford?
For me, Oxford is a romantic and intimate city which is easy to walk around. I love to hear all the different languages being spoken on the streets. I enjoy mingling with the different nationalities and observe them mixing with the locals, creating an exciting and vibrant atmosphere often involving loud exchanges and frenetic phone calls. I like to see the students dressed in their cap n’ gowns going to their exams whilst serenaded by the buskers playing on our busy streets.
Where do you like to eat and drink?
We like to go to Brasserie Blanc for special family occasions but also enjoy the informal atmosphere and good food at many of the cafes in the Covered Market. For a quick and cheap meal we go to the oriental restaurants on Gloucester Green with options for noodles and Thai food. We have had some memorable meals at Carluccio’s and can always rely on Café Rouge on Little Clarendon Street to provide a tasty lunch or supper. We like The Kings Arms near The Sheldonian Theatre with its cosy back rooms, and The Turf Tavern.
What about Oxford has inspired or helped you in your chosen field?
People are at the very heart of our profession and I am inspired by the different people from all walks of life who come before us during the course of our work. We see the highest born to the most humble, but we see them and treat them all in the same way. We all have so much in common as human beings and we can share their grief, their happiness and their emotion with them. I have met people with some amazing experiences and what they have gone through and how they coped with their particular experience can be truly inspirational. It's also interesting to see trends emerge as couples choose, for instance, to make their wedding more “green” by making their own invitations and favours, by arriving at their wedding by bike or rickshaw or walking to their ceremony.
What’s the worst or least attractive thing about Oxford?
For me, the worst part of Oxford is the traffic jams and endless roadworks. I recognise that traffic jams are a shared problem for everyone but during the busy summer months, when we are travelling to different venues across the county, these traffic jams can stop a wedding starting on time. Do you have an area, street or village in Oxfordshire that is special to you? I live in a village in North Oxfordshire near to Banbury. I like to walk and I really like alpacas. There is a walk in Hook Norton which takes you past a field with alpacas in, and more are to be found in Barford St. Michael.
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