I sense a valedictory note in these letters and those that follow, even though I still had well over a year to finish my course (and though this was not certain till the very end of my final undergraduate terms, I did stay on for further degrees). I am sorry that I have not generally mentioned individuals in these letters, because reading them brings back memories of the truly wonderful friends I had. I should note that the character disliked by the distinguished diplomats I mention was Tissa Wijeyeratne, who transformed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, very much for the worse, since he disliked the more sophisticated ethos of the individuals I mention such as Shirley Amerasinghe, who was internationally acclaimed – and then suffered from another extremist, when J R Jayawardene stopped him chairing the Law of the Sea Conference.
The one who produced champagne when I won the Junior Common Room Presidency of the College was the one I spent a week with on Hayling Island in the summer of this year, and with whom I probably had deeper and more wide-ranging conversations than with anyone else in my undergraduate days. I went about every fortnight to the opera in London with one who did not mix with my other friends, and became a Catholic Priest, and has just retired. He studied at the English College at Rome where I spent a memorable night in 1976. Then there was Benazir Bhutto, with whom there were long sessions of Monopoly, most memorably when I put her brother up in my rooms. And the mad Australian who was the livewire behind the Vile Bodies, and with whom I explored much of South East Asia in the years that followed.
One memorable day that is not recorded in my letters was the day the Vile Bodies went to Calais for lunch. We left before dawn, one of our number having stayed up all night on the top of All Souls Tower to which he had climbed, dressed in a Chinese silk dressing gown which astonished the citizens of Calais. The second car stopped for breakfast at the Ritz and so missed the ferry we caught, but we met up for a wonderful lunch where the only lady brave enough to join us – who later became a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall – consumed massive quantities of moules marinieres, with the champagne she seemed to live on (and to which in time she converted me, after the initial distaste born of my first taste of the stuff at Rheims, so very long ago).
4th March 1974
The love cake arrived two months late, half stale, to be wholly consumed a week before he fled Oxford to find peace in the foothills of the Himalayas by the Editor of ‘Cherwell’ – the Chitty whose friends you met last year. This, unfortunately, in addition to making all those who persuaded him to take on the job feel guilty, deprives one of my incognito post of Cherwell’s political correspondent – too soon, alas, since I hadn’t succeeded in publicizing myself sufficiently to be assured of winning this week’s Union elections. Still, 4 mentions in 4 weeks wasn’t too bad, most of them in letters to the Editor who obligingly published.
Anila seems to have told you I intend to return overland – which was only suggested – and have organized a ball, the future prospect of which was all I was deputed to consider. Despite the hopeful figures I made up, the Union thinks it too risky.
If I haven’t written since, my XI won the football match against the Dean’s XI very handsomely, which is a slight disaster as it’s traditionally a draw. Also the Ref., who’s meant to send the Dean off, got confused and sent us both off – of course, we were nearly the worst players on the field. I slept for about 12 hours after the match and spent last week in a state of complete exhaustion as we went to London on Monday and missed the last train back and had to spend the night in Reading, and then there was a spare ticket to the Opera on Tuesday as well, and the termly Chapel party was on Wednesday after the Ash Wednesday service, and I fell fast asleep at the party I went to on Thursday to watch the election results – just as well, probably, since I found it all very interesting to the indignation of the tight–lipped Conservatives round about. I shall probably collapse of exhaustion at the end of term and shall go away for a week to recover, but as I’m fairly ahead with my work as well, life’s relatively satisfactory. Continue reading