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On 1st January 1976, Sally is 16¾. She lives in an unmodernised period cottage at the end of a long narrow lane, in remote Hampshire countryside. It’s not even a village; four miles to the nearest small market town (no buses) and there is just one neighbour, the elderly Miss Davison. Sally and her sister Becca are used to a long and complicated daily commute to a large state secondary school on the urban south coast.

Sally is the second of four children born within six years, to an eccentric, charismatic and sometimes frightening academic, a war-time refugee, now in the process of building a distinguished career in London; and an English housewife, who is from rather a posh background but could be said to have come down in the world, though she shows no regrets.  Sally has started keeping a diary on the recommendation of a psychologist, after a half-hearted suicide attempt at the end of 1975. The reasons for her state of mind, in those months, were both complex and banal; but her elder brother Daniel’s recent departure from the family home, on a gap year in south-east Asia before taking up an undergraduate place at Oxford, will have been a factor.

She is also grieving the loss of her New Forest pony, Kim, her closest companion over the previous five years, and partner in many local Pony Club triumphs, now sold on to a younger child. She has a new horse, Djinn, at large in the farmer’s field adjoining the cottage, but it’s not the same; her heart has gone out of the horsey obsession that sustained her early teenage years. She knows her Pony Club days are over.

In an attempt to recalibrate her life she has left the suburban grammar school where she took O levels last year, and has enrolled for 3 A levels at a Portsmouth technical college. It’s school with a difference and she takes some pride in the fact that she is only just old enough to be there. She still sees her one-time best school-friend, Karen, now a sixth former at the sixth form college their old school (following the abolition of the nationwide 11+ exam) is in the process of becoming. Her younger sister Becca, also still at the college, and younger brother Matt or Matty, are among the last grammar school pupils in the county.

During the first year, Sally writes almost religiously, every day, fixating on dates and times. In later years, her writing becomes more discursive, less detail bound, but remains, in its way, obsessive.


31st December 1978

Sunday night

Is today the last day of the year? I’m not sure .  . . if so, it’s already 1979 – just.

Daniel and I climbed Mont Ste Victoire this morning, and were up and back before noon. It was wettish and windy, clearing up as we came down. Unused to violent exercise, my legs are weak and wobbly; Daniel was too fast for me, I told him to go on, but he wouldn’t leave me to hazard the mountain alone.

Afternoon flopping on the . . . I don’t know what you would call it; a much –cushioned bench set in an alcove in the drawing room. I finished a book that I’d been instructed to read for next term, now  I’ve read all the ones that were stipulated and can shop around a bit at leisure.

Yes, that’s all we did all afternoon and evening, just sit in the sitting room reading, with background  music – Matty’s rock – on the tape recorder. At suppertime I got up and made omelettes and brought them in with a tray. That’s been the pattern of our recent existence, give or take a detail.

I like it; I do a lot of retrospective thinking, to my own discomforting embarrassment; I do suffer terribly, and have to struggle not to show it too violently when Daniel’s there . . . .oh dear, I don’t  like to tell myself to think of less painful things (in any case practically every past event that I chose to contemplate on, will be in some way or other painful) really because I feel that these things should be faced and come to terms with, not fled from, not studiously ignored.

So I suffer . .  oh dear it is terrible! There are times when I really do think myself the most contemptible, despicable, unworthy creature, or at least I think I show myself to be such, whatever I am really underneath. Everyone’s contempt for me seems justifiable, when I think back; by everyone meaning the people, outside my family, about whose opinions I am bothered . . . . just chance-encounters, some of them.

I don’t know what to do. Sometimes I think my self-reproach, though painful, is a good thing; and sometimes I think, well yes, but you carry it too far . . . perhaps I should not contemplate past events as I do, then I would not think on these moments of dire shame; but so much of my education has come from this procedure . . .. did I always torture myself like this?

Well, yes, but it’s been worse than ever before lately . . . more frequent. I’ve found more and more things to reproach myself with. I know very well that whatever I do, sometimes, I am in for a self-chastisement. They are all points of conduct, these ‘crimes’ of mine, which, even if they are as despicable as I make out, do no-one any harm but myself . . . but I think it’s for the harm that they do myself that I am furious with myself. So you see how selfish it all is . . . . even though it might be that I harm myself, by, say showing myself to be inconsiderate of others.

At the moment I feel I’ve been particularly despicable to Noah, I implore him to forgive me, I have a vision in which I hand him a gun with which he is to shoot me. I have another of my head full of bullets which have forced out my odious mind. . . .bullets fired by everyone I have ‘offended’ . .. .oh Goodness, I know it’s all crazy, that Noah or any of the others wouldn’t know what I was talking about . . .I don’t understand it . . . yes I do; it’s that in my sheltered, unworldly little mind, to be boring, clinging, self-flattering, socially ungainly and childish, all things which it seems to me that I have been, have been painted as crimes of the highest degree . . .how stupid!

Ah well, perhaps I’ll outgrow it, but how would I take a real crime, I wonder?

Perhaps real life is too intense for me; perhaps I’ll always be happier ‘living’ vicariously through books, or through other people, like Becca and Daniel. Look at me, I’m nearly twenty, yet I can’t bear, so it seems, to acknowledge the harsh realities which I know, theoretically, all about, to the extent whereby I get my personal standards in proportion.

Sally, as she keeps reminding herself, is now 19 and three-quarters, so ‘A Teenage Diary’ ends here, at the end of 1978. However her diaries continue for a further two and a half years, until mid-1981.

These later years can be found here as ‘A Student Diary.

There is 3 months’ overlap – so one university term – between the two.

24th December continued

Sunday still

Oh dear well, what should I do now? Well, I cannot unearth my moral standards, and anyway I don’t want to. I think I had simply better put all ideas of romance (and sex) out of my mind for the time being and let things take their course and maybe someone will in time come alone . . . someone the reality of whom I can really respect . . .etc.

My position is not really a bad one. I am not that sexually frustrated and not just any male will do . . . there’s no way I can induce myself to respect anyone I’ve met fairly regularly at Cambridge . . not quite true actually, but as with everyone indeed, I can always dismiss them effortlessly and ruthlessly at conclusive evidence . . Christ, I only daydream out of boredom, not necessity!

Well, Good night, Merry Christmas . . etc. Daniel did to our surprize come home and we, at least I, are delighted to see him.

Write write write . . . what shall I daydream about now? What are the consequences of a ruthless dispelling of illusions which have been, must have been, a basic need.

Oh God enough of this. I’m just writing out of boredom now.

