A Time of Gifts Winding up
By Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
Since I could do no work till I got the official result, I had a glorious summer. There was much socializing, even with some of the by now much younger generations of undergraduates, though mainly with old friends, in London or when they came back.
After term I went back to the cottage we had taken the previous year in Ireland, this time with just two friends. Again we had a delightful though much less strenuous time than when we had had a car. Then I settled down to work, which did not prove too taxing.
I spent the first two terms after I got back in the lower flat at Norham Gardens, since the rooms Bruce and I had occupied had been taken over by two Union friends. Two others had taken on the downstairs flat, including the defeated Secretary of the Union who had been elected President at the end of the previous summer, and I took over his room which he had vacated at the end of the previous year.
22 Norham Gardens
30 May 1979
Thanks for your letter – don't bother about the accommodation as I'm almost certain now I shan't be back in October and won't try – my supervisor pointed out gracefully in reply to my own elegant complaints that I oughtn't really to have fixed myself so arbitrary a deadline, and I think he's right. I have a clearer idea now about the revision, though not yet an official one, and I'm afraid the examiners recommend, though not demanding, that criticism – which is what the troublesome chapter is about – should be mentioned in footnotes elsewhere. So, though the argument still remains intact, the actual logistics of presentation will take up time. Could you or Thatha please mention this to Ashley? – I've written already, suggesting that they proceed with another appointment as it's only fair to them to offer the option of my resignation. I'm not too upset – and that, I think, only in case both of you are which I hope you're not. There is, however, one problem, namely my return ticket, which expires on 18 June. I shall go down to London next week to try to get it changed, or a refund, failing which I wonder whether I should send it back for Thatha to deal with more effectively. If he'd like to ring me (!!!), I'm in most mornings, but after 8, the portering still going on apace; and enjoyably, though regrettably less frequently.
Christopher Bowden's very good at touristy things, and would probably much appreciate Anuradhapura et al, and, of course, Kandy; and could manage the touring himself, unless of course you were free and wanted to have a break yourselves.
I think he'd want to cram as much as possible into his time, so it may be best to send him on rapid exhausting tour to the ruins, and take him on a more leisurely one yourselves to the hills. I also think he'd appreciate Old Place, though not of course at the expense of more prominent things. Let him pay for himself unless you're with him – and even then perhaps occasionally, as he may be embarrassed otherwise. It would be nice if he could meet someone Parliamentary – say, Bernard – as well as see the place. You may recall that he's Mary's boyfriend – as in the girl you met in '75, when her then boyfriend John – Christopher's then flatmate – was playing tennis.
I've been relatively quiet over the last few weeks, though this, being 8s week, is a bit more hectic, with people down for the weekend and parties given by people I know – which isn't generally the case any more. A symptom of middle-age, perhaps (I gave up sugar in coffee and tea to mark being 25), is that I find few things more enjoyable than sitting in the flat reading long novels and listening to opera – Bruce very kindly having brought me last weekend lots of records to add to my own sets – now much expanded with Anila's birthday present of Wagner's Ring – 11 records, nearly 20 hours worth of glorious noise. I suspect, also, that it's had its therapeutic effect during the relative frustration of the last few weeks when I could do nothing and would, ordinarily, have been annoyed, but wasn't.
Thatha's letter mentioned something about Annette, which sounded quite upsetting – do elucidate. Anila's letter to me mentioned the Stokey wedding as well, as an occasion of great glee. I had a belated birthday card from Punch, but haven't seen him yet, and have no idea where he is at the moment. I hope Lakshmi's better, she didn't sound too well in her last, and that her land problem resolves itself.
Thanks too for the cadju which was extremely welcome. Don't bother about cake, though if there is a possibility of anything being sent, my box of cufflinks might be useful - though not in the least essential. Hope you're looking after yourselves.
You will, I trust, be delighted to hear that the University Hardship Committee – I like to think, though improbably, through a guilty conscience about the delay, have given me 400 pounts; which, with your characteristically kind and generous renewal, will make me prosper again. I cannot, unfortunately, be night porter again, as they have a permanent man – but it was most enjoyable, as Oxford continues. I've asked the Admissions Office to send on forms, but for various reasons I wouldn't impost on Univ necessarily again so soon, especially with a late entry. Many thanks for the cake, also the letters through Margaret.
22 Norham Gardens
30 June 1979
Thanks for your letter, which took ages to arrive due to postal confusion here. Doubtless this will too but, just in case you do have a carrier, my sports jacket and one or two of the shirts (blue dress one esp.), also some shoes, would be of use – order of priority given. Do let me know whether and when you're going to be here soon, so I could leave repairs to you – it was most annoying (!) to be told of looking exceeding well on the day I borrowed a jacket from upstairs. Vivien hastened to assure me it was the colour, rather than the general disreputability of my own stuff.
I hope you got my anniversary card, also Thatha's birthday card with its good news about my grant. I still work occasionally as Night Porter, which is most enjoyable – Leslie is quite convinced I only do it for the gossip. I still haven't got quite as strong a hold on the rather silly bits of work I have to do before resubmission – mainly because everyone I know has been going gently dotty due to Exams, leaving, Union, etc. and their resident psychiatrist has to cope. I'm thinking of charging, and having a system of appointments though this may only be flattery, to prevent myself feeling old and passé. It's nice to feel needed anyway, and the situations are often very diverting and of great value to the budding novelist – hence, too, the Lodge, because the College is going through a protracted sort of crisis and the reactions of the individuals concerned are fascinating.
I took Theja to 'My Fair Lady' on Wednesday, not with much enthusiasm as it wasn't a particularly good production but Sanjiva and Chitra were going the next day and wanted her to see it before, and in the end it wasn't a disappointment. Far from thinking of Rex Harrison, the associations I indulged in were the auditory ones of 1959: awful, but at the same time quite charming, to think that my first association with the work was 20 years ago. I'd been to Encaenia that morning – when they give out the Honorary Degrees, to Graham Greene amongst others – and was delighted to discover that I am now senior enough to sit in the area, along with the MP for Oxford, who's a fellow, and other such luminaries: little things for little minds, just as last week, when David asked me along to see the Garter ceremony, which was a great joy – Lord Hunt of Everest et al.
Sanjiva told me about Aunty Som – I hadn't actually realized last year that she was ill. I've got a card for C.Q. but can't actually bring myself to write anything in it. I suspect in the end I'll just sign it and send it on.
Shelton & co. were here on Thursday, and I gave them the tour, including a climb to the top of the Sheldonian, which I hope wasn't too tiring. Christopher Bowden would, I suppose, have arrived by the time you get this letter. In addition, John Harrison – who now lives upstairs, and whom Aachchi met last year, I'm not sure if you did (beat Alicia for the Union Presidency) arrives on 24 July on a tour with the school at which he's going to start teaching next term. He's got a programme and hostel with them, but I'll give him your number in case you'll be able to have him to dinner. Could you also give him Rohan's telephone at John Keells, as he knows Chanaka as well and, being slightly younger, might welcome an evening out, with the kids. He's quite fond of architecture, but I suspect Anjalan may be a bit too much for him, even for the sake of Dutch Regency buildings.
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