A change in life seems to have opened up a voracious spate of new reading, even for me. I found this in a quiet London café, where I was meeting my friend Claire on an icy-clear day:

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Hilarious, staggering, pompous, direct, horrifying, each mini-essay was fascinating, particularly as the examiners came under the microscope themselves. I came away with a whole new reading list as well, staring with Lord Halifax’s biography, along with a firm view on who I did and didn’t warm to…

Possibly my favourite essay was Robert Skidelsky on writing about Maynard Keynes. Keynes’ brother Geoffrey had such an inferiority complex, over 30 years on from Maynard’s death, that when Geoffrey eventually wrote his own biography their parents received a mere paragaph’s mention, whilst Keynes’ so-called favourite pupil, Richard Kahn was extremely deaf, but insisted on being interviewed in near darkness from several metres away.

Amusingly, Skidelsky’s mother sent his son a postcard at the start of what would turn into a 30 year journey: “This is a gentleman whom you and Mummy and Daddy will soon grow to hate v. enormously I expect. He looks a bit furtive to me.”

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