After my stay at David’s I went to Sicily with Richard Weatherill, and then on getting back to Oxford, with a few days in a Corpus Guestroom, I moved to the flat in Norham Gardens I had been lucky enough to get the lease of earlier in the summer. When I answered an advertisement, I was told it had been let for the summer, but I said I only wanted it in October and to my joy the owners, a Dental Practice that had the Ground Floor and the Basement, agreed. It was managed by the Secretary to the practice, a lovely lady called Mrs Dent, who became a great friend, as did the nurses. I was thrilled when, as I was finally leaving, one of them sent me a note to say we were the nicest tenants they could possibly have had.

The pictures are of Bruce and me at Norham Gardens, and then of Shan, as a baby with her mother Seelia, at her wedding, with her family and then a recent one. Oddly enough she figures too on my facebook page today.

The House in Norham Gardens

Living in Norham Gardens was a joy. A couple of months after we moved in, Penelope Lively published a book called ‘The House in Norham Gardens’ which I gave Bruce for a Christmas present, trumping him since he had intended to do the same for me. It has in it the splendid line ‘By the time they have moved into Norham Gardens they have toppled over the edge into madness’. This was a reference to the wonderfully dotty architecture of North Oxford, but we had no doubt it applied to people too.

Soon after we moved into the flat there we set the tone for what would happen over the next two years by having the most enormous party. It was for Bruce’s 21st, and we piled in about 80 people in two rooms and the landing, with all the beds and chests of drawers stored in my room. A carton of cream collapsed on the floor just before we were due to start, to the horror of the caterers. And after it ended, just as I had sat down with a large glass of brandy and a book, 20 people returned with fireworks they insisted on setting off. But all six people who stayed the night helped clean up so there were no traces of damage for the dentists to see, except I fear a bit of broken glass.

After that party, and a trip to Stratford for ‘As you like it’, I settled down to intensive work, turning down all invitations and resigning from the Piers Gaveston Society. Anila took her degree at the end of October, and then left for America, and I took mine in November, with my cousin Shan Radcliffe and her family in attendance.

She was the daughter of Seelia Wicremesinghe, who had taught me French when I was a boy, and had followed her father Hugh to Cambridge. She married David Radcliffe whom she met there, and they lived and worked abroad after that, being now in Canada. But David had got a fellowship for a year back in Cambridge and I was delighted to have them over.