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1968 in retrospect

25 January 2018

1968 in Retrospect: History, Theory, Alterity1968 in Retrospect: History, Theory, Alterity by Gurminder K. Bhambra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw this book going cheap on a book sale and I bought it because 1968 was quite a significant year in my life, and the title 1968 in retrospect interested me. The sub-title, however puzzled me. I had to look up “alterity” in a dictionary, and I’m still not sure what it means.

It’s a collection of essays by sociologists on the significance of 1968. What made the year significant for them was clearly the whole Student Power thing that erupted in that year, though they didn’t actually say so explicitly. One had to infer that from the contents of the essays, many of which were self-consciously not about the events of Paris in May 1968, as they said focusing on that meant that people missed a lot of other significant things, but in the end it became clear that it was the events in Paris that gave significance to the other things.

In the introduction the editors acknowledge that they weren’t born in 1968, though they asked for advice from a couple of people who claimed to have been there, and therefore their memories must be suspect. And to me that makes their whole enterprise suspect. As a historian I know that people who “were there” when significant events took place can never see the whole picture, and in the history of those events there will be gaps that only become apparent much later.

I know this from personal experience. I “was there” in the 1960s. I saw what I saw, and heard what I heard, but I didn’t see or here everything, not even all the bits of it that concerned me directly. Only 40 years later, when I read the reports that the security police sent to the Minister of Justice did I discover that I had been to places I had no recollection of being at. Such sources only become available to later historians, and enable historians to piece together a fuller picture of the past. So yes, “being there” is not enough. But does that make those who weren’t there less suspect than those who were? I’m not so sure about that.

The authors of these essays are not historians but sociologists, and there is little evidence that they have done much historical research on the subject. So that was a disappointment, to me, at least. What the book perhaps does show is the significance of 1968 for the history of sociology as a discipline. I will say some more about the significance of sociology in 1968 from the “I was there” perspective, but not in the Good Reads review. I’ll save it for an expanded blog post with more personal reminiscences, which will be extraneous to the book review.

I won’t deal with everything in the book, but the main thing that struck me was that many of the authors wrote about the “long decade”. 1968, they said, encapsulated the Sixties, and the Sixties really lasted from 1956 to 1976. Now if one is looking for the characteristics of that long decade, there are all sorts of cultural currents that they do not mention at all — the Beat Generation of the late 1950s and early 1960s, and their successors, the hippies and the Summer of Love in 1967, though that was before 1968. But it was students who experienced the “Summer of Love” who were also involved in the events of 1968, so what influence did one have on the other. None of the authors say. There were theological currents, such as the “God is dead” thing, and the Jesus freaks. The “Prague spring” of 1968 is mentioned in passing but not really analysed.

The editors said they were trying to get away from a Western perspective, and were more interested in non-Western perspectives, and feminism and gay liberation. So there is a chapter on politics and student resistance in Africa since 1968, whose author, Leo Zelig, writes:

This chapter looks explicitly at the nature of the student revolts in Africa in the late 1960s and 1970s. The chapter seeks to pull our attention away from Europe and North America, the privileged sites for discussing 1968, to focus on other voices that began to craft a new politics in that year.

But he goes on to deal with African students of the period as the privileged within their societies anyway.

And if the aim was to shift the focus away from the privileged, why was there no mention of student revolts that started in Soweto in 1976 and spread throughout South Africa? If the Sixties were a long decade, then that surely was a significant culmination of the student power movement of 1968, but it is hardly mentioned in the book. For that I recommend The Rocky Rioter Teargas Show, which gets the spirit of ’76 better than this book gets the spirit of ’68.

To justify the “history” part of the title the very least I would have expected would be a chronology of the events of 1968 that the authors and editors saw as most significant, and possibly some of the events in the preceding and following years that constituted the “long decade”. As one chapter in the book reminded us, 1968 was the year that Enid Blyton died. But the conclusion that I came to after reading this book was that sociologists can’t write history, and a real history of 1968 has yet to be written.

View all my reviews

Sociology in the Sixties: a personal encounter

I thought I would add a personal retrospect (not on Good Reads, since it’s no longer a review of the book), and I challenge any of my blogging friends who were alive in 1968 to do the same. It may provide some raw material for real historians to work on. But since the approach of this book is sociological, I should first describe my encounter with sociology in the 1960s.

