These letters are a microcosm of life at Oxford when academic work had to trump social life, though without allowing that too to lapse. They also refer to various themes that were to recur in my life, family relations as well as trying, whilst appreciating the efforts my father made on behalf of his children (and indeed anyone who appealed to him, for he was brilliant at focusing youngsters on useful education), to avoid any special treatment.
My sister did go to Cornell in the end, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Rutgers would not have suited, nor Carnegie Mellon which I told her sounded like a pretentious type of ice-cream. Though she disapproved of what she saw as Oxford snootiness, I think she too did better at a traditional university – and much enjoyed later working at Harvard for a couple of years after she got her doctorate.
The Film Festival was a triumph, due entirely to the genius of Phillip Bergson, who became a critic for various London papers later but never quite achieved the prominence he deserved.
14th March 1977
This letter has been long overdue, but there are good reasons – and I did get 2 off in 2 weeks last time. Since then there was the Film Festival – a hectic confused week, at the end of which champagne was running from our eyes, and celluloid through our brains. It was, nevertheless, a great success – ie far from losing 1000 pounds as I’d thought, we made nearly 500. Franco Nero & Vanessa Redgrave arrived though no one else very famous, which didn’t inhibit celebratory parties – the Directorate grew very self- indulgent towards the end, and would sit in the balcony consuming the remains of the parties (alas, no one gave us any brandy) during the late night shows making blasé remarks about the old favourites on screen. I shall keep a programme for when you come.
Brandy would have been nice the next week, for I came down the day after the festival ended with the most appalling cold that came very near to flu. To make matters worse, I’d just got the 2 BPhil papers I have to do over the Vac. One was scheduled for completion by the end of term – and, despite the cold, and the lack of suitable questions (4000 words on George Eliots’ humour – she wasn’t at all funny) which necessitated a great deal of further research, I did finish, by dint of locking my door and not answering it, not leaving college (except to check on Festival Accounts, the cinema staff being as exhausted by the end as we were), not drinking and eating, if at all, only in college. The last paragraph was the hardest, as there were end of term events, including dinner for Anila & 2 friends as I’d promised, who came in trousers and jackets, to vie with the pseudo friends she insisted I asked as well. Poor Gaj, who had to dress them and bring them down to Corpus, was quite embarrassed but even agreed in the end to take them to Vincent’s. I nobly went and drank coke, and gave up the party they were going to, and finished my last 200 words. None too soon, because the next day, after alcoholic breakfast and tea parties, which obviated the need for lunch, we came down to Clara’s new house – a new area, near to Wallington though, a 2nd sitting room beautifully fitted on to the back of the house, lots of plate glass, and a large garden, with a railway cutting behind. A good move, I think. Continue reading