Up to Islip
- An Old Man’s Diary by A.J.P. Taylor
Hamish Hamilton, 155 pp, £8.95, April 1984, ISBN 0 241 11247 8
The examining in my university is over for the year. After the usual haggling – ‘is this worth 69 or 70?’ – with nasty points of principle raised and evaded, the lists have been signed, and that is the end of what a colleague once described as ‘the annual session of egg grading’. We are free to go to the hills, equipped with walking boots, a hotel booking, a Highland bus time-table and the literature for the West Highland Way. So we drive to Kinlochleven, eat a hurried sandwich and set off in sunlight up through the mixed woodland on a track created by an occupying army. Soon we are on the open hillside watching the blue shadows of the clouds on the mountains. Later in luxury in an Appin hotel I can settle to a collection of diary pieces from our most distinguished modern historian, A.J.P. Taylor.
Vol. 6 No. 16 · 6 September 1984
SIR: Rosalind Mitchison is surely unfair when she says (LRB, 2 August) that A.J.P. Taylor objects to the Social Democratic Party because it is new. Whatever the SDP may or may not be it certainly isn’t new, consisting mainly of one-time Labour MP’s, faces that have been around for years. A.J.P.T. has always had a good nose for phonies, and I feel sure that, like many of us, he would have more respect for the Social Democrats if they gave evidence of having any ideas other than playing party politics, dreaming of the day when they will hold the balance of power. In short, calling the tune without having to carry the can. I can remember him saying, in the Diary, that David Owen must by now be regretting his defection, for he would today be leader of the Labour Party. Probably true, as true as Margaret Thatcher’s saying – and for once I agree with her – that if Labour had won in 1979 there would be no SDP.