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Advantages of being a public school boy in the army


Keeping up with old friends from Oxford
Anthony Howard Writer
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I find it hard to remember. I do remember that the term I was President of the Union, I did keep all the invitations you got and that you were asked because of who you were. And I think that, you know, there were hundreds of them. People’s parties who didn’t know you very well and all the rest of it.

Friends? Well, I found the Union provided most of my friends, I suppose. I remain, after 50 years, a friend of Michael Heseltine’s despite our difference of politics, but I’m quite, you know, favourable disposed towards Michael and was a very keen supporter that he should become Prime Minister. Not within the party, clearly, but I was excited by the fact that he might become Prime Minister in 1990 when he ran against Thatcher. I remain a close friend of Jeremy Isaacs of the Royal Opera House and Channel Four. There were other two... two or three friends I retained from Christ Church. There’s a... Charles Williams, who sits in the House of Lords, Lord Williams of Elvel, who was at Christ Church with me and was captain of cricket. There’s a boy called Robyn Porteus, now a portly gentleman, who went into stockbroking. And I think eventually became Bursar of a Cambridge College. I see him. I don’t see an enormous number of people. Of course, when you get to my age, a lot of your friends have died. There was a boy at school with me whom I liked, a great friend of mine called John King Farlough but he died untimely from cancer, I suppose ten years ago now. But I did keep up with him a bit though he lived in Canada as a professor somewhere so I didn’t see all that much of him. And I’m just trying to think… oh, there were members of the Labour Club, I think, that I remain friends with, who I knew. Some of those have died. A nice boy called Alec Grant, who was a lawyer, became, I think, a Master of the Queen’s Bench or something. I used to see him. But I saw him partly because he was The Observer lawyer and, therefore, when I arrived on The Observer I found this old Oxford contemporary, actually the, sort of, barrister who came in on Friday nights and Saturdays and read all the copy. So that may have had something to do with that.

I don’t have a host of friends, no. I suppose that when I was at Oxford, I did see a lot of people. I obviously went to a lot of committee meetings and that kind of thing at the Labour Club and went to editorial conferences of Isis and the rest of it but I hadn’t kept up with that number of people, though I’ve kept up oddly enough with more people I was at Oxford with than I was at school with, where I hardly know anyone anymore.

A distinguished British political observer, Anthony Howard (1934-2010) wrote for 'The Guardian', 'The Sunday Times' and 'The Observer' for over 40 years, during which time he has commented on the historical significance of global political issues. He was also editor of 'The Listener' and 'The New Statesman', and a reporter on both 'Newsnight' and 'Panorama'. He was awarded the CBE in 1997.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: British Prime Minister, House of Lords, Christ Church College, Oxford University, Cambridge University, Court of Queen's Bench, The Observer, Isis, Margaret Thatcher, Jeremy Isaacs, Charles Cuthbert Powell Williams, Robyn Porteous, Michael Ray Dibdin Heseltine, Lord Williams of Elvel

Duration: 2 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: November - December 2008

Date story went live: 24 November 2009