Portuguese Wrestling

I was all ready to start at Queen's College to read Modern Languages. The only problem was, I wasn't. I was to be billeted in the famous Florey Building Wasn't at all ready, that is. I'd done Spanish at A Level, but I needed a second tongue to go with it. I could not bear…

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

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…

Moscow in the Dark

The Florey Building - not looking its best 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…

Cold War: Best Film of 2018?

Xmas card by Mikey Cuddihy

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

Complete works of Pardo Bazán

A couple of months ago I was introduced to the new Chair of the Camberwell Society, who teaches Modern Languages at a local posh school. It transpired that 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…

Ageing Rocker

I'd had enough of working for a living so I moved back to Oxford to be with my girlfriend. I joined Bernard's band, together with my old schoolmate Andrew and our fellow housemate Wiff and a young drummer from New College called Paul. Then we added a female singer, a posh-sounding blonde called Jo, with…

The Joy of Essex, 1978

One night, at about half past 10, Hilary rang. Mrs H had already gone to bed. I kept my voice down but the damage had been done. The following day my landlady announced that she hadn’t had a wink of sleep all night and she was going to put a lock on the phone. I…