These ecstatic letters describe what a wonderful Christmas the College gave me. I had much companionship from Leslie Mitchell, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, but Sir Peter Gretton, who had been Domestic Bursar after a distinguished career in the war, and Tony Firth were also wonderfully hospitable.

The pictures are of Univ under snow, though taken nearly half a century later

From the city of aquatint 25

31st December 1972

I’ve had a super Christmas – the Dean came along to take me to communion at Christ Church Cathedral and the singing was superb, and then I had lunch with the Grettons –  Sir Peter who played real tennis after lunch with his son, while the daughter, who’s married an Irish Protestant ‘Pongo’ – the Grettons are Catholic Admirals and I hope you’ve heard of him, looked after all convoys from the States in the war – crawled on the floor with her baby, while the other son and I ate chocolates and crawled through the Times crossword. Got back at 6 and had a few minutes with Anil and Avril, before dinner at the Senior Tutor’s, where they’d been discussing definitions of maturity and snobs all day, and dinner consisted of the interpretation of ‘Hamlet’ and the debasement of the word ‘image’, though we did degenerate afterwards to snowstorms and tigers, after which I walked back and through the dark streets of Oxford and climbed up to my tower, which was marvellous.

Boxing day at the Dean’s, with vague bets on horses on TV afterwards – his parents are super – and the Pantomime in the evening, where we roared with laughter, and shouted with the best of the children. Two quiet days then with walks round the Meadows with the Dean – whence we’ve just returned, and it’s a lovely day, and then on the 29th the Staff party for the Dons, with chaotic dancing, when the College Secretary said she wouldn’t enter me for Mods unless I stopped playing Virginia Woolf and observing, but danced, which I did, quite dizzy and drunk. And now tonight the Dean’s Christmas Party, which ends with a Conga round the quad to finish up Christmas at Univ – such a magnificent experience that I hope to repeat it next year. I’m falling desperately in love with every stone in every building here, which is going to be absolute hell in 3 years time, but still, it’ll be fully worth it.

8th Jan 1973

I’ve had a super day myself today – went down to London with the Dean to his publishers, I to the Gooneratnes, unfortunately they were going out and couldn’t give us lunch, so we had it at the Tea Centre instead, and saw a super film, and then came back and had dinner at the Eastgate – he’s absolutely thrilled because all his history people have got through except one, and he phoned them afterwards, and their mothers were delighted.

The rest of the week’s been lovely too, starting with his party on the 31st, when the College Secretary saw a fire first and we tried to find it and the other History Fellow’s key got stuck in a lock and about 4 people tried to get it out, and it was a bursting boiler all the time; then we played a team game in which a referee in turn gave a title that had to be drawn and guessed – the College Secretary’s was ‘Bird’s eye-view of the back of a pig by moonlight’ – and we even had a teddy-bear’s picnic; she cheated outrageously and, when we went on to limericks later in the evening, her taste turned out to be just like Lakshmi’s, and she gave me a book of them next year – from Khartoum to the Mother Superior. We congaed round the quad to the horror of the night porter, and sang Auld Lang Syne at 12; wore paper hats and rolled the Secretary about on the floor, and after the 3 ladies left – the 2 College Secretaries and 1 from Teddy Hall – the other Fellow and I went back to gin and sherry and ended up completely drunk so that, having put my watch away safely when I got back, I couldn’t find it for 3 days, and couldn’t drink a thing at the consumption of the leftovers next day at the other Tutor’s Cottage – when the Tutor for Admissions was also back, and the Teddy Hall Secretary’s name was discovered to be Lalite also which led to her being called an aging nymph and chaos resulted again, though peace was soon established.  I’ve also been to Twickenham on Saturday, for England vs the All Blacks, and had a visit from Harin Dias and taken him roof climbing. But having realized that this is both illegible and incomprehensible, I shall cease.