My heartiest thanks are owed to The Oldie for alerting its readers to the many excellencies of Tim Holman’s memoir of student life, An Oxford Diary – Three Surprising Years at Trinity College 1977-1980 (Janus Publishing, £13.95).

Hailing it “a minor masterpiece” – correctly, as I discovered – the magazine’s diarist, The Old ‘Un, clearly enjoyed the convincing ordinariness of the chronicle.

More Adrian Mole Goes to Oxford, it was said, than the high-society antics of Brideshead Revisited, (which was being filmed for television elsewhere in Oxford – with me reporting from the set – during Tim’s student days). Indeed so, with the charm of the book best revealed in quotation from it.

Here, for instance, is his record, in part, of Saturday, January 14, 1978: “Went shopping a couple of times and bought shampoo, writing paper, deodorant, apples and sugar. Let’s see, is that all? Probably, but I’m not positive. Anyway, in 50 years’ time what will any of it matter? Will I matter? If not, why are you reading this now, you silly bugger?”

Such philosophical musings do not figure frequently in the diary’s pages, which offer a day-to-day account of the doings of this young history student in that long-ago ‘decade that taste forgot’.

We learn of books read, essays written (occasionally copied!), social duties performed and family commitments honoured (Tim is diligent in letters home to London and, indeed, in visiting there).

Away from his studies, he is a hard worker in various capacities for the student newspaper the Cherwell and its associated publications. He tramps around the city in search of advertising, regularly slogging up Headington Hill in a fruitless effort to wring funds from Pergamon Press. Failure was as well, perhaps, for Cap’n Bob Maxwell would doubtless have reneged on any deal.

The book has a special interest for such as I who was in Oxford at the time of Tim’s studies, if in a more rarefied social circle that included Hugh Grant and Nigella Lawson.

Tim knew where he fitted in the pecking order. Mrs Nethercleft, of his Manor Place lodgings, told him. She said he had obviously been well brought up. “And do you know why that is Timothy? It’s because you’re working class.”

Tim says in a 2019 note: “I was quite unable to frame a coherent reply to this; in fact I still am.”

Some of the places Tim visited were known to me; likewise a few of the people with whom he dealt, including his history tutor Michael Maclagan, one-time Lord Mayor and a leading figure in heraldry.

The name of Gary Bennett leapt from the text, as being a don not present when Tim tried for a place at New College. Bennett was later to make headlines worldwide for the suicide that followed his exposure as writer of a disobliging unsigned article on the Church of England hierarchy in Crockford’s Clerical Directory. I covered the inquest.

Young Holman clearly liked his grub and was an apt choice as Trinity’s food representative, taking up student complaints with the college chef. On May 10, 1978, he reports: “At dinner the chef boobed by serving up dreadful grilled whiting which everyone hated, including me.”

But not all fish was unacceptable. Night after night we read: “Went down to Carfax fish & chips to buy dinner.” One day (June 24, 1979) he had a cheeseburger breakfast, pork pie lunch and Burgerland dinner – “an absolute rip-off”.

Unconsciously comic mentions of food include “my first ice lolly of the year”, on May 17, 1978, and soon after (May 27) “had a few [!] ice creams in college”.

Names of restaurants he visited tug chords of nostalgia for me. Anyone else remember Sweeney Todd’s in George Street, Munchy Munchy in Park End Street and the Cantina di Capri in Queen Street?

In “a posh restaurant overlooking High Street” – I guess it was probably Burlington Bertie’s – he joined Cherwell colleagues for a ‘works do’ on March 10, 1978.

“Apart from magnificent food, the waiters kept coming round and filling up our glasses with wine and by 10 when we left we were pretty pissed. Then we split into various pub-crawling groups . . . Finally eased myself into bed . . . totally smashed out of my skull.”

The tone is reminiscent of Evelyn Waugh’s diary entries on nights out in Oxford. Like Tim, he sometimes boozed in The Nag’s Head, in Hythe Bridge Street.

Utterly absent from Tim’s diaries is anything remotely touching on his – or anyone else’s – emotional life. A mention of a pal’s girlfriend who “made us coffee and toast” is the only evidence that anyone might have had such a thing.

Clearly he is not unobservant of the female form, noting on June 19, 1979, his “last tute” with Dr Ellis – “a pretty memorable occasion, since we sat out on the lawn and she was wearing disgustingly little”.

Early in his Oxford days (November 12, 1977) he paid a cinema visit with friends to Slap Shot. This was “the first ‘X’ film I’ve ever seen I think. It wasn’t very X-ish, except for the bad language”.

Buy, read, enjoy.