Noah I’m sorry , sorry for everything; for the injustice I’ve done you, reducing you to my babyish level; I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry . ..  henceforth, if it kills me, all will be as if nothing ever happened – and indeed nothing ever did.

But nobody cares anyway but me; it’s just a game I play with myself.

I’m sorry Simon. I’m sorry Noah. I’m sorry Daniel . . my God isn’t this stupid!

Tuesday 26th December, evening

Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha . . . Melissa should be able to tell what Daniel feels about her by my attitude towards her. Daniel now seems to have forgotten that he was in love with her! Or at least an image of her. He certainly isn’t now. I shall never be jealous of her again; I shan’t ever feel tempted to be, henceforth. If anything she’ll be jealous of me; oh yes she’d stoop to it all right.

What’s so funny is the shattering of Melissa’s status in my eyes. In the space of a few minutes she becomes at least what I’ve been wanting her to be for years; a very ordinairy young woman, full of feminine vanity and egoism, no Superior Knowledge or Understanding of things at all. Christ, I’ve really always known what she was but having Daniel acknowledge it makes me able to believe it at last.

After writing the above I went downstairs grinning away and Daniel asked, what was up. So, I told him. He came down on me like a ton of bricks with a pile of good sense which completely set me to rights and showed me plain as anything that the only person whose attitudes needed stabilizing was myself . . . .though that’s not what he said. He just utterly, convincingly, denied any inconsistency in his attitude to Melissa; she’s is still very attractive etc, for the same reasons, viz. she makes the best of herself, and, by the way you markedly don’t.

I was in tears, of self-abnegation, self-pity, not reproach. How could I be offended . .  that isn’t really in my nature in any case. But Daniel isn’t entirely right about me, but he’s enough right. Of course Men are only interested in my tits, I don’t give them a chance to be interested in anything else; I come over as a boring, inadequate schoolgirl (with nice tits).

Well, that isn’t always true but it has been true often enough . . . oh goodness, I try so hard not to lean on Daniel, to be friendly and companiable but mature and distant with him. I succeed, but it’s a continual effort. My relationship with him now seems to me the most important thing in my life, which means he can say anything he likes about me, I’ll take any insult, anything without reproach.

Wednesday night, about 10, 27th December

Yesterday and today, long lonely days, reading; sometimes with Daniel there, sometimes not. We don’t understand each other, though we’re both trying to be companiable. At least we won’t quarrel.

I think too much and read too little – and talk too little, though that last bit isn’t relevant just now. But as a result of my continual pauses to meditate – on things absolutely nothing to do with my book; just about my life’s little events, as usual – I’m reading terribly slowly. I seem incapable of reading at a sensible, steady pace; for the only times I read fast, consistently, is when I’m really gripped by some book . . and then I get faster and faster, skipping without realizing it until I’m brought up short by the realization that I’ve missed some essential point.

Well no I’m not quite that bad; at least only rarely.

Thursday night

This morning we went shopping in town – just about my first venture into Aix this vacation. And this afternoon sat about, he (Daniel? I think everyone else is away) working, I reading; I can hardly call it work on my part. Perhaps I would find it easier to concentrate if it were. As it is, 75 pages a day I consider good going. I just can’t read solidly all day.

                                                                                                                                                            Friday night

I think I will go back to Cambridge considerably matured. I have thought a lot, talked a little with Daniel, enough to keep me on a realistic track – it’s true solitude is dangerous and there is no folly one can’t stoop to, in solitairy thinking.

When I think of the petty things that bothered me, my petty obsessions . . . why did I worry? Life is how it is; I couldn’t change it anyway. And not only that . . . well next term I must find something different to occupy myself with; my mind.

I am thinking a lot about next term; sometimes I feel quite ready and want to be able to release all my coiled-up projects now . . . and sometimes I feel, oh Christ, hold your breath, grit your teeth for the coming ordeal . . . I regard this very much as a rest-cure, this life, an in-between, rather unreal period. Certainly the life isn’t exactly life-like; lying about all day, idly reading, with background music and very occasional household chores which I conscientiously do.

Saturday night

What can I say? I like these days; I think and dream a lot, and have come to know Daniel better, in practice; I mean I always knew him fairly well, I think, in theory, but I could not act toward him accordingly, eg, although I knew he had as many hang-ups and was as basically insecure as I am I had to behave with him as though he were my Big Brother who knew everything etc; well, I hope, I feel I’m outgrowing that a little bit now.

24th December 1978

Sunday evening

My God, what poetic justice, what an absolutely typical lesson .. . all that about Simon and Melissa and me, well, it appears Simon has been frantically courting Melissa, imposing on her every day, so that she has already or that she will in the near future, have to be cuttingly offputting . . .I didn’t quite get whether that was in the future or the past, Daniel wasn’t talking to me at the time, but I shall of course find out as soon as I can do so unflinchingly . . .but Christ!

It was Dad who brought it up, referring to some remark Daniel had obviously already made on the journey back from Marseille (yes Daniel turned up this evening); I was the only other person sitting in the room, and my God, fresh from having written the above, I was swaying with shock and horror . . .how could I have been so vain!

It just shows how little I really cared for Simon since the idea of him only being interested in me off the rebound from Melissa puts me completely off him . . .which means I only valued him for my vanity’s sake.

Could I ever, ever, bring myself to accept someone previously rejected by Melissa? I doubt it. I could never consider anyone whom I could suspect of preferring Melissa to me, I am too proud.

Of course Simon has only come to know me  recently, whereas he’s known Melissa all term; there’s a saving factor for my precious pride, but still I couldn’t care a jot for him now in that respect . . Oh God my eternal snobbism which makes me give people – usually men, friends of Daniel’s – status for absolutely no reason; which status is naturally precarious and tumbles at a little revelation like this which has envolved no action on their part . . . Christ, talk about not judging people by Themselves alone. I must be the worst culprit in the university; it’s because, partly, that I want to give people status over me, that I blind myself to realities – what I know, in my moments of sense, are realities – and make up what I want to believe about these people – and believe it.

Simon is still . . a post graduate, artistic, classy (fairly), a 1st from Oxford etc . .. . set against that, he’s been pursuing Melissa frantically and rejected by her – there you are, there you have it; that’s all he is to me, a list of criteria; oh my God, talk about being interested in someone for the wrong reasons! What I have observed of his character, even of his physical appearance, is nothing to me; the same is true, when I think on it, of almost everyone I’ve ever been interested in, male or female; it’s their labels, what I’ve heard other people say, not what I myself have perceived (which I seem to consider wholly irrelevant) which has been important in determining my attitude.

