13 January 2011

An MP and the Education Minister: joking about my position

With regard to the events described by Charles McCreery in the previous post:

I always felt that I was in a most unnatural position of intolerable deprivation in having been thrown out of Oxford with no recognition of my need to get back onto a normal university career track (meaning normal for me) as soon as possible.

And so when anyone started to talk to me as if getting to know me, or even interacting with me about something, I was always surprised at their failing to recognise the obvious, and not saying ‘What a terrible position you are in! We must find a way of helping you to get back.’

When they did not show any signs of recognition and instead talked to me about holidays, or criticised the way I interacted with people, I was always shocked and amazed, although I said nothing. I was not in a normal life, and until I was, nothing like holidays, or concealing my awareness of people’s hostility towards me (I was called ‘tactless’ for failing to make my antagonists sound sweetly reasonable), could be expected of me. A down-and-out living in a packing case cannot be expected to welcome visitors to tea in the same way as a person living in a semi-detached with lace curtains.

And then again, if a person is in a terrible position so that their only chances depend on someone being prepared to make an exception in their favour, surely responsible influential people would be especially careful not to say damaging things about that person. Obviously the ‘Celia of the universe’ slander, like so many others, could only be damaging to any chance I had of a benefactor recognising the anomaly of my outcast position.

Charles refers to his conversation with Norman St John Stevas in the presence of the then Education Minister – just the sort of person that I thought should be interested in hearing about how so anomalous a situation could have arisen, and feel it his business to remedy it. But here was Norman talking about me, in front of him, as being associated with a ludicrous slander that distanced me from any possibility of being regarded as an exceptionally able, but otherwise perfectly normal and respectable, academic who was only prevented by an egregious anomaly from re-entering a suitable career at a senior level.