This was another idyllic term, with little pressure of work. But I also record my first disillusionment with politics, as well as the difficulties of unreserved devotion to one cause or another. And it notes again the fact that, though I relished the hectic social life, I was also extremely happy on my own.
4th April 1973
I must confess my own determination to come back has weakened slightly and, my results having just come out today, with a 2nd, I’ve decided in any case to do a postgraduate somewhere, before returning, though unfortunately I probably shan’t be able to do it here. Five of us here got 2nds, though the sixth failed completely, which is a bit upsetting.
Having spent days at Clara’s, I came here last week partly to finish my work as I shall have to be free in London for Thatha, partly because I can’t bear to be away from here. I had various people around last week, including Aruna, and this week the Opera twice, once with the only Don left in College, and yesterday I found myself next to the Junior Dean and his wife who’ve asked me for dinner tomorrow. But even the weekend, when I was practically alone in College except for the barman in the Beer Cellar, was marvelous – I hope I have the energy to escape from Oxford next summer.
The Dean and Chaplain return tonight from the Schools’ men reading party to Cornwall, and I hope to get them to lunch to meet Thatha at Pam’s – I hope they’ll be satisfied with the 2nd – my tutor seemed delighted.
This morning I spent at the Union and, being now trusted by the Higher Echelons, witnessed the opening of the President’s correspondence, and subsequent resealing – done at Balliol, of course – which was fascinating, but quite disillusioning, as there were the Senior Members of our side, which considers the other dishonest. I think I shall find the Union elections fun next term, but I can’t quite see myself fitting into one side or the other sufficiently dedicatedly enough to get very high. Besides, the complete unmasking of left–wing intentions in the Labour Club was quite upsetting. I shall try to write more often, and it wasn’t only politics that prevented frequent writing. I did do some work, as the results show.
I met Crisbys’ friend Kamala – her brother-in-law Dr Atukorale was here for 2 weeks as my guest mostly while I was at Clara’s, and seemed to have got on quite well – though it was slightly embarrassing as he kept wanting to take me out to dinner, as I’d saved him money by letting him stay here, which wasn’t quite fair on the college as I hardly knew him. I also upset the Asst. Domestic Bursar by claiming I’d got the Dean’s permission to stay in my room, which he said he might need for a Conference – though I showed Conference Guests around for him and all’s ended well.
1st June 1973
I’ve got time today between a play in Magdalen Deer Park, produced by Univ. mainly – I feel quite powerful, because as I went in the Producer said he’d left his accounts for me, as though what the JCR gave them depended on what the play seemed like to night! – and the late night film ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ with a Leslie charabanc.
After half an hour at S.R.C. – the Central Students Union which is the preserve of the horrid left and where my identification with conservatism has led to trouble with the Labour Club – I spent the afternoon on the river, where Univ. is slowly but surely going down in the Eights Week races. I had to play patience with the Captain of Boats last week and tell him it wasn’t his fault – it was quite melancholy, but the refreshments were good today and the 1st VIII wasn’t bumped. Unfortunately my program of work this morning was ruined by the Choir Conductor’s champagne to celebrate his retirement, due to a tiff with Lady Maud over a Victorian evening, which is a very complicated story. But I’m not as behind as I was last week when Enid and Frank came round on Sunday, Puff on Monday, and the aftermath of the Victorian evening went on till 4.
Luckily, due to hard work in the previous 3 weeks, George Cawkwell had given me a light week, and philosophy consists of bluff anyway!, though I was crushed in the argument, due to Covent Garden the night before with Burgess, when we were stopped on the way back for going through a red light by a policeman who kept saying ‘diabolical’, and breathalysed Burgess, though the alcohol content was far below the level. This was after Covent Garden on Saturday with Leslie, when my neighbour and I fled a party for which we’d foolishly lent our rooms, to discover chaos when we returned. Imagine Jeremy – whom you’ve seen on TV – and me walking through the quads, trying to think up a way of stopping the party to get to bed, being helpfully told by Burgess to let off a fire–extinguisher. We got rid of them by 3. I shall probably give up by my 3rd year, and relapse into cloistered study, unable to keep up the pace – but it’s so magnificent while it lasts.
Due to a combination of circumstances that leaves me with only 3 weeks free between Punch and the Swiss Chalet, I might end up staying in Oxford, or at least England, till the 2nd week of August, so do send Aachchi if you can. Tell Punch I met the Lucases, who are delightful.