Perhaps it’s that I’ve never given these people a chance, never given myself a chance to know them, to take my own viewpoint; as soon, as here, as the cards – or rather labels – picked up from hearsay, are stacked against them, I flee, and refuse to have anything more to do with them.

But no, that’s flattering my own vanity too; usually it’s simply that for one reason or another I simply have no further opportunity . . .it’s this silly  habit I have of falling in love with  people simply on the basis of external criteria . . .the only people entitled to do that are people only interested in one thing, viz sex, ie, physical appearance, and since I, goodness knows, would be much more demanding than that, I really oughtn’t to mislead the chaps concerned by behaving as I have.

Two people – Rory and Noah Carter – I have fallen in love with on the basis of other people’s remarks and what I managed to believe; and facts such as Rory being a scholar from Win Coll and Noah being ed. of that political journal.

Both were aware of – at any rate something ; both no doubt thought that all I wanted was someone to jump into bed with (and both, I may add, would’ve been willing) and both would’ve been utterly surprised and baffled if things had ever developed to where it became clear my demands – whatever they might have been – were not so simple.

Noah even now is probably a bit confused; I seemed to ‘fancy’ him, it’s been patently obvious that I have been aware of him fancying me . . .what was I, the one who appeared to have the situation so well summed up, waiting for? Every time he made a physically highly flattering gesture, I smiled knowingly and took it as my due . . .what more did I want?

Oh how could I be so naïve? I sensed something was wrong, I knew it was deadlock between Noah and me, that I’d somehow got us into a situation from which there was no way out, well, this is it. Trying in my naïve little way to use the common language of Love I have misused it, used the same words to express different concepts and naturally been hopelessly and embarrassingly misunderstood.

Of course Noah was only interested in my sexuality, without knowing it I was conveying that I was only interested in his . . . how could he see into my mind better than myself and observe my childish blunder?

My kind of Love – the affectionate devotion of two people each with a fair knowledge of and deep respect for the other’s nature, which very thing would in me lead to a physical attraction, I think – is something that is feasible only with Time and not something to be constructed over the party table.

Learning to express oneself . . . how often have I said what I don’t mean? Oh poor Noah . . .maybe one day I’ll have an opportunity to explain.

I have been guilty of insufficient self-knowledge; I was half-aware at the time – when Noah was here last September for instance – that things weren’t altogether clear to me; I knew I wanted something, but not to jump into bed, but it was all very vague; but I assumed blandly that Noah being older and wiser, a superior being possessed of my deepest respect, (whether he’d earned it or not, I wanted him to have it), I assumed that he would be able to see straight into my mind and understand what I was getting at even though I couldn’t have articulated it, not even to myself.

Madness! Oh, utter, utter madness! And I shall have to do a bit more self-penetration to clear up my motives to the bottom.

It’s my imagination which does the damage . . .the combination of naivity and an imagination that has to chew at everything. I could never have ‘fallen in love’ in the first place without it, for one can’t fall in love with nothing; I had to form a Person from all the available criteria first . . . well, I don’t need to enlarge, you only need read back a few pages.

But why is it that I do ‘fall in love’? Why do I want to? Is it simply that, without knowing it, I am, just in the most basic way, sexually frustrated?

Given, perhaps, the bare facts that here I am, nearly 20, fit and healthy, and a virgin, you might say, that’s very possible and quite ‘normal’ (Yuk how I hate that usage!)

But really I cannot think so; it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to find someone to sleep with and it has never occurred to me to be tempted. And with men it is never their physical appearance which induces me to ‘fall in love’; true, if they are good-looking, the effects of their ‘criteria’ on their behalf will work more quickly; ie; I may notice them sooner and therefore pick up on information with greater promptness, eg. It took me two days to fall for Rory; I’d met Noah on and off for 2 years.

But I could never, however good-looking, fall for someone for whom the cards had been stacked against and hence guided my imagination that way, against; to fall in love I would have to contrive a readjustment somehow . . .oh you know what all this points to, don’t you?

My sexual impulses –which do exist in no mean measure – have been crushingly repressed by the firm oppressive conviction that sex for sex’s sake is utterly abhorrent and crude and animalistic, that before I will permit myself to desire any man, I must first thoroughly kid myself that I am in love with his mind, so my imagination sets to work as soon as I feel inclined to desire anybody . . .and really, though a good-looking chap is better, well, anyone will do when you come down to it, just anyone, if you can contrive to fill in the necessary condition.

Ugh! Is that really me? Yes, and it’s probably at the root of all romantic prudery. Basically, if you are romantic, you are, at heart, sexual. There are people, I know, my mother I think was one, who are sexually restrained, who didn’t and had no inclination to sleep around at all – but I bet she didn’t have romantic daydreams about being ‘in Love’ either.

20th December 1978

Tuesday night

We came home via Antibes where we stopped to visit the Picasso Museum. Since Sunday, life for me has resumed to the utterly sedentary one that always accompanies attempts to work, or rather, read; but I am as always frequently distracted, not least because I cannot consider my reading really important.

It’s all preparatory booklist stuff for next term . . .but that’s all . .  the point is, if, as I say, I’m at university, not principally to get a degree, but far rather, to educate myself, then I can’t help feeling I get nearer a Relevant Contemporary Knowledge spending the time doing any number of available activities, even using my senses out shopping in Aix, than by sitting alone reading a few pages of an 18th century novel.

Why am I doing an English degree then? Well, good question . . . but I don’t regret it because it is a course which gives me more freedom than most others. But all this frantic reading . . .surely it would be more to the point to concentrate on improving my French somehow.

Wednesday night

I feel I want to go back to Cambridge – in search of excitement. But can’t I be more specific? No, because there’s nothing I particularly want; I’m just perpetually restless . . .oh there is one thing,  Love, but even the joys of that are I’m sure an exalted illusion.

No, I’m just in a restless mood . . . usually I’m quite happy with books and music and don’t have the time to do the things I’d like.

Saturday evening, 23rd Dec

Daniel is, or was, the only real person in my life; his world the only real world; no-one else was important . . . I’m not sure how true that is.

Sunday 24th December

I feel a wave of hatred for Melissa again, because I know she thinks, or thought, disrespectfully of me.

For all her claims to maturity on this account, she was influenced all right by the fact that I am friendless and, to her knowledge, boyfriendless, that I am a nonentity at New Hall (rather than a scholar at King’s) in her attitude to me; she was incapable of judging me by Myself.

