13. 24 June 1974 (Civil Service; Richard and Jeremy; MT piece on Des Knaben Wunderhorn)

As you see,

Dear Maurice,

     I'm in such a state that I don't even know what month it is. I've had a change of job, and am now what is called a Resident Observer for the Civil Service Selection Board. That work is neither so sedentary nor so undemanding as its title rather seems to suggest. It means working from dawn to dusk, or thereabouts, on three days a week, interviewing and reporting young hopefuls seeking (bless their innocence) to become administrative civil servants. Instead of the 10-6 desk job, with rather leisurely lunches, that I'd grown accustomed to over the last decade (ominous–sounding word) I now have to get up at 7 - or rather it's about then that one red–rimmed eye peers balefully over the blankets; the actual rising takes place later, accompanied by fearful grunts, heaves, and such blasphemies as to frighten the birds (whose song at that hour of the morning makes me understand better than before why birds are habitually shot). But in a way it's quite interesting. Socially, for example; I meet a wholly different class of person at the bus stop. I'm sure it's very good for me. The theory is that by ceaseless paneling and boarding (sounds like an industrial process, which in a very real sense it is) one actually compresses a week's work into three days, leaving a little time for leisure activities. In practice I spend a third of my life recovering from the other two thirds.

   Well, forgive that outburst. I really meant to write earlier to say pray don't, on my account type out the Beethoven song–piece, what seems altogether too much to ask, dearly though I'd love to see it. Surely you've saved at least a copy from the wreckage? I'd also love to borrow O.E.D.'s little pamphlet on Reissig, please, if you could spare it without inconvenience. Then I could impress Alan Tyson (or rather try to) with my knowledge of that topic.

     You kindly ask about my sons. The latest is that Jeremy (17) has won a prize (Whitgift school, but with outside adjudicators) for composition (three songs, settings of Brecht, Rilke and Joyce); while Richard (19) has won (admittedly with some seven others, but won all the same) a chess tournament at national level, beating an Israeli master on the way. A feature of these performances which gives special pleasure to their old Dad, and brings the suspicion of a gleam to his otherwise lack-lustre eye, is that each was rewarded with a cash prize. Enid, praise be, is a great deal more cheerful, and indeed much more like her old self, or even her young self, which is quite an achievement. I have an outrageous piece on Des Knaben Wunderhorn  coming out in the July MT, and I should like to think that it offered you some moments of light relief here and there. I hope very much that things are well with you and your wife.

     With kindest regards to you both,