Life with the Blind

One night in late 1964 I assisted at a bizarre ritual which involved three blind men climbing up a drainpipe. It led them to the easily opened window of the Junior Common Room in Queen’s College, Oxford. I had been drinking with them because they were school friends, from Worcester Royal College for the Blind, […]

The Professorial Class

My involvement in universities goes back well over half a century and I think it’s safe to say that the changes in universities during that time vastly exceed those in the half century before that. They have increased enormously in scale, shifted to much more vocational emphases, are much more international in nature and are […]

How Much Work should You Do?

In 1971 the National Board for Prices and Incomes felt itself obliged to research how much work university employees did. Lord Redcliffe-Maud, the Master of University College, Oxford, but also the person most associated with the reform of local government as he had chaired the recent Royal Commission on the subject, offered a simple piece […]

At Last I Get to Join the Class War

In its earlier manifestations I was left out of the class war. I grew up in a terrace house in a Lancashire Mill Town and before you begin imagining I’m looking for some kind of sympathy I must add that it was absolutely idyllic. The row of houses was between a field and a park […]

Good Old New Society

Friday October 5th 1962: my sixteenth birthday, but more widely known for the coincidence that the first James Bond film, Dr. No, was released that day and so was the first Beatles single. Some people have portrayed it as the day that the sixties really kicked off, but I was unimpressed. I thought that “Beatles” […]

The Joys of the Virus

“I like the virus. I want the virus to stay forever.” My grandson Teddy was a few months off his fifth birthday when he said this and one can appreciate his position. Under the rule of Corona you get to be with Mummy and Daddy all the time and they give you their full attention. […]

Waking up in Bardland

On the morning of March 17th 2020 I checked the website of the Royal Shakespeare Company: business as usual. Great! But by teatime government policy on public events had become drastically more stringent and I had an email saying that they were closing their doors. It was like having a part of my being, a […]

The Psychopathology of International Organisations

In the years since the Brexit referendum all possibility of rational debate about the issue seems to have evaporated and has been replaced by a combination of boredom and hostile emotion. Instead of argument we get a shabby sort of deconstruction of the opposition: it is difficult to get enthusiasts for the European Union to […]

Scottish Independence

There are things that people say because they believe them and things they say – and may believe – because you have to say them to prosper. For most of history you had to say you believed in God and opposed homosexuality; no longer true, apparently, and a good thing too. But if you live […]

On Loathing Labour

There’s a family legend that I was present when Aneurin (“Nye”) Bevan called the Tories “vermin”. I was three years old, on my father’s shoulders, and allegedly roared with anger. This incident was supposed to have taken place at the “Big Meeting” (aka the Durham Miners’ Gala) in 1950. Unfortunately, as so often with family […]

1 2 3 4 5