The way she was obviously surprised and irritated by the fact that I was going to the (Godlee) concert with Simon Pennington (actually I had known intuitively that she would be; I left it to the last minute to tell her and would have avoided it altogether if it’d been possible) because she regarded him, as did Daniel in conversation with me after his party, as her conquest.

And the way her attitude to me became so much less self-assured, so much humbler, when we’d been home a little while and she’d seen me in conversation with Becca, with Mum, with all of them, with any of them but Daniel, who, when she’s around, will not so much as deign to address a remark to me . . . thus it had been on the journey (from Cambridge to Aix).

She is a damn snob who thinks a lot of herself. Well, so do we all, but I hope, though I fear I too would misjudge someone on account of their circumstances, I hope I would never stoop to rivalry. Oh, but in circumstances I would though, am I not in any case Melissa’s hopelessly disadvantaged rival for Daniel? though she doesn’t know it, she puts down my general insignificance in company with her and Daniel to my basic nature.

And I would feel ashamed at misjudging someone, doing someone who appeared perfectly co-ordinated and amicable an injustice simply because of what I know of their past and circumstances . . . mind you I don’t know how amicable I’ve appeared to Melissa; but honestly, over the last term, not bad.

Everyone here now thinks she’s Terribly Nice; well, I don’t think she’s nasty at all, but I shall enjoy making her respect me, admit her mistake with humility. I would enjoy taking Simon Pennington away (from her) . . . goodness I don’t know what she feels about him, probably nothing very particular, but it would wound her vanity . . .Don’t worry though, I’m not quite such a bitch as to court his favours purely for that reason . . .nor though am I such an angel as to renounce them out of consideration for her, considering that, if I did that, she would never realize the noble-spirited action; she would assume that I’d never had any favours to renounce.

Now if I could get acknowledgement from her of such a respect-worthy action, I think I’d do it, unless of course my own feelings for Simon were such – and how could they reasonably be so in such a short time? – as to eclipse every other consideration.

‘Be secret and exult’ . . .ha ha. That’s great up to a point; fine if like Milton you’re convinced that God, if no-one else, will acknowledge your nobility; but as for me, I live in hope that someone someday will acknowledge all my noble actions such as they are, and if I am ‘secret’ it’s only because I’m aware that therefore the final revelation will be all the more to my credit. I have patience.

Oh and another thing, she knows all right, Melissa, what Daniel feels about her. I shall jolly well tell him next time he asks me . . . last time was before the start of term, I barely knew her so couldn’t say; but now, a girl with that kind of opinion of herself and what’s more of her own attractiveness does not have a simple chap like Daniel drooling over her, moreover having done so for years, without realizing it.

Though she’s not nearly as sophisticated as me about these things. But then she’s so much more confident she wouldn’t have to continually ask herself, why he’s in love with her. She could just accept it as perfectly natural.

12th December 1978

Tuesday continued.

I’m still in love with Noah Carter. . . . being here again has naturally provoked it; and like a 15 year old I’m dying to tell someone but don’t dare, I know I’ll regret it. I have to banish him from my thoughts to get anything else done; it’s the hardest part of my self-discipline routine.

Oh by the way Melissa went down very well here in the short time she and Daniel were around; we all think she is very nice and I am not a bit jealous of her any more, I only wish she would have more confidence in me, but as I’ve said, I can’t patronize her, treat her as if I was the socially more at ease, simply because as a general rule, it isn’t true; I am aware that she has far more friends and love than I have.

Oh it’s all finished between me and Noah Carter; it never really was anything real anyway, I don’t think I ever really believed in it myself, it was just something to amuse myself with out of his presence . .  it’s funny how just a casual remark by an outside party . . .in this case Becca – can completely tip the balance; make you aware of your own foolishness, and bring to your attention something that was always there, before your eyes, but because it didn’t suit your intentions, you managed to ignore it.

I see Noah Carter now as someone utterly Danielian . . . instead of the deep, reserved, enigmatic figure I wanted to see, I see him really as someone totally without understanding and judgement as far as anything outside politics and philosophy in their most limited senses is concerned, and who has the common sense to keep quiet . . . he probably understands me least of all, of all of them he is probably the least capable of appreciating my character, he might hear what the others say about me and accept it,  without personal judgement, and then perhaps put down my weakness for him rather than all the rest, to my strange ways . . .but he cannot even look at me himself to see anything other than feminine grace.

Someone like Andrew Franklin is far more penetrating; I, as a person, baffled him last summer; Noah, like Daniel, is probably not capable of being baffled. He’s been playing a game of unconscious deceit with me, exploiting the fact that I over-respect him, for the sake of my long hair and nice tits . . well, I don’t blame him for that, who wouldn’t do the same?

Even if it weren’t for this revelation, he couldn’t have carried the deceit very far. Nothing he has ever said has indicated he ever admired anything in me but my body. . . I thought if nothing else, the fact that I had selected him from the others might cause him to admire my discernment; here at last a girl who can appreciate the real things in life . . . .etc – but I doubt even that occurred to him.

Oh, in my eagerness to renounce him I do him an injustice; he is in many ways an admirable chap, very steady and capable; he’ll manage in life; but he really shouldn’t admire me, for in his picture of me there’s nothing in my favour but glamour; beauty, quickness, unpredictability, and he shouldn’t, especially being the person he is, admire me for those. I think I am quite warm-hearted and compassionate, . .. those are worthy qualities I think; but he could not have seen them in me. . . . though they are things that he, in particular, should admire. He should be too mature to be bowled over by the other things.

Well, our ‘affair’ (conducted almost totally in my imagination anyway) was never very serious. Maybe I am mistaken this time, maybe when I meet him again everything will come flooding back; but until I do I’ll think no more on’t.

Dad and I, after a few days here during which almost the only time I stepped off the premises was when Mum and Dad and I went yesterday evening to his weekly anthropological seminar at the university; Dad and I (I repeat) are going to Luguria (wrong spelling) for the weekend with the car; it’s just over the Italian border, inland, and Dad has dreams of buying a country cottage there.


Here we are, Dad and I, in an Italian hotel room . . . it really could be  the summer before last again, except that it’s winter, and what we can hear outside is very definitely the sea. We’re at a place called Imperia, in Liguria . . . I don’t know what our plans are, or if we have any really. We were driving all afternoon, through the Riviera region and across the border, all along the coast . . .pretty spectacular.

Imperia. La Polizia di Stato arresta tre italiani.
Approaching Imperia on the coastal Via Aurelia

I would like to say something else, but I really can’t. There’s nothing I want to say.

