Useless information

When I was 10, my father's cousin (more like an uncle to me, as they'd both been brought up by my grandmother 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…

Don Javier Marías Franco

In 1979, at the start of my second post-graduate year in Oxford, I was awarded the prestigious and lucrative Osma Studentship. I was required to spend at least six weeks in Madrid. Not that I was complaining. I immediately spent a good chunk of it on a Shergold double-neck guitar (as anyone would), leaving more…

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 as I'd returned to do post-grad work) studying at The Queen's College Oxford. The college offered me the exalted if ridiculous-sounding position of Vir Probatus (Junior Dean) if I abandoned the slum that was 41 Bullingdon Road and moved into…

Lost thesis

Complete works of Pardo Bazán

A couple of months ago I was introduced to Nick, the newly elected Chair of the Camberwell Society, who teaches Modern Languages at a local public school. Over a pint he mentioned that he had studied Spanish at Exeter University; we talked about the late professor, Maurice Hemingway, who had examined my M. Litt. so…