All other Oxford courses had an examination in the course of the first year, and then finals at the end of one’s third year (with Chemistry then having a fourth year too). The exception is Classics, which is a four year course with just two examinations, in the second term of one’s second year, and then at the end.
We were then out of kilter as it were with our peer group, since when they were fully relishing Oxford with no examination pressures, we had to study, for what was also the longest exam in the system. This was Honour Moderations in Literae Humaniores, as it was called, with eleven papers.
As the letters indicate, I did not study as I should have, and continued to enjoy an intense social life. I also had much to do, because I had been elected President of the Junior Common Room, the College student body. I was half surprised at this myself, since I was an unusual candidate, not playing any games or running any societies – the other contestants were the rugby captain and the conductor of the college choir. But I won by a fairly large margin, largely I think because I had been very hospitable to the first years when they came in.
Other political ventures were not successful, as noted here, and the term ended in tragedy with the death of the husband of Clara, my cousin, with whom I had stayed when I first came to England. I got the news of his heart attack just when Mods started, so I could not go down, and he suffered another and was dead by the time I got there. I think I was of use, despite my recording a detachment that I regretted.
28th January (1973)
Life’s been terribly busy, and looks likely to be so for the rest of the term, though one problem has been solved, by the Balliol and Univ machines reaching agreement – we gave in, I regret to say, though perhaps wisely – on Labour Club officials for next term and, as part of the agreement, the following term. It’s all terribly involved, but I should be Secretary next term.
At the moment, we’re having a violent campaign on for the Univ JCR, where I’m the underdog candidate for President – though I do have the stronger ticket. My opponent happens to be Captain of Rugger, which doesn’t help. Unfortunately, the elections being next Monday, I’ve got to give up the Dean’s trip to Covent Garden, to see Sibley and Dowell, which is all very annoying. Still, I’ve got enough to keep me occupied – I’ve been offered my 1st paper speech at the Union, in favour of Euthanasia, along with Trevor Huddleston and other worthies, and though I don’t know whether I quite approve of Euthanasia, I accepted; having bought my dinner jacket last week for 28 pounds from my Bursary, which left 12 which will be swallowed up by the Union Anniversary Dinner and the Labour Club dinner, with Harold McMillan and Harold Wilson respectively. I should be on High Table for the latter, being the editor of the Club Magazine and so on – which I’m modelling blatantly on the New Statesman, with Competition and Diary – tomorrow, having a very Conservative and Social Chairman, we have Lord David Cecil speaking to us, with dinner beforehand. Most of the party regulars considered it anti-social to attend, so there’ll just be 3 of us, the Librarian of the Union, and Cecil – should be fun. Continue reading