Sunday evening 17th December

Last night’s hotel – in a place called Ormea – was horrid; the climate had changed as we came over the Ligurian Alp-pass; there was snow and ice everywhere and the hotel was huge, deserted and cold. Freezing, I piled on clothes and woke up sweating.

This morning, the sun was shining; I was also prepared for the temperature this time, so we ate an enjoyable breakfast of bread and cheese leaning on the car bonnet in the hotel carpark. Then we drove back over the mountains, a different way, stopping at the highest point of the pass. We got out and walked for a long time along the ridge road. Though they weren’t all that high, we could see a long way from the peaks; right across the Turin-valley to the Alps proper the other side.

We came slowly down on the south side, looking at the villages in particular a very medieval looking one called Zuccorello (?); we wanted to stay the night but they had no rooms, so we drove on to the next village, fixed ourselves up here above a little bar-café type place, and then drove back to Zuccorello for supper in a very informal eating house.

Zuccarello, Italy is a small medieval village in Liguria
Zuccarello, Liguria

Dad is a much better person than I gave him credit for. I think maybe, under the enslaught of my accusations, or just my remarks concerning my infancy, he’s modified himself . . .If so, I admire him for it. It seems to me now that he would not treat me quite the same if I were suddenly a little child again. But I’m probably wrong. Or perhaps I’ve simply misread him all along.

He is wise, though; he’s ignorant, but when you get down to the basic essentials, he’s wise. His is the sane, logical conclusion to be drawn from his – often limited – data.

8th December part 3

Friday continued

My father should not emerge from the preceding narrative as some kind of inhuman beast. If you bear in mind, how basically egoistic and wrapped up in his own work he is, his conduct should become comprehensible. He had, without ever troubling to put the traumas of his own childhood into words, a few fixed ideas on the upbringing of Children, children en masse. He never did, and still doesn’t, consider us as individuals. He knows nothing about me, but what I have told him, so in the days before I was in a position to speak for myself, he knew nothing at all. He hasn’t time for that kind of thing.

That’s all right in simple people, like my mother, my darling mother; but in people like my father it’s dangerous. He should not have tried to have a hand in my upbringing. He tries to mould the world into what he wants it to be, as a philosopher, he should know better, he should know the philosophical precepts of doubt etc apply to everything, dealings with children as much as everything else.

There are no fixed rules, Dad; you tried to insist that there were, so I came along and unwittingly threw them in your face. You should have accepted it, not been angry with me. You blamed me for the untidiness of the truth; I was only the innocent messenger. As a philosopher you should have accepted that, but you haven’t have you?

You’ve lapsed into an ivory tower of complacence, you’ve made your world to your liking and lost contact with us out here, struggling with reality. To hell with us, you’ve got too much to do, we can jolly well accommodate you as best we can; though you don’t fit. Our mother has spoilt you, you won’t pull your weight anymore; you think because you write about Truth, you don’t have to live with it . . . well I won’t contest that, some people would agree with you, but it seems to me that sooner or later you’re going to run out of Truth to write about; I mean it all comes from experience, doesn’t it and if you’ve stopped experiencing it . . . . well you can’t do it all from memory.

But I forget, you don’t approach truth through human relationships, as I suppose I do; God knows how you do approach it, but that at any rate isn’t your field.

But it exists, Dad, you can’t turn a blind eye to it.

Oh, I know you’re tired, you must be, God knows I shall be at your age, if I ever make it there; but so long as other people’s destinies are dependent upon you, you must try to acknowledge, in everything you do, the Truth that you know exists. In dealings with other people, as all dealings are, you must, if you are capable of it, see clearly. That is for me a basic, the basic morality.

Oh goodness, I don’t live up to it, do I! I’m tired too; it’s impossible. There comes a stage where you have no energy left, you lapse into your illusions, you can’t fight them anymore. It has been said that you need them; I am prepared to believe that; though it throws my argument, I would rather say, one hasn’t the infinite mental energy required to dispel them, to live without them.

There is still something about me which I don’t understand, isn’t there; I’ve read that analysis over and it doesn’t really explain everything, does it . . . .what I haven’t mentioned is the intensity of every moment; something I felt then as now; every moment, or any given moment, was terrifically important; I could not say, well yes, it’s a breach of faith, but what does it matter? It’s only momentary, I was intensely conscious . . . But for the time being – I resign. No doubt I shall return.

Tuesday midday

I don’t know the date – 12th? Dec? Anyway I’ve been home . . .two full days, I think; it’s now midday on the third. Daniel and Melissa are gone to Algeria (to visit Melissa’s brother Gabriel, on a year abroad for his languages degree); they never asked me but in the end I had no inclination to go with them.

The journey (to Aix en Provence) was a bore but passed quickly. Coming home was a remarkably calm experience for me . . . but I have yet to walk around town or rediscover the walks we took in September so there’s been little fodder for emotion.

I’ve made it the purpose of this vacation to acquire a rigid self-discipline, to strengthen my mind in preparation for a Lent term better spent than the last one was. That means, I don’t spend hours lying in in the morning; when I go to work, I work; I’ve cut down my eating ration . . . all in all I am trying to become a more efficient person in the grandest meaning of the adjective . . .I entirely agree with the Miltonic education programme that was based on the belief that self-discipline is the source of strength; and a wild, expansive nature brought under control is the strongest of all.

Sounds very Victorian doesn’t it? Later ideas must come on top of it, but they don’t eradicate it. I shall never regret having absorbed these old ideas first.

Things are so much the same here I can hardly believe any time’s past. Even the weather is almost as it was in September; and the landscape looks only marginally barer.

The family is just the same, except Matty seems more morose than ever, more private and withdrawn from the rest of us, as I always was, but particularly at his age (15), I suppose.

But it’s more healthy in him because he has made a number of friends and goes to their houses. Maybe I overestimate friends because I never had any; but I rate the fact that I was not only withdrawn but also solitairy as something indicating a peculiarity beyond Matty’s . . . I don’t know.

Dad is just the same . . .I irritate him because he doesn’t understand the language I use and he concludes I’m being fractious . . .so he irritates me. But we get on all right for limited periods though he does make me feel very lonely and I think I make him despair . . .He’s done all he can, what more can he do?

It’s wrong of me to reproach him; it’s true, mutual incompatibility is no-one’s fault.

But it’s for the past that I reproach him – though even that wasn’t his fault.

