Back to Oxford after ten posts about Sri Lanka, and a serendipitous summer back in Norham Gardens. The introduction to my next set of letters explains how this happened. I spent the summer term in the lower flat in Norham Gardens and then moved after term ended to the flat above, back to my old room.

The pictures are from an earlier Keats Society dinner, beginning with Chris Hall who moved into the lower flat along with Malcolm Turnbull after I moved out. Above him is Robin Harris who wrote a biography of Margaret Thatcher. The next picture is of three denizens of the upper flat, Damian Green on top, Marie Louise who had my room in the year I was away on the left, and myself.

A long reprieve

After a lovely time in Cornwall, I also had a few days in Paris before the viva finally took place. But then I had to wait for a formal result. It had gone off comparatively well though they did object to the carelessness of my typist (‘Tell me, why does your typist insist on putting a comma after Mrs’), and wanted me to mention more modern criticism and cut out some of the longer citations from 19th century critics. But they said I should not start work until the Board had notified me formally, since it could conceivably ask for more. And, because of the delay, the Board had just met and would not meet again until early May.

That too turned out well however, for my mother was going to America and I went with her, and did a Greyhound Tour of the States (only $100 for unlimited travel which my sister kindly provided). But when I got back it transpired that the Committee had not sent my results to the Board, so it looked like I would have to wait a further three months.

22 Norham Gardens

8th May 1979

Here I am back in the last refuge of the homeless, albeit it’s Flat 1; still a source of danger since Hugh Rossi’s been made Junior Minister for Northern Ireland, and we fear for his daughter, who now inhabits my old room. Above me is Andrew Turner, the City Councillor, and Chris Hall – who moves into the present flat next year – has been elected for Central Ward as well. I am quite proud of my foundation.

There are few other things to please, at least in the short term, the corrections required for my thesis being minimal and therefore irritating as opposed to difficult. I have even come round to feeling that the typing was not as bad as I thought or they suggest. What is even more irritating is that, due to some administrative confusion, in theory I will not be able to represent till next term – a situation I am engaged in clarifying and, if necessary, combating. Meanwhile, I am acting as Night Porter at Univ, although only for 3 nights a week, a job both interesting and remunerative. I have indeed already earned in two days more than I’ve ever earned before.

I had a further delightful time in America after heading south, albeit feeling less fresh. Doubtless, the touristic aspects were less impressive. However, I caught a jazz festival in New Orleans and, for your sake, visited vast quantities of Girl Guide relics in Savannah. Having boasted of your position (mainly to assure a dear old lady who thought I was wonderful how appropriate to the movement her praises were), I was given a pamphlet about the Low birth place to give you. I’m sure you have it already, but that with your shawl awaits you here. Maeve and Buds were wonderful in Washington and, trying to see everything, I spent far too short a time listening to her. She and Tony in Miami were great hosts, hope you’ll be able to get there on your voyages.

You must tell everyone I’ve got to rewrite a chapter – I was horrified when Sanjiva told me proudly he’d told someone I’d only got to retype. Such subterfuges I find distasteful.  I shall write to Ashley as soon as I know more.