The first term of my third year saw the last set of student demonstrations to really rock Oxford. The Examination Schools next door to Univ were occupied, in pursuit of a demand to establish a University Students’ Union (previously the University had worked only in terms of Colleges) and there was much high drama though it all fizzled out in the end. OUSU was finally established, but just when student radicalism was dying out, with greater concentration on obtaining well paid jobs. I should note that, whereas the brightest in my year sought Civil Service appointments, and the brightest in the next thought of the bar, the intake of 1973 was the first in which a job in the city became the preferred occupation.
A constant factor during my time at Oxford was my father’s efforts to help others too to get in. It is a mark of his unparalleled generosity, as well as his deep commitment to promoting education for all he came across (notably the children of staff in Parliament and at home) that he devoted time and energy to finding youngsters places at good educational institutions. In the case of our neighbor, Gajan Pathmanathan, after a place had been secured and his father died suddenly, my father financed his studies at Oxford – though he was helped by my getting a British Council scholarship for fees in my final year, and Gaji getting the same from I think his second year onward.
These letters also include the first mention of the Vile Bodies, a dining club based on the Evelyn Waugh novel, which became quite a cult, so that in time our photographs, in sepia, were displayed in period decorated cafes. It was the precursor to two other clubs in which, started in my graduate days, I served as Senior Member, the Keats Society, and the Piers Gaveston Society which I believe still flourishes.
12th November 1973
Life’s been excessively exhausting, and I’m only writing now because the Proctor’s party for Presidents has had to be postponed due to sit-ins and demonstrations and other lunacies – opposing all of which, as well as organizing an election for JCR Secretary (the right man won) as the old one resigned, has taken up quite a bit of time.
The JCR unfortunately approved of the demonstrations, but luckily I succeeded in falling asleep whenever any were on, or worked, and avoided them. In addition, what with bi-weekly freshmen entertainments, solid Union hacking as I’ve decided I want to be President, ludicrous committees and endless and endless dinners – in addition to being told by Cawkwell that my work’s improving, – I have succeeded in sleeping solidly for 14 hours twice last week. Also my philosophy essays are getting shorter and shorter and might soon melt into nothing. The noises of the sit-in finally dissipating are floating up to my room, none of the issues resolved, and everyone as uninformed as ever.
Sorry for some sort of non sequitur – I’ve just had a neurotic friend round who doesn’t trust the Dean or the Chaplain and talks to me for hours about his problems – this in addition to arguing on behalf of someone who’s being rusticated, for not even pretending to work over the last 4 weeks. I’m hopeful he’ll be kept on but it’s rather in the balance.
For the rest, I’ve dined on Trinity High Table with Ravi Tennakoon, discussed ‘The Waves’ with Helen Gardener, Clive James & the Warden of all Souls – part of Union hackery – had to refuse a play with Claire due to a Society Dinner, set up the Vile Bodies society in memory of Evelyn Waugh – Secretary, Mr Chatterbox, the gossip columnist whose identity changes weekly should be suitable? – already had my one completely drunk evening for the term at a rather seedy party, and not yet had a game of bridge. No more letters probably till term ends and I start unwinding. Continue reading