P.S. Thank everyone for birthday cards. Out to dinner on the 16th, had a few to a party at H.C.’s and hurt a few feelings!
27th June 1973
Happy Birthday for today – it was not forgetfulness or carelessness, but a desire to finalize my plans, which were thrown into confusion by $300 from the Stokeys arriving for my fare, to which I succumbed, though only for 4 weeks. I leave for the States on the 15th of July, after Punch & Peggy’s daughter’s wedding, and go straight to the Chalet on the 11th of August, and then have a week in Italy with A. Thilaka’s sister, and a week in France with a friend, till about the middle of September. Shall send you the Chalet address if mail comes there, the Stokey address being – I seem to have lost it, so Concord Rd will have to do. If this arrives before Punch leaves, or before the 15th, consider sending something elaborate for the Stokeys, but it’s not essential.
I had a chaotic 2 weeks before term ended, 7th week spent in a terrific tussle with the lefties in the JCR which culminated in my attitude to S.R.C. (the Student Representative Council) being deplored, and my N.U.S. Rep. – who only stood for office for my sake – being censured.
Disturbance 5 hours ago by my P.P.E. protégés coming in with exam fever, so we went out to dinner and got caught to a thunderstorm and smoked cigars and philosophized and Unionized. One of them got onto Standing Committee last week – I didn’t barely, but I did come 2nd for Treasurer, to everyone’s surprise, even though it doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t win – and we just got back, which says a lot for my looking after, when I’d given the S.R.C. Rep a lecture on not looking after the 1st year exam candidates properly. Anyway, that’s what happens when one ought to work. I’ve got a lunch in the country tomorrow with a pathetic man from Merton who might have won Treasurer but failed and came 3rd, dinner with a Don, 2 parties next evening and Cornwall on Saturday. I went to Bexhill also to relax after 3 dinners and 3 parties in 6 days which got me to bed after 2 each day, but having recovered, it starts again. It’s not worth refusing through – only 2 years more. Do send me dates of your trip soon, & I’ll write before leaving.
PS – Tell Punch I expect him on the 12th and I’ll meet him at the Station.
12th September 1973
At last an opportunity to write at length – also this must be the last for some time but I shall send you a birthday present and expect a long thank you letter. The vac. itself has been super so far – I had 3 marvellous weeks of sea & sun and bridge and Mah-jong with the Stokeys, followed by 2 fascinating days with Rohan Weerasinghe in New York.. Rohan took me to Greenwich Village & Chinatown and the Statue of Liberty and was very nice, and I saw the Metropolitan Museum and another and generally imbibed New York to decide 2 days was quite enough.
Thence a 36 hour journey via Iceland, Luxembourg and 3 trains to the College Chalet at St Gervais in France near Chamonix, where after one walk I decided to remain sedentary and achieved the distinction of being the idlest person to visit the Chalet – no bad thing as I’ve been preceded by Harold Macmillan and the King of Lesotho amongst others. We had lovely weather for the 1st 10 days and only 7 people plus the son of Punch’s old headmaster from the New College party who’d lost his rucksack down a glacier and stayed 3 nights to recover it. The following 10 days were more wet but there were 15 people including bridge players, and it did include my sole great upward march, 3000 feet because the mountain railway wasn’t running by the time we returned from a splendid but very expensive lunch at Annecy, followed by peddle boats and swimming and battles against each other and the swans in the lake. I needed quite a lot of a bottle of cheap local brandy to reach home and was roaring drunk when I staggered in but it was quite worth it. Of course, all the others were much more energetic and climbed regularly, but it was quite satisfactory having a splendid day on the lawn looking at the mountains that included Mont Blanc and watching the others stagger in half dead in the evenings – particularly when one or another stayed behind too and lunch drifted on into tea and then into gin, with a table full of food & wine on the lawn to which the intrepid adventurers staggered up brokenly.
From the Chalet to a lovely long weekend in Milan by myself, which included a visit to ‘Coppelia’ at La Scala, and then three lazy days with A. Tilaka’s sister on the Italian Riviera – sea and sun and Women’s Own magazines and William, there was nothing else, and then here to the delightful cottage a friend’s parents have taken with four of his school friends in addition and no one else from Univ. He’s in his 1st year and I feel quite older and more responsible than them though they are the same age – 2 years at Oxford I suppose – which is quite splendid – lovely countryside & chateaux.