In 1960 I registered for Sociology I at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). As an introduction to the discipline it had grave shortcomings (I see now, in retrospect). The prescribed textbook was Human Society by Kingsley Davis (which is so out-of-date that I couldn’t find it on Good Reads for a reference), and the impression was given that Davis’s approach was sociology. There was no mention of other schools, not the slightest hint that there even were other schools. We had lectures from Prof G.K. Engelbrecht on various forms of social deviancy, like juvenile delinquency, and I had to write an essay on the causes of adult crime.

Halfway through the year I went to a student conference at Modderpoort in the Free State. It was the first conference of the Anglican Students Federation, which was formed at the conference, and there were a number of interesting speakers on a variety of topics that were far more stimulating than most of the lectures we had at university. Among the speakers was Brother Roger of the Community of the Resurrection whose paper Pilgrims of the Absolute made me aware that my Christian values ran counter to those promulgated by Kingsley Davis and the Wits Sociology Department. For Davis Society was the Absolute. And so I became critical. I developed my own critical theory about sociology, that it was idolatry and incompatible with the Christian faith. Christians were therefore to be counter-cultural and eccentric — having a different centre from that of Kingsley Davis and the sociologists.

Jump to 1965, when at another church conference, in Johannesburg this time, on the topic of “The Church and Youth”. Prof G.K. Engelbrecht of the Wits Sociology Department was invited to speak. He said that that task of the church was to help youth to adjust to society. He spoke of the problems of maladjusted individuals, and how the church could help them. I was older then, and at a different university, so I felt more free to question Prof Engelbrecht than when he had been lecturing 400 first-year students in 1960. So at question time I asked him, What if society is wrong? What if you have a bad society? Was the role of the church still to help youth to adjust to it? What about the Old Testament prophets — weren’t they maladjusted individuals? No, said Professor Engelbrecht, youth must adjust. But I persisted, What about a society like Nazi Germany, must youth adjust even to that? “Youth must adjust!,” he said, even more emphatically.

That confirmed all my prejudices — that sociology as a discipline was simply a con to sucker people into accepting the status quo, and that remained my view until 1968.

1968: A personal retrospect

At the beginning of 1968 I was at Nijmegen in the Netherlands, staying with some Augustinian friars. The beginning of the year was marked by fireworks and the hooters of the barges going up and down the Rhine. A visiting English student friend, Alastair Wyse, and I walked through the snow to the German border and took a bus to Kleve, to have a beer. A friendly German citizen bought us many more, and would have carried on doing so until we were unable to find our way back to Nijmegen.

I was a student at St Chad’s College, part of the University of Durham in England, studying for a postgraduate Diploma in Theology. I was spending the Christmas vacation with the Augustinians in Breda and Nijmegen to get a feel for the theological ferment going on in the Dutch Roman Catholic Church. They were modernising, and the Augustianians had abandoned their religious habits for business suits. Alastair Wyse told me that just before leaving England he had seen a DJ on TV wearing a monastic habit, so pop culture was overtaking the Dutch Augustinians and leaving them behind. I had a couple of T-shirts with me, with the slogans “Jesus Saves” and “God is Love”. They were sold by the satirical magazine Private Eye and John Lennon had appeared on the front page of the Daily Mirror wearing one. I took a photo of the OSA brothers wearing them, with their business suits. Perhaps it epitomised the new monasticism, or the conflict in the Western Christian search for “relevance”. Relevance to whom? Pop culture or the suits? You can see more on this, with more pictures, here.

The Augustinians had produced some rather good liturgical innovations, I thought, and the reasoning behind it was that the liturgical life of a community was the expression of the life of the community as a whole. They had no desire to impose this on anyone else. I asked them if there would ever be a non-Italian Pope of Rome, and they said that as he is the Bishop of Rome, an Italian city, he ought to be Italian; he just mustn’t stick his nose over the Alps and try to tell us what to do.

I returned to St Chad’s College in mid-January to find just the opposite. Most of the students were studying theology, and many were preparing to be ordained in the Anglican Church, so the chapel was fairly central to what went on. The previous term the college had used a new experimental liturgical text of the Church of England, called Series II. At the end of the term the staff had asked students to submit written comments on it. Not everyone had submitted comments, but those who had had been entirely negative. When we returned at least some of us expected that there would be a college meeting, where this would be discussed. But there was no meeting. The chapel services had reverted to a kind of ornate and fussy 1930s Anglo-Catholicism, imposed by the college teaching staff.

