offer in August, so, bizarrely, we spent the Saturday evening in a cinema watching
. I had few regrets when we said goodbye to New York. As the bus drove into Kennedy Airport, I looked back over my shoulder to the solid line of clearly etched skyscrapers standing to
attention in a grey mass on the horizon, and thought that I had never seen an apparition of such monstrous brutality. I was impatient to return to the manageable, if cramped, proportions and
genuinely old-fashioned but less frenzied ways of the Lilliputian world where I belonged. My place was on a continent mellowed by history and a sense of poetic values, where I fondly thought there
was greater stability and where people had more time for each other.
My sentimental illusions about the stability of life on the European side of the Atlantic were quickly dispelled on our return to England, where I found that my parents were
about to move to a house only thirty doors up the road from the home where I had lived since the age of six. The break with the past was now irreparably set in bricks and mortar. Although, when
last heard of, the flat Stephen and I had reserved over the market place in Cambridge was not yet finished, we had to find a home of our own urgently if only to house all our wedding presents.
Loading our luggage and presents into the red Mini, we set off for Cambridge and went straight to the estate agent’s. The flats were indeed finished, we were told, but, as the agent had no
record of our names or of our booking, they were all already let to other tenants. The Old World was beginning to look distinctly unreliable after all.
We discussed our next move over a despondent lunch. Stephen decided to brave the Bursar of Caius once again in the vain hope that he might be persuaded to help, even temporarily. Together we
bearded the ogre in his den. To our surprise, he had changed identity in the previous six months, and the new Bursar was also the lecturer in Tibetan. However that post was a sinecure, since there
were never any students in Tibetan, so he had time on his hands in which to oversee the financial affairs of the College. Unlike his predecessor, he did not snap Stephen’s head off in
indignation but listened gravely, even sympathetically, to his request, and then came up with a brilliant solution, which coaxed a glimmer of a smile from his dour face. “Yes,” he
mused, “I think we might be able to help – only in the very short term of course, because you know that the College has a policy of not providing housing for Research Fellows,
don’t you?” We nodded with bated breath. He consulted a list. “There’s a room vacant in the Harvey Road hostel: it’s twelve shillings and sixpence a night for one man
so we will put another bed in and it will be twenty-five shillings a night for the two of you.” We had to suppress our outrage at such sharp practice because we had nowhere else to go, hotels
being beyond our means, but vowed that we would minimize the amount of time we spent at Harvey Road.
Although the College authorities were harsh and ungenerous, the staff, particularly the housekeeper of the hostel, could not have been kinder. This proved to be characteristic of the college
servants, whether cleaning staff, workmen, gardeners, porters or waiters. Unfailingly they revealed qualities of warmth and friendliness often conspicuously absent in the rarified atmosphere of the
higher echelons. The housekeeper warmed our room, aired our beds, brought us tea and biscuits that first evening and breakfast in the morning. She even offered to do our washing for us, although
that was not necessary as our stay was to be mercifully brief.
In the intervening day, Stephen’s supervisor, Dennis Sciama, had come speedily to the rescue by putting us in touch with a Fellow of Peterhouse, who wanted to sublet the house he had been
renting from that College. The house was unfurnished, but it was available