Useless Information

When I was 10, my father's cousin (more like an uncle to me, as they'd been brought up in the same house in Glasgow) became engaged to an English girl, a bold deed previously unheard of within our family. The wedding was to take place in Hemel Hempstead on 31 July 1965. As it was…

The Scholar and the Red Dragon

I've been at it again, No, really. I've been too busy sunning myself in France - and watching Anne slaving away in the garden - to have a well-considered, witty little blog to hand for the edification and entertainment of my readers (and thanks to both of you, for your unfailing support). But... Off and…

Don Javier Marías Franco

Easter 1980: having been awarded the lucrative De Osma Studentship, I was obliged to spend at least six weeks in Madrid on a study trip. Not that I was exactly complaining. I immediately spent most of the money on a Shergold double-neck, as you would. Another of my fellow sufferers in the Florey Building was…

Now I’m 64

“What popular song includes the following in its lyric: losing my hair, Valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine, 64 and Wight?” If you don’t know the answer, there’s really no hope for you. Would you Adam and Eve it? That day, for me, has finally dawned. Once you're south of 25 it becomes difficult to…

Messages from the Other Side

I hadn't seen Alison for quite a while but we had stayed in touch over the years. In was 1982 and she was back from Tokyo or Beirut or Damascus, or wherever. For someone who had to resit her A levels, she was heading for a distinguished academic career, which was more than I was.…

Moscow in the Dark

October 1979: I was still, or again, (depending on which way you looked at it) studying at The Queen's College Oxford. The college offered me the exalted and ridiculous-sounding position of Vir Probatus (Junior Dean) if I abandoned the slum that was 41 Bullingdon Road and moved into James Stirling's (in)famous Florey Building on St…

Cold War: best film of 2018?

In 1983, as previously confessed, I was living in east Oxford grinding away at my thesis. One of the other post-grads I got to know was Paul (a Pole with a German passport), who was studying at Wolfson and rumoured to be writing a thesis on Hölderlin. We became good friends. He had a finely-tuned…

Right Time, Right Place?

It was Valencia, summer 1972: my first time in Spain (it now seems odd that I had already sat my Spanish A Level). I was on a three-week language course organised by Liverpool Poly, as it then was, and there were school students from all across the UK. One was at Eton, another was from…

The Lost Thesis

A couple of months ago I was introduced to the new Chair of the Camberwell Society, who also teaches Modern Languages at a local school. It turned out he had studied Spanish at Exeter University; we talked about the former professor, Maurice Hemingway, who had examined my MLitt thesis many years ago. A few days…