When we queried this we were told it was our own fault; we had not made written submissions. Four of us, in particular, found this unsatisfactory. I had been among the Dutch Augustinians, and seen what they did. Two others, Graham Mitchell and Hugh Pawsey, had been at a conference organised by the Student Christian Movement (SCM) at which one of the speakers had been a Swiss Reformed Chilean Pentecostal called Walter Hollenweger, and came back talking a lot about the Holy Spirit. The fourth was Alan Cox, who in the previous summer vacation had met a Zen rabbi in the USA called Murray Goldman, who he said had converted him to Christianity (and later converted to Christianity himself, I was told).

Alan Cox went to see the principal, John Fenton, and had a long chat with him about the weird liturgical regression. The principal convinced him that it didn’t matter what we did liturgically. It didn’t matter whether we had the Series II of last term, or the Italianate baroque of this term. We decided to take the principal at his word. It was the custom, on the eves of major feasts, for students to attend Evensong wearing cassock and surplice and, if graduates, academic hoods. We turned up in current hippie gear — orange trousers, flowery shirts and the like, because, you see, it didn’t matter. But it turned out that it did matter, not least to the principal, who was furious.

It was also a custom for some students to preach and lead services in local churches, and Alan Cox and I went out to the Durham mining village of Bishop Middleton with Herbert Langford, the vice-principal, known as “The Brang”. He was a German Jew who had fled Hitler’s Germany and arrived in England as a penniless refugee in 1939, and had then become a Christian. I rather liked and admired him.

On the way back he asked “Vy veren’t you vearing vedding garments the other night?” We explained that we thought that the “wedding garments” were becoming a new form of circumcision. He harrumphed, and disagreed.

The next major feast was the Conversion of St Paul on 25 January. So on the 24th, exactly 50 years ago as I write this, the order came down from on high: “Vedding garments, by order”.

I had just received a bunch of press cuttings from my mother back in South Africa, and one of them described how an Anglican priest in Cape Town, Gray Featherstone, had nailed 95 theses to the door of Cape Town Cathedral about the church’s lukewarm opposition to apartheid. Inspired by his example, we compiled a document about the college as a Christian community. We could not come up with 95, only 33 propositions, so we headed it 33 Revolutions per Minute (those over 40 may understand). When the time came for Evensong, we left our cassocks, surplices and hoods neatly folded up in our places in chapel while we were in the college office, running off copies of our 33 theses on the stencil duplicator (again, those over 40 may understand).

We put one on everyone’s table in the dining hall. At dinner, we all went to sit at high table to see how the college staff reacted, and, we hoped, to discuss it with them. Alan sat next to Brang. Graham and I sat on either side of one of the tutors, Eric Franklin, facing the Principal, and Hugh Pawsey sat next to the other tutor, Hugh Bates, who, seeing the theses lying on his place, tore it up while the Principal was saying grace.

Afterwards Hugh (Pawsey) asked him why he had reacted like that, and he said if anyone wants to give him something they can put it in his pigeon hole. The Principal made polite conversation, as did Eric Franklin, and Brang didn’t seem to say anything to Alan at all. After dinner we put another copy of the theses in Hugh Bates’s pigeon hole, and then at coffee got discussing it with the Brang and Eric Franklin, but didn’t manage to get much further, Brang didn’t understand at all, and Eric Franklin seemed to think that the best approach was moral paralysis.

The main argument in our theses was not in favour or or against any particular liturgical practices, but rather that the college must meet to talk about it, staff and students together, rather than the staff soliciting individual written submissions from students, and then making arbitrary decisions based on those.

That was part of our contribution to the student power movement, three months before the events in Paris. We had not consulted Daniel Cohn-Bendit — we had not even heard of him then. Perhaps student power in its varied manifestations was something in the air, and that was at least part of our experience of the spirit of ’68.

The following day we had a meeting with the principal, who largely agreed with us (so he said), but said that there were two communities in the college, the graduates and undergraduates, and that there were some very frightened people among the undergraduates, and he thought liturgical stability was needed to keep them from flipping entirely. We said that there were far more diverse communities than the college, and we thought that the way of holding them together in their diversity would be to meet and discuss things.

At the end of January there was a meeting of the university African Society, chaired by Gavin Williams, a South African teaching in what passed for the Sociology Department in Durham (Department of Social Theory and Institutions). The speaker was a Mr Hodgkins from Oxford, who spoke about Frans Fanon. Some of what he said is so true of South Africa 50 years later that it is almost uncanny.