8th December continued

Later on Friday

Oh what do you think of me? Do you like me? Your judgement is very important; because if you don’t like me then I’m basically not a likeable person .  . . and that’s a very important thing to be.

I was rebuked just now by the porter for not smiling; for being ‘a serious girl’ . . . I knew it would come sometime. I’ve been purposely avoiding the more forthcoming porters for that reason. I nearly burst into tears, in fact I did as soon as I was out of sight. My God, explain it if you can! Why? I’ve known it was coming; one of these days one of my classmates is going to bang on my door – or perhaps more than one; they might all come together, if they like me enough to care at all; and they’re all going to say, why are you so unfriendly, such a recluse? And I’m going to burst into tears and shall be utterly speechless . . . . gosh I know the procedure all so well now, it’s old hat to me, but Why? I still have not the faintest idea, why? Why is it so tragic?

No, that’s an easy one, it’s because it’s always something I’ve thought about and haggled over so much myself that when someone else sweetly thinks that by drawing my attention to it, everything might be all right . . .. that’s tragic, because I see how little they know. No, the real question is, why am I  the person that I am? Why can I not conform, do as they expect, smile, say good morning etc?

Perhaps I can answer that last bit too. I can do those things sometimes, when I’m feeling utterly confident; but I’m always aware that I’m acting when I do. And I can’t act every morning; they’d ‘see through’ the act for a start.

Thus runs my crazy logic. But it’s far too deeply ingrained for me to transform overnight. The craziness of it, lies in the feeling that I sense, whenever I walk into a room, or meet anyone in the morning, they are asking me for it; they are saying, come on then, let’s have a nice big smile and a good-morning . . . well, of course they’re not really, they’re not thinking of it; but because I feel they are, I won’t do what I feel is being demanded of me as though I were a fractious child . . I won’t! I will do as I want. I am a rebel, if you ask me to do something for which I can see no coherent reason, without even explaining that there is a reason of some sort (whether I can see it or not); I won’t do it.

Now the irony of the whole situation is of course that, in the mornings, nothing is being demanded of me at all; I’ve no reason to resist, there is nothing to resist against; it’s all in my imagination, in other words, I have a complex; and where do you think I picked up this crushing complex which will outlive all my others? I’ll tell you, from my father, who always did try to order me into submission without trying to explain the reasons for anything; he insulted my intelligence, my self-respect as an autonomous being; I cannot submit without a reason.

Early in my childhood, I rebelled against, or rather, just questioned, the habit of saying ‘Thank you very much for having me’ when you left a friend’s house . .. . everyone always said it, so everyone must know that you were going to say it . . . .so really why bother since the sentiment expressed therein was obviously quite understood anyway? I remind you that I was a child; in my experience, everyone always said ‘Thank you very much for having me’, naturally I assumed that this was something pre-ordained as an inevitable and essential procedure, something that always happened – from my experience as it was then, this was the obvious and logical conclusion to be drawn by one who did not realize how limited her experience was and the mistake of judging the whole world by merely personal experience is not one limited to children.

So naturally enough I wanted to know why. I felt that by doing it without knowing why, I was making a fool of myself – I became unworthy of the title, person. So in an attempt to avoid hypocracy, I refused to.

I was ordered to do it; inarticulate, hurt by the insult, my blood was up; I would rather disobey, anything rather than give up what seemed to be the only reason for my existence, my self-respect; which always has and always will prompt me to act only in a manner in which I personally can believe in the sense . . . I do not have to understand it, I just have to believe that it’s there.

Well naturally I didn’t only question that particular habit . .  there were others, saying thank you in general and also saying good morning . . .I could not understand the point and my father never never could be bothered to even try to explain. If he had tried and failed, that would have been all right, I would have trusted him, that there was a reason . . . but he never paid me the compliment; he just shouted me, or tried to, into obedience. . . .I didn’t even hate him I didn’t know how to hate; he called me pig-headed, he still believes I’d been deliberately and vindictively trying to bate him; he does not even know that people aren’t born malicious . . . I was utterly confused, I wept floods as I’m weeping now; I even tried some unsophisticated attempts at introspection because I knew the fault was, somewhere, within myself; oh it was, it still is, it is it is, so that all the time I am conscious of people, ordering me to behave . . . .

Well, in particular to say Good morning. I’ve got over the Thank you one, thank God; though actually I still rarely say it spontaneously, it tends to come out like a little child doing his duty to the grown-ups, and if I don’t watch out I say it too often and embarrass the receiver by appearing over-grateful . . .having worked out at last the reasoning behind apparent gratitude, even if you feel none, though I usually do nowadays which certainly helps me to express myself.

But a child doesn’t feel gratitude. Why should they, they have no standards as yet; how can a child possibly know that all that it receives isn’t simply its due as a member of the universe. . . how could anyone possibly have any concept of gratitude, without having first a list of things that are not to be taken for granted. One automatically takes everything for granted, until one is shown how lots of people don’t have things that you have. Gratitude comes from comparison . . . . surely I don’t need to illustrate. And surely I don’t need to point out that someone who has only lived on the world just long enough to be aware of himself can hardly be expected to be aware of other people . . or things, or anything.

But as to saying Good morning . . . that is still a hard one. I don’t understand how one can feel a ‘good morning’. But I can make myself say it, though I’d rather not. I could make myself say it every day as I passed the porters’ lodge. But I’d have to be thinking about it . . . and it would get ludicrous, every morning, regular as clockwork, my little chore . . .quite honestly there are more important things that I must force myself to do.

8th December 1978

Friday morning

I have remembered a moment of madness which I want to relate – no, not a moment of madness, rather of extremely unfortunate forgetfulness.

You must know by now, that I have a compulsive habit of reconstructing past scenes of my life and analysing every action, principally for my own amusement during the hours of lesser entertainment . . .  but also for my instruction. Well, naturally enough I have missed a lot of Daniel’s little weekend not so long ago . . . about 3 weeks was it?

Anyway, late that evening, the one of the party, I was sitting down between Daniel and Noah, I started to talk – about Matty, as it happened – they both responded; I kept talking for a bit because there was nothing else to do but eventually I stopped; and there was silence between us and neither of them said anything to me again that night, which struck me as mildly odd; I’d made the first move etc. but I construed it subconsciously to indicate that Noah was really totally uninterested in me and trying to make it as plain as possible by not responding even when it would be perfectly ordinairy and civil to do so.

All this was subconsciously concluded; I wasn’t offended or hurt at all.

