The letters home in my second term make clear how I so rapidly absorbed, and was absorbed by, Oxford. But I have also included references to some changes at home, because they indicate the shifts in perspective on someone both deeply sentimental about the past and understanding the need to move on. These start with reflections on the death of my great aunt Ida, elder sister of my grandmother. I had left out my feelings on the death of her brother Leo, which I had heard about while in Denmark the previous August, but this coming so soon marked a decisive break with my childhood. Alone of my family I had spent many happy holidays at the Old Place, the house in Kurunegala where these two stayed, while my grandmother herself had moved to Colombo and its very different perspectives. I should note though that my assumption that the place would be sold was wrong, and Leo’s daughter Lakshmi stayed on there on her own till the late eighties. I was thus able to spend many happy days there even after I came home from Oxford.
Aruna Gooneratne, a great friend in those days, was daughter of our High Commissioner in London, Tilak who with his wife Pam proved most hospitable over the years.
As a footnote, the Russian grandmaster I mention here was Karpov, who soon enough became world champion. My contemporary who defeated him was a chap called Nick Lloyd, who also played bridge brilliantly. But he suffered from depression and commited suicide subsequently.
A new craze seems to have struck Oxford and everyone goes running at all times of day in the freezing cold, and night too – needless to say, I shall never succumb to the infection – in fact due to a constitutional inability to run, I’m reducing the number of lectures to manageable proportions – 6 from next week, including 3 with 1 rather interesting character – doing Juvenal, if you know what that means. If not, you’re missing a lot and there’s a translation in my library which is at your disposal.
I did much better in my Greek Collections than I thought – ask if you don’t know what I’m talking about – B++, A—, B+, AB – whatever that means – and also AB for my essay which was, however, called little – not that I mind. Anyway I spend at least 3 hours a day in the library which is very creditable, I think, though I have developed a tendency to drop off repeatedly, though altogether I don’t sleep for more than 10 minutes. However, I have succeeded in getting up by 9 every morning, except, of course, on the morning after the bridge dinner which is an occasion when everyone including the Dean and the Admissions Tutor get drunk and play bridge. I believe I was since I didn’t stop talking from dinner except when weaving precariously to the bathroom but since that was occupied by people being sick – those who made it there, that is – I think I did rather well. Of course, I did go down 1400 one hand and we lost – though, true to form, we did beat the winning team, Dean and all – they weren’t as drunk as they should have been. Besides my partner, who doesn’t get drunk, went down 1700 subsequently, so I don’t feel guilty. Continue reading