Clara

There’s something else I need to say about our dates in 1990, after I left the NFT. I’d NEVER BEEN ON A DATE BEFORE!

I’d been out (for approximately a year each) with 3 people before.

1) C, who you’ve briefly met on 24 March, I’d met extremely casually one time before in 1982. She was in a group who went to the Phoenix in Oxford to see Polanski’s Macbeth (1971). We probably exchanged no word other than ‘Hallo’. I’d once glimpsed her since (and OF COURSE not talked to her) on the train from Paddington on a Monday morning, which gave me hope because only people who 1) hated Oxford because they were 2) ‘London people’ went home at weekends in term-time…

In the summer holiday after my first year, 1982, she – using the ‘two degrees of separation’ (I knew M, who you briefly met at Caroline, Or Change, who was at Pembroke College with Nicole, who did art at the Ruskin with C…) – phoned me up at home because she was renting a 5-bedroom house (13 Divinity Road) and only had 4 people to live there. Would I like to rent the 5th room? (Also, possibly, she remembered I was good-looking…)

I said: Yes!

The reason I said yes (not that I told her) was because I’d done NOTHING about finding a room, and it was August, and by October I’d be back… I actually thought I would leave. The 1st year had been completely awful. I was SO SHY I just put my head down and worked, not because I thought it was useful, but just because I might as well…

We had to write 12 essays in 8 weeks, EVERY TERM! And for each essay we were given a reading list of 10 (or more) books… So every day (except Sunday) I went to the Radcliffe Camera (round 18th-century classical building) where the History ‘stacks’ (stacks of books in the basement) were. I’d fill in a form for whatever books I wanted (about 10th-century German history, Ottos I, II and III…), sit at a desk, preferably upstairs, in the library and daydream (it was a fine building, light and airy) – and wait the half-hour until the books came up from the basement. Using a library was fun for me in 1981: pre-computers, it was all forms in triplicate, carbon-copied, like the 30s. I felt at home…

Then reading the books I’d drift off, and have to haul myself back into the 10th-century world… And MAKE NOTES!

Even at that stage, I thought: What the f*** does this have to do with ANYTHING?

I could have studied Hitler, like virtually everyone else doing History. But I did so want to be ‘different’. So me and Patrick Turner were the only History pupils at Merton who did medieval, which meant we had to go to St Peter’s – another college – and be taught by Dr Henry Mayr-Harting, who was (in spite of his name) TOTALLY BRITISH and – for want of a better word – ‘autistic’ (he had personally translated, from Latin, the 10th-century ‘key text’ Res Gestae Saxonicae…).

Patrick Turner had a tweed jacket and very short hair, which he probably had cut every week. He looked like a rather pale imitation of Tintin, with glasses, and – because his hair was wavy – plastered it with brilliantine (or rather had it plastered at the barber’s…). He was an ENTIRELY 1940s person. You could have seen him in a 1946 movie by Basil Dearden, or some such 2nd-Division director… His ambition was to do the Civil Service Exam and work for the Ministry Of Defence (which he did, according to ‘Alumni Notes’ in a 20-years-later edition of The Mertonian…).

Anyway, Clara…

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strokeofbadluck

I had a stroke on July 26th, 2013. I was a screenwriter. Don’t do that anymore. But have found another way to write.

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