According to Fanon many postcolonial societies are controlled by the national bourgeoisie — the university and merchant class and civil service. They are unlike the European bourgeoisie in that they are not interested in owning the means of production, but in keeping a finger in the racket. They have an aptitude for trade and small business, and are imitative of the West. They have no ideas and cut themselves off from the people. They promote “Africanisation” to secure jobs for themselves. They are suspicious of foreigners, they choose the easiest means of staying in power, that of the single party, which represents and is the instrument of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. There is a divorce between the country and the towns, and the cult of the mystique of the party leader. In this decay the army becomes the arbitrator in any disputes. If there was to be any real revolution, it must come from the peasants, and not the urban bourgeoisie.

We adjourned to a pub afterwards to continue the discussion. I had met Gavin Williams at the wedding of a friend, Stephen Gawe, the previous year, and though him met the head of the department, John Rex, also a South African. Over the next few months I learned more about sociology from chatting to Gavin Williams and John Rex in pubs than I did in an entire year of Sociology lectures at Wits. I learned that Kingsley Davis represented only one school of sociology, the stucturalist-functionalist schiool of Talcott Parsons, and that there were several other schools, with a variety of views.

In the Easter vacation Hugh Pawsey and I attended a seminar on “Orthodox theology and worship for non-Orthodox theological students”. It was held at the World Council of Churches study centre at Bossey in Switzerland. As an impecunious student I took the cheapest flight I could get, from Gatwick to Basel. But the plane broke down in Basel, we we had to crowd into another plane belonging to the same company, which was going to Zurich. It was a twin-engined Aero Commander with canvas bucket seats, heavily loaded. As we approached Switzerland we ran into a thunderstorm, going through heavy clouds with pouring rain and lightning flashes all around and the plane bucking like an under-exercised horse. I knew there were Alps up ahead and hoped the pilots could see them because I certainly couldn’t.

On arriving in Zurich I took a train to Fribourg and stayed with another South African student, Barbara Newmarch, who was studying there. She introduced me to the class system of Switzerland, or at least that part of it. The working-class kids in the street spoke German, the upper-class kids spoke French. The following day I got the train to Celigny, and the Orthodox seminar began.

The seminar was arranged by Professor Nikos Nissiotis of Athens University, He gave lectures, as did Fr Cyril Argentis, Fr Boris Bobrinskoy, Fr Alexis van der Mensbrugge and Fr Jean Tchekan. The lectures were interesting, but the “Aha” moment came when discussing it with some Lutherans seminarians from East Germany (DDR). About 30 of them had come, and formed a large block. As we were standing outside the chapel, which had ikons of Christ and the Theotokos, one of them was saying “But what about the Word? There is nothing about the Word!” And I pointed to the ikon of Christ and said, “There’s the Word.” The Lutheran response had told me as much about Orthodoxy as the lectures themselves.

We had a couple of free days. On one of them Hugh Pawsey and I took a boat across the lake to Yvoire on the French side, a village that retained much of its medieval character. On another day we took the train to Geneva, and went to the headquarters of the World Council of Churches, where we met Walter Hollenweger, who had spoken at the SCM conference Hugh had been to in January. We told him about what had been happening at St Chad’s, and he suggested speaking to a journalist, as they were the ones who were best at understanding and producing liturgy these days. We decided not to; the basic problem was a lack of a sense of community in the college, and we thought bringing in an outsider would be counterproductive.

After 10 days of lectures we boarded a bus to Paris, where the seminar concluded with Holy Week and Pascha at St Sergius. There we had to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants, but Hugh Pawsey and I fasted with the students of the seminary who lived in primitive conditions in the crypt of the church, because we had no money for restaurants. We spent our last francs on the cheapest loves of bread we could find, which we ate sitting in a park.

The thing that made the deepest impression on me was the Easter kiss. The church was full, and it took 45 minutes for everyone in the church to kiss everyone else. A few years later Western churches introduced the “kiss of peace”, but in 1968 I had never seen anything like it, nor heard anything like the Catechetical Address of St John Chrysostom that followed, which seemed to summarise the entire gospel in one page.

Holy Week at St Sergius in Paris, April 1968. The priest is Fr Alexander Kniazeff.

As we left Paris on Easter Monday 22 April 1968 the student power demonstrations were just beginning. Perhaps we should have stayed and witnessed more of the historic events, but we had no money at all, just our return boat and train tickets, so we left, and called at Hugh Pawsey’s parents place in Kent to cadge some money to continue our journey, and get something to eat.