Ooops, now I’m going to get into a tangle; because of course all that may still be true; but later the obvious – or an obvious – explanation occurred to me . . . I remembered what I’d been saying; at the time I had felt it was perfectly normal and that there was no reason they could object or not know how to respond to it . . .but you see it wasn’t and this is the  kind of thing I am always afraid of conversation, always have to be on the look-out; it’s all right for people like Melissa, nothing ‘unfitting’ would ever occur to her; she always keeps the basic essential criteria in the back of her mind, would never make a blunder purely through silliness.

Well, as I say, what I’d been talking about was Matty; I got on to saying how I thought he’d fit a dream in Cambridge social life; how in fact he was just like the Editors of the trendy (ha ha!) student weeklies . . . what were my words? . . . ‘quick and sharp and cutting and sarcastic’, said one after the other as each occurred to me individually.

And those were the last words of my conversation that evening. Shortly afterwards Noah got up and went to bed.

Now, what had slipped my mind is that Noah is actually the editor of a – well –student weekly. My God, I know he thinks I’m a poet for whom every word I say has a consciously worked out effect. Well that’s true of me on occasions but as a general rule my words in conversation are as light as air . . .  it’s only when I’m acting a part, trying to be something, and then I usually work by censorship and editing of my usual speech rather than carefully contriving someone else’s (and the effect is very laboured.)

The same thing happened in Provence with Noah – only it was fortunate then so I probably didn’t think it worth mentioning. I was talking gaily away about the book I was reading, ‘Women in Love’; purely for the sake of conversation with him; nothing more . . . but later I realized how everything I’d said could have been construed as an allegory . . .well, I’ll show you.

I was saying how absolutely marvellous I thought Lawrence was at conveying the deeper ebb and flow of love or hate or any strong emotion, beneath a perfectly ordinairy, conventional conversation . . .the characters are talking about the most banal things and yet all the time there is the supercharged undercurrent running from one to the other.

Well, that’s what I was describing and I was saying how wonderful a portrayal of reality this was, ie; implying I knew just what Lawrence was talking about . .. etc, now, honestly, when I said that, I was purely taken up with the subject matter of what I was saying; I was talking about Lawrence, Lawrence and no-one else, and thinking about nothing else either. I’d forgotten even to be shy of Noah.

But you can see how he took it. No doubt he thought I was referring to the undercurrents . . etc, between him and me. I think now he was more in love with me then than I realized.

Well, I realized pretty quickly how it was he’d no doubt construed my remarks, and I laughed, but I wasn’t at all bothered; actually it was a pretty accurate description of the then situation between us and if he knew I knew, I didn’t care; I was confident enough at the time that he was – to some extent anyway – in love with me, not to feel embarrassed at what must have appeared uncharacteristic forwardness on my part.

Well, that’s how it was then. This time, God knows how he construed my remarks about Oxbridge editors. He probably thought I was needling him for being . . .oh God what must he have thought . . . help!

I try to laugh but honestly . . .and it really is true that it had absolutely slipped my mind that Noah was an Oxford editor, honestly, honestly, honestly; I had completely forgotten; don’t needle me with my subconscious intentions; you know I don’t have such things, well not when I’m retrospecting anyway.

Listen, I was in fact quite nervous when I was talking on about Matty, which is probably why I had no room in my mind to remember such insignificant little facts as Noah’s editorship.

I work by impulse or not at all. If I am a poet, I am a subconscious one, not a neat, clever manipulator. If I manipulate, it is by animal instinct . . . yes, it’s true, in Provence, I could have been talking about Us without realizing it. But then when it comes eventually to my limited little consciousness it is a stranger, it takes me by surprize, and I don’t know what to do.

Goodness I know that sounds like an utter contradiction to what I wrote in the paragraph before . . . . but it isn’t a contradiction, though I’m not articulate enough to explain why. Shall I try? No, you’re not interested, and I’m too tired; and I’ve masses of things to do. I’m going home tomorrow.

5th December 1978

Tuesday continued

It is very quiet and still here in college now. It’s not the solitairiness that makes it melancholy for me, goodness knows, I’ve been quite alone, much more alone, for nights, than I am here; no, it’s the solitairiness in an empty college, a place usually packed like a sardine-tine with students, where you can’t sleep at night for the record-players and parties of lively people continually passing to and fro along the corridor.

Now, at only 11 pm, it’s deathly quiet.

I would not stay here out of choice, however much work I had to do. The ideal work-place, now, seems to me to be Old Litten Cottage with my room right out on a wing, as it is; everyone else at home, so that I can go into the kitchen or wherever and be with them if I like, but with my room as a quiet sanctuary, and in the evenings the warm sitting room, with Dad working, and Mum and me reading in silence, and outside, the night . .. . I really did not appreciate the working conditions.

St Jacques (France) is not nearly as good; you can hear everything from everywhere, though in the evenings the sitting room there is quite nice . . .

Wednesday 6th Dec

Breaking down the assumed hierarchies is the hardest thing for an imaginative child to do – and I am a child in this. It means there’s no-one you can honour any more, for anything, no-one you can assume to understand and react accordingly to your humility; not even, for instance, the Director of the ADC.

That isn’t to say you can’t respect anyone any more. But you just can’t honour anyone, like the Arthurian Knights honoured their ladies; you have to treat everyone as though you were their equal.

An utterly lonely day. I’m reading quite well, I suppose because there’s nothing else to do; for I don’t read concentratedly; I continually stop to dream and talk to myself. But I am enjoying my book – it’s ‘Tom Jones’ – very long; I would probably never have read it of my own free inclination. It is just a little too dated to be the sort of novel, like Jane Austen’s, that you could pick up casually and read for pleasure any time; just a little too far removed from what we are familiar with in novels now.

Thursday morning 9.05

Here I sit again, to begin another lonely day at my books . . .. actually I’m being melodramatic, going on about my loneliness. I quite enjoy these days, this reading . . ..  if I’m impatient to leave it’s because I’m impatient to see my family, not miserable here.

The thought though, which came to me last night; that I shall be back after about only 3 weeks, did come as a bit of a shock . . .only 3 weeks, and then the whole thing starts all over again! Now come on, it wasn’t that bad . . .no but it’s like being at school again . .  . depressing. Living for another time. Only now I know, that there is no other time, it’s, enjoy life now or not at all.

In a couple of months’ time I shall be twenty. Just think! All my life, on my birthday, I’ve counted my new age; wondered at it for a bit, then got used to it, accepted it and thought no more of it. But nothing hitherto has been so hard to get used to as the idea of being twenty!

