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…

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. The Fab Four Once you're south of 25 it…

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…

Ageing rocker

I'd had enough of working for a living, at least for a while, so I moved back to Oxford to be with my girlfriend Hilary. I joined Bernard's band, together with my old schoolmate Andrew, our fellow housemate Wiff, and a young classically-trained drummer from New College called Paul. We added a female singer, a…