Back in Durham about thirty students were having a sit-in in the university administration building. Newspapers were quoting police spokesmen as saying that they were taken by surprise, as they had not expected any “trouble” in Durham, which was the most middle-class university in the UK.

The Dean of the Theology faculty, Prof H.E.W. Tuirner, called a meeting of all the staff and students of the faculty, and asked for ideas on how to improve communication. One student shouted, “You’re just scared that we’re going to pull up the paving stones in Sadler Street and toss them through your window.” No, no, said the Dean, it’s nothing like that, we just want better communication. But undoubtedly the desire was sparked by what was happening in Paris.

Meanwhile, back in South Africa, the National Party government passed the Improper Interference Act, which made it illegal for people of different races to take joint political action. As a result the Liberal Party, of which I had been a member, was forced to disband.

The term passed, the exams came, and then I went to London to see the Anglican Bishop of Natal, who had sent me to St Chad’s. He was in London for the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops. St Chad’s College had a September term for graduates, and he asked me if I wanted to stick around for it. If I preferred, he could arrange for me to spend a term at a South African theological college rather than hang around waiting for September. That sounded good to me, so I said yes, I’d rather go home. He asked if I would like to stop off anywhere on the way, to see something different while I was abroad. I said yes, I’d like to see Tanzania. He said that would be stupid, and suggested Greece instead, but I didn’t fancy the colonels who were in charge there, so I went more or less straight home.

But while in London I met up with Alastair Wyse, who had been with me in Nijmegen at the beginning of the year. He had been at St Chad’s the previous year, but then had gone to the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield. We spent a pleasant day in Hyde Park, making paper flowers and giving them to passers-by as a token of peace and love. A couple of months later he was arrested for planting a bomb in Westminster Abbey, and was sentenced to three months in prison. He wrote to me while he was in prison, but I lost touch with him after he came out.

I returned to South Africa, back among friends and family. The most notable change was that the safari suit, which was just beginning to make its appearance when I left in 1966, was now the height of white male South African fashion, and would not be complete without a packet of Gunston cigarettes in the top jacket pocket and a comb in one’s sock.

A fortnight after I arrived home a couple of men from the Security Police visited me at my mother’s Johannesburg flat and confiscated my passport. Then I was summoned to John Vorster Square, their new headquarters, to see a Lieutenant Jordaan. I had left South Africa for the UK in January 1966 after failing to keep an appointment with Detective Sergeant van den Heever, who wanted to give me a banning order. On my return, these things picked up again where they had left off.

On the 11th floor he said. I arrived at the entrance lobby of John Virster Square, and looked at the lift, but it only went to the 9th floor. Someone asked me what I wanted, and then directed me down a small passage. There was a tiny lift at the end of it, but only one button, for the 10th floor. Up it went. It stopped at the 10th floor, where a man asked what I wanted. I said I’d come to see Lieutenant Jordaan. He phoned to check, then sent me back to the lift, and he sent me up to the 11th floor. The lift was controlled only from the outside. The only other way out, it seemed, was defenestration. The lieutenant asked me the usual questions they asked of people for whom a banning order was required — where do you live, how many entrances, what kind of building, who else lives there. Then he said I could go. The banning order only came three years later, so that is not part of 1968.

I found that the Christian churches in South Africa were in a bit of a ferment too. They had produced a theological critique of apartheid, called A Message to the People of South Africa. Christian groups had previously made practical criticisms of apartheid, saying that it was unjust, that it implementation caused unnecessary suffering and things like that. This was different, in that it attacked the ideological foundations of apartheid, saying that it was not merely a heresy, but a pseudogospel. The “Message” was published in various languages, and I went with a Roman Catholic Franciscan priest, Cosmas Desmond, distributing the Zulu version in rural Natal. We took it to several former members of the Liberal Party. Most of them were peasants, as opposed to the urban bourgeoisie mentioned by Frans Fanon.

Enock Mnguni, former chairman of the Stepmore branch of the Liberal Party, with copies of the Message to the People of South Africa for distribution

I went to spend a term at St Paul’s College in Grahamstown. As I had already completed my diploma studies in Durham, I had no exams to prepare for and could read and study what I liked. I found a book on Orthodoxy in the college library, The World As Sacrament by Fr Alexander Schmemann, later published in an expanded version as For the life of the world. It rounded off what I had learned at the seminar at Bossey, and made more sense to me than most of the other theology I had read.

