After the intensity of term, I had a month of a very different sort of Oxford experience, namely the College to myself – except for the extraordinary kindness of the dons who remained, the Dean of course but also the Chaplain and the most senior don who had been an undergraduate at Univ, Tony Firth. On Christmas day itself, in addition to dinner at George Cawkwell’s – a tradition over five years – I was invited to lunch by a first year I had befriended, whose father had been our Domestic Bursar (before David Burgess, the Chaplain, was roped in to do that job too).
I knew my time at Oxford had been special, but rereading these letters makes me realize how utterly unique it was.
17th December 1972
Life’s been great fun, this last week – term ended with throwing popping balloons down from the battlements, and I went off on Sunday for 3 days with Charlie, one of which consisted of a trip to London for the universities Rugger match, which I regret to say we lost, and lunch at the HC’s where Tilak beat poor Charles at table-tennis despite him being the College Captain. Charles’ family was just as delightful as ever, except one year older. Just before I left, I found out his father died in an accident – his mother must be a marvellous person.
I returned on the Wednesday to find interviews in full swing – one of this year’s freshers had to spend the night on my sofa as they’d taken his room for candidates and he should have left, but he produced some candidates from his school and we played bridge – on the bus from Charles’ I met 3 candidates, all looking very nervous!
I’ve still managed to get quite a bit of work done, despite being taken advantage of for being one of the few with a room still in College – which led to a 3rd year boring me to death on Friday evening for 5 hours, just as I was about to start on a novel, having finished my quota of work – to be followed luckily by a friend, who spent the rest of the night reading poetry, all of which led to great depression when the College finally shut yesterday, in the beer cellar. Luckily the other History Tutor invited me for dinner, with the Dean and the Asst. College Secretary, in his cottage in the country, which was great fun and quite alcoholic – he kept pouring out, or threatening to, that strange Polish drink called Avocat, while consuming chocolates and conducting a Violin Concerto – he was the Tutor who organized carols round the College. Leslie suggested evensong at the Cathedral today and actually came to take me along – it was a beautiful service, with a marvelous choir and a sonorous Dean of Christ Church, about to be a Bishop, about to be Archbishop. Afterwards we tried to gallop back to the Junior Dean’s for drinks, and actually got one before they had to go for dinner in the SCR and the annual fight about who gets in, and I worked in the Library, all by myself, which is a beautiful experience. I’m certainly enjoying the vac. Continue reading