Astonishingly, Raban, according to a girlfriend of his, had spent the summer vacation pacing the floor of his attic flat at 33 Unthank Road, in an agitated state, willing my marriage to Andy to fall through, which it had done – spectacularly. When I returned to my own small flat, I found a pile of notes on the floor, entreating me to contact him. I still have them. Their tone was urgent and a little desperate. I still have these billets-doux, and have kept them for our son, Alexander, to read. Even though I was in no state to cope with a relationship with Jonathan in my rather shell-shocked, on-the-rebound mood, I was a little flattered by his attentions, so I rather passively went along with them.
He was an attractive man. An alpha male. I’d seen him around campus with an array of the prettiest, most stunning students. In these pre-politically correct days, liaisons between students and lecturers were tolerated. I went along ( with Jonathan) to soirees at the home of Malcolm and Elizabeth Bradbury, where Malcolm fussed over me somewhat nervously.
Over the years, Malcolm was always very kind to me. Solicitous, and concerned, perhaps he could see that I was a little ‘out of my depth’. The febrile atmosphere of the Department of English and American Studies, at this time, was later to be brilliantly fictionalised and satirised by Malcolm in his prescient novel The History Man. I have always thought that I recognised parts of myself in the character of the hapless girl student in the book : Felicity McFee.
Years later, when Alexander, the son of Jonathan and myself, became an undergraduate at UEA – in the Department of American and English Studies – Malcolm kept a watchful and encouraging eye on him.
Snoo Wilson, the playwright, who was a student during these times, and close to Lorna and Vic Sage, later described my relationship with JR as ‘a rabbit (me) caught in the headlights’.
However, in many ways, Jonathan and I made an attractive couple. We shared a love of poetry – the work of Wallace Stevens, Ed Dorn, William Carlos Williams. We contracted a kind of ‘unofficial engagement’; and it was at this time, that Jonathan moved in to my tiny flat ( unasked) with a large, brown leather suitcase ( which remained on the floor for the duration of his stay), and on which he wrote non-stop; his lengthy frame sprawled out across the carpet. I would hand him meals on plates and he would continue writing. His first piece of fiction – a short story- entitled ‘A Senior Lectureship’ was written here, and accepted by London Magazine. Two of the characters in the story were based loosely on the academic, Howard Temperley, and his wife, Rachel.
UEA had opened my eyes to a rigorously intellectual and bookish world. I spent time in book-lined rooms, in elegant, country houses. There was a lot of intelligent debate, and casual sexual dalliance conducted in smoky pubs and bars, such as ‘Backs’, where Peter Mercer, Roger Fowler and the Sages were habituees. I hardly went in to the Department of Fine Arts and Music.
Jonathan dug out a bundle of my poems from under my bed, read them, made some excellent critical judgments and adjustments; pronounced them good, and suggested I try and get them published.
I took his advice and sent a handful to the Listener magazine.. I was aiming high, but to my astonishment, the charming Derwent May, Literary Editor at that time, accepted one of them : Concerning the Spiritual in Motherhood, and it was published on 3rd July, 1969. I was paid ten guineas, and still have the letter of acceptance.
Jonathan and I celebrated with a bottle of wine and a good meal.