[Dr. Chris Oakley's home page] [Dr. Chris Oakley's CV] [Undergraduate days]

My Oxford Days, part 2

Tim Mackintosh-Smith

Here, though, is a genuine name drop. Tim Mackintosh Smith, author of the prize-winning Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land and writer and presenter for a BBC4 series Travels with a Tangerine . In his Yemen book, Tim mentions his nautical experience as including a boozy sailing weekend on a Cornish Crabber on the East coast of England. Well, here he is - except that the boat was a Cobra 850 owned by my dad; the Cornish Crabber was owned by the other person on the trip, which as far as I know, Tim never sailed on. Tim was a fine musician, being the organ scholar at Trinity, but he was also a known college eccentric. He had, for example, a mummified plaster cast of his legs on a sideboard in his room (17/2), and once organised some "artistic event" where someone poured something over him in the college garden. In the year I was away in Cambridge, there had been "Chaplain's lunches", where the college Chaplain would invite undergraduates (probably in some kind of roster) to his rooms for lunch. This inspired Tim and his friends to institute the far-more-alcoholic "Non-Chaplain's Lunches" (although I never went to one). After I returned, we put on Handel's Acis and Galatea in the summer of 1982, with me producing and Tim conducting from the keyboards (see below): 

Acis and Galatea

Acis and Galatea (soloists)

The final performance of Acis and Galatea in Green College Observatory. Here we have, from left to right, the continuo 'cellist (Mark Hacking); Acis (Tim Kermode), Galatea (Annabella Tysall) and The Monster Polypheme (Hugh Wilson). The "monster" is unfortunately shorter than the shepherd he is supposed to crush with a rock - so I suppose that it is all in the wrist action.

Acis and Galatea (orchestra)

The orchestra: L->R: Tim, Robert Tulloh, can't remember, Lorraine Aye-Maung, Seth Masters, Philip Gowman, Howard Eakin, Jeremy Allam, Calum Duncan & Mark Chapman. To confuse the issue, some are holding the wrong instruments.

Tim's chatty familiarity and playfulness as a TV presenter is something that I well remembered from the past. In the year that he was away in Yemen, I had been asked by friends of his to resuscitate "The Charon Club", a defunct dining club that had been created around 1950 by a group of male undergraduates anxious to find excuses for meeting girls in the days when all the colleges were single sex. The qualification for membership was inept watermanship - one had to have entered the Isis or Cherwell involuntarily, fully clothed (I qualified!) The club organised, inter alia, an Oxford vs. Cambridge punt race. This was a relay race where the "baton" (a girl) would jump on to the next punt. The races got ever more riotous until finally, in 1973, it was banned by punt hirers and proctors alike. Our revived version seemed to be going well until a palace coup around March of 1983, resulting in Yours Truly being ousted. Revenge was sweet, though, as when the day of the race arrived, "The Dampers" (our Cambridge counterparts) arrived a few punters short, and, having been a student there, I was asked to join their team at the last minute! I felt that it would be churlish to decline, and so changed into my Trinity College, Cambridge blazer (below) and gave it my best. Cambridge won! I later bumped into Anthony Quinton - the College President - in Broad Street and told him the whole story. "Go abroad for a couple of years," he advised, "and I'm sure the whole thing will blow over."

CGO in Trinity, Cambridge blazer