When I consider that Sabine is twenty, that makes it more plausible . . . but it does seem amazing. There is no way I can pretend to myself to be a child any more. When you are twenty, you are unequivocally a Grown-up. At the age of 10, I would have passed that judgement without hesitation . . .. whereas you could still just about get away with playing at being a minor, on occasions, at the ages of 18 or 19 . . .though even that was seriously pushing it. Strange that I should have known more about these things at 10 than I do now!

Goodness I am very young for my age, in my mentality, my way of thinking about things, the things I think about. Now why is it . .  I’ve lived a no more sheltered life than hundreds of my contemporaries. Perhaps it’s that I’ve lived such a solitairy life . . . or perhaps because I’ve always been such a dreamer that I was only recently born on the real world, and I still reject it periodically.

I think that is probably it, and if you want to go further you can say that I became a dreamer gifted as I was with an overactive imagination that the real world could not satisfy. . ..  . .so, you can draw a nice little diagram and say, that of course I could not wield the vast, voluminous liquid masses of my brain into maturity with anything like the speed that Daniel could manipulate the neat, structured little volume of his.

No disrespect to Daniel’s brain, of course. It is inevitably, a much sharper, more effective and efficient one that mine; it will do amazing things very neatly in the minimum of time. But I argue, for my own satisfaction, that it always was easier for him to be efficient.

3rd December 1978

Sunday continued

Yesterday was fine, incidentally, I needn’t have worried. I went to Melissa’s in the afternoon, to find out about her coach tickets, basically, but I hung around, eating her food, because the concert was due to start at 5.30 in Kings and I had arranged to meet Simon at 5.10. It was quite a tea-party actually; her father was there, and a friend from Trinity . . . it was nice.

At the appropriate time I got up and went to meet Simon, he was there; in a matter of seconds – about 40, I should say – I realized that all my anxieties had been groundless; he’s not the type you’d feel shy of; not the penetrating type at all; in fact he has this rather engagingly boyish enthusiasm and self-centredness; but it makes him refreshingly easy company, you relax at once.

He’s not like me – hyper-sophisticated sense for inter-personal relationships but utterly naïve about everything else – but he is like I am when I lose myself and become utterly, unthinkingly, spontaneous, because then my basic naivety shows and it’s the same as his.

Well, we went back to Melissa’s afterwards because she had said she wanted her father to meet Simon. But Simon and I didn’t stay long because he had to go to dinner at Girton. We walked to the bus stop and when he said goodbye he kissed me. I didn’t think anything of it; it’s a common enough habit, but I got to thinking how it is that we are all, all of us, laughable characters in some way or other; I mean I, little little me, can feel amused by certain aspects of Simon Pennington’s behaviour, Simon Pennington, son of James, graduate student, a first from Oxford etc; well, all that’s nothing, as far as parentage is concerned I don’t rate too badly myself, but what I mean is, I’m not the only person people poke fun at and laugh at (albeit affectionately) behind  my back.

No-one is flawless, not even Melissa; though I must say she’s nearest to it, I mean I cannot really think how someone would laugh at her.

But the main point is; I need not make the mistake of thinking, as I often have, that, because people laugh at my ways, and I know they do, that I am essentially alienated from them; and that they would never take me seriously as a friend.

Becca was right in her letter; things are going to be fine for me here eventually; it’ll take longer than for Melissa, not least, in fact most, because of my less stable nature, but in the end everything will be all right.

Even now, though people don’t really know me, all those who know enough of me, like me; and that’s all that’s necessary. It doesn’t matter if you’re not trendy, socially co-ordinated, glamourous etc, in the long run. All that matters is that you’re Nice. The rest are things for ambition, and I have my fair share of them. That is not really what has worried me, ever.

I don’t really care if I don’t get into acting, I know I don’t want to be an actress; I am more interested in the – intellectual? – side of it; I want to get to know about modern plays and playwrites, the contemporary literary scene, so that I can review with sophistication; I don’t doubt my own ability to do so.

Sunday night 9.45

At 12 I had to be at our Mummers workshop; that lasted until 4-ish; then we went back to somebody’s room and played silly games. It wasn’t so nice but I just stayed because it was warm and I couldn’t be bothered to move. I felt lazy and didn’t talk much . . .because I found myself not really caring what they think of me.

We stayed there a long time – a waste of time, I suppose. We weren’t having constructive conversations at all, we were just messing around.

Well, you can’t accuse me of not mixing with all types; I dread to think how Simon or Melissa would react – particularly Melissa – in the Workshops; and that was hardly their kind of tea-party; nor mine either, perhaps; I didn’t exactly give the impression of joining in well, I don’t think.

I ought to be more congenial and easy-going, smilingly going along with anything; not resisting, perversely, or mistrusting, as I tend to.

Thursday 5th Dec

I spent a nice hour this afternoon in the Fitzwilliam Art Gallery . . .and then back here to continue my reading. I am getting lonely though; no-one loves me for my sake; the few people who pay me any attention, it’s out of pity for a lonely person, not out of genuine inclination . . .no, that’s not true, of course; not many people pity me and Christ why should they.

But it’s true no-one loves me. Here I am, quite alone in this university town; really a lot of students are still here, although the student activity in the form of drama, films etc is gone; and there’s no-one who I can just go and impose myself on for an hour or two, and no-one who is at all likely to impose themselves on me.

Yes I am shy, painfully shy; not so much of speech, as of person. In a group of people, I have no objection to talking to them, if I don’t it’s through laziness or general disinclination rather than timidity; but I dare not impose myself upon a group, or upon anyone I will not even hold  someone up in the street for a minute or two, not wishing to detain them for my sake.

But then again I don’t really want to stop and chat myself. Nor do I want to go, even now, and sit in one of my contemporaries’ rooms.

On the other hand I would like to sit with Simon Pennington, or Melissa, or anyone  I could trust to talk freely with me, unshy, so that I too could relax and not worry about silences and putting the other person at ease. I can relax pretty well myself; but I won’t enjoy myself if they aren’t relaxed too.

Best of all I would like to be in a small group of intelligent, lively people; Melissa, Simon and some other people like that, male and female, graduate and undergraduate . . . oh I feel everyone I’ve met here at New Hall is so childish; as soon as I start talking freely they lapse into dumbness . . .as if I’d said something shocking! Even talking over meals now I have to be very careful to suitably subdue my responses.

No, I’m exaggerating; it was only like that with the other first years, earlier on in term. Now, more secure themselves, they’d probably let me be as exuberant as I liked, and manage to answer back; only the thing is they’ve destroyed my previous security in the interregnum.