I was also faced with the prospect of bring ordained as an Anglican deacon at the end of the year, and realised that I didn’t know much about that. At the ordination service the bishop would ask, Do you think you are truly called to this office and ministration and I would be expected to say “I think so”, but probably most of the people who said that had not thought about it at all until that moment. It had certainly not been mentioned during my two years at St Chad’s College, and I’d not heard it mentioned at St Paul’s either. I scoured the college library for books about the office and ministrations of Anglican deacons, but there was very little. There seemed to be a rather large lacuna in Anglican theological education.

I left St Paul’s and Grahamstown on 30th November 1968, in the little branch line train that chugged over the hills to Alicedale, where we waited for the main-line train from Port Elizabeth that would take us to Johannesburg. I was very conscious that this was the end of my being a full-time student, and that I would never be a full-time student again.

Grahamstown station, the line to Alicedale. November 1968

So in December I was ordained as an Anglican deacon in Pietermaritzburg on one of the hottest days of the year, and was sent to work at the Missions to Seamen in Durban, and that was where I ended 1968.

Ordination in the Anglican Diocese of Natal, 22 December 1968, with Bishop Vernon Inman, at St Saviour’s Cathdral, Pietermaritzburg (now demolished)

Retrospect

So that was my 1968, an outline of it, anyway. There is probably much more that could be said, but that would requre a book and not a blog post, which is already too long. I had a small and rather peripheral encounter with the student power movement, for which 1968 is most famous. I had a not quite so peripheral encounter with Orthodox Christianity, which in the long term proved more significant for me personally. I’ve not mentioned the high-profile assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in the USA, the Vietnam War, which was never far from our thoughts, and several other things.

So if you were around then, what was your 1968 like?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 25 January 2018 11:19 am

    I was 1 years old, Steve, for all bar a couple of months, in 1968, so my recollections are entirely dim and unrelated to anything of sociological it historical relevance, certainly not to the Student Power movement.

    I found your account fascinating. Thank you for taking the time to articulate it. What struck me is how today’s generation really has very little determination driven by anger. I think the capitalist sugar pill has eroded high morality age replaced it with pragmatism and hypertension. It’s depressing, frankly, when they is so much in the world that must apall us.

    Sociologically, students have taken to turning a blind eye to all injustices save that of their not being in an entirely “safe space” so their energies are directed into creating that. It’s an odd kind of safety that demands a world recreated in the image of their deepest-fears-removed. Idealistic, but entirely self-centred and ignorant of the challenges that litre ahead of them when they must confront their fears of inadequacy and find ways to engage in cultures that are imperfect and often implacable.

    So i missed 1968, to all intents and purposes, sociologically. But he up in the world inherited from 1968. And today i find myself struggling to relate the Scriptural history of God’s people and vocation to my own vocation and context. A contextual missiological struggle. And an a-lonely one, for the most part, in which friendliness with others for whom faith is a dim influence is a mainstay. Liturgy, for me, is principally memory and scripturally-based praxis.

  2. 25 January 2018 4:34 pm

    My memory is full of gaps and inventions. But I think that your version of Hoots and Westminster Abbey is wrong , both in fact and characterisation. There was no bomb. If there had been he would certainly have been given a jail sentence. He lit a (small but irritating?) bonfire as a protest. He was charged with attempting to burn down the Abbey, but argued that that was ridiculous and the charge was dropped. For nuisance or insult or impiety (or whatever the remaining charge was) he was given a suspended sentence; enough to discourage him from doing anything similar. I went to visit him in prison, but was told by someone I met on the way that he was out. He came over and saw us at Abbotsbury in Boreham Wood later. By then he was living at his married sister’s, or, as repairs allowed, in a leaky houseboat using methane balloons for buoyancy.

    • 26 January 2018 5:29 am

      Thanks for the additional info. I relied on a press cutting someone sent me (since lost), and his letters, (filed away somewhere and probably at the back of the garage and inaccessible). My memory too is full of gaps and shadows and inventions. My diary of the period February-August is missing — I suspect my mother threw it out because I looked too scruffy in the photos I stuck in. So I had to reconstruct our trip to Bossey and Paris from notes I took at lectures, an appointment diary, and memory, likewise the Easter term at Durham.

  3. Irulan permalink
    30 January 2018 3:18 pm

    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/timeline-seismic-180967503/ for trans-atlantic context

  4. 30 January 2018 10:16 pm

    Thanks very much for the link — very appropriate.

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