Just like Rupert Brooke

Tessa Hadley

  • The Horseman’s Word: A Memoir by Roger Garfitt
    Cape, 378 pp, £18.99, April 2011, ISBN 978 0 224 08986 9

There’s a fascinating anthropological study to be written about Oxford undergraduates of the 1960s – or perhaps this book is it. Roger Garfitt in his daffodil-yellow pinstripe suit and silver-topped cane – mingling with the other ‘heads’, boiling up asthma drugs for a hit, talking of samsara and Kropotkin – seems a type as exotic as an Elizabethan dandy:

We would split an amp of methedrine between us, sliding the needle just under the skin in a procedure known as skinpopping … sometimes it seemed to me that the drugs were almost irrelevant and what mattered was the expeditionary instinct that had Bryn and me angling our shoulders into the existential wind or Paul and me reconstituting ourselves around the thin spills of Old Holborn we smoked in liquorice papers, the sweetness offsetting the dark tobacco and the two together anchoring us after the night of non-being.

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[*] Alcemi, 192 pp., £9.99, April 2011, 978 0 95601 255 5.