Even Stephen Hawking recognized the danger of the ‘grey men’. I have just read Oxford Today’s Trinity 2015 issue (as a physics graduate I probably should have understood more of it than I did), but I am moved to comment on the lack of anything that sounded like the cultural and social atmosphere that was ever-present 60 years ago. I am lost in admiration of the deeds of present-day Oxonians, but where are all the eccentrics and oddities that used to provide the main constituents of the exciting mixture that was Oxford in my day?
I have personally achieved little of interest that will go into my obituary, but I believe I absorbed at Oxford a huge amount of culture, learned how to enjoy and discuss almost any subject and above all how to have fun. I was educated.
Has Oxford changed a lot? I used to do tutorials with Konnie, a young Greek god who used to put Chanel No 5 on his feet. Michael Grace, our brilliant tutor, was much more interested in learning about Konnie’s love life than in teaching us atomic physics. One day Konnie took me to his room to see his grandmother. ‘She is in this suitcase,’ he explained, and opened it to reveal several large hunks of meat chopped up and wrapped in polythene. A friend of his had shot a deer in Magdalen Park and he was hiding the proceeds for him. Konnie married an Italian starlet.
John had a cousin who worked at Sotheby’s, and somehow managed to furnish his rooms in Meadow Buildings with sumptuous silk tapestries and exquisite old masters from all over the world.
Gorgeous Robin was thrown through a closed window by a drunken Rugger Blue whom he had invited to dance with him.
Lovely Vicky, an accomplished painter and jazz singer, kept a huge pet snake in her bedroom (a place much visited by eager young undergraduates). She fed it with live white mice. Her mother had been married nine times.
Bruce was a member of the Bullingdon, ran the Christ Church beagles and was the perfect example of the ‘Peckwater Bloody’. He is now a woman.
I could go on, but I hope my point is made. There are probably many like these at Oxford today: if so, your columns could do more to reflect the fact.