When students “come up” to Oxford University they have to negotiate some tricky areas.

The academic year starts on Sunday, and many will find Oxford has hidden depths of violence, sex and the downright unexpected.

I didn’t “come up” in the usual way, by car. I took an all-night flight from Washington DC for my first term at Balliol College.

My room at Holywell Manor was not ready so I stayed in the guest room of the senior tutor in ‘The King’s Mound’.

Exhausted from no sleep the night before I collapsed into bed early in the evening.

The next day, mid-afternoon I was woken up accidentally by the senior tutor leaning over my bed, reaching over me and trying to unhook a gun that was hanging on the wall just above my head.

“Very sorry,” he said. “It’s been a hectic morning. First day of term, and some of those freshers are exasperating. It’s time for a bit of hunting. I think I need to shoot something. Welcome to Oxford.”

Jens Tholstrup, the director of Oxford Economics and an investment banker in London and Tokyo for over 20 years, arrived to read philosophy, politics and economics at Teddy Hall during an exceptionally hot autumn.

This very tall, strong Dane was lying in the churchyard of St Peter in the East which is part of the college, and decided to take his shirt off and soak up the sun while doing some reading.

Soon a shadow fell over him. The college principal seemed to be studying him and was peering down, not to say drooling over him.

“Who might you be?” said the principal.

“I’m Jens.”

“Oh, the Danish student!” greeted the principal. “I’ve heard about you. Well, carry on.”

Then he added as an afterthought: “I understand in Denmark people like to sunbathe naked. Please feel free to do that here.”

Christian Pattison came up for an interview at Oxford about 30 years ago. At the end, one of the dons took out a letter from Christian’s headteacher and read it to him.

“I don’t think Oxford should accept Christian. There are many more applicants who are probably much better.”

This came as a bit of a shock. One of the interviewers said: “Darling, I don’t think we need to worry about that,” and gave Christian a bottle of ginger wine along with congratulations at securing a place at Oxford.

The man became his English tutor, and when Christian knocked on the door to be let in, his tutor often shouted out. “Darling, do let yourself in. You’ll find me in the toilet.”

His tutor was actually in the bath – a foam bath up to his neck – and Christian would sit at the end of the tub and read his essay and they would discuss it for about an hour.

This kind of tutorial was a regular event, but stopped abruptly about 15 years ago when two American undergraduate women failed to figure out the tutor’s sexuality or perhaps too many bubbles popped during their hour. They reported their tutor for sexual harassment.

There is a widely told story about a major English don who marked the exams or “collections” of his students by standing at the top of his staircase and flinging them up in the air. The ones that landed at the top of the stairs got an “alpha”. Those that floated to the bottom got the lowest marks. These were trial runs, not serious papers, so no one was prejudiced.

But did this really happen? I can confirm that the famous don in question admitted using this method of marking papers, but perhaps it would be better not to name him until after his memorial service.

Oxford Mail:

One fresher came up to Oxford with a handgun. A now-famous movie director spent his gap year as a carer for one of the Richardson gang who had been involved with the battles of the Kray twins in the East End.

He was paralysed and needed not only care but also protection as well. So this young lad of 18 was given a gun. The main problem was that he didn’t know how to get rid of the weapon after his gap year.

He took it to Oxford as a fresher and asked his moral tutor for advice. The reply was quick: “Don’t be silly. Get a safety deposit box, leave the gun in it and throw away the key.”

The tutor always introduced his student at parties as: “This is Ben and he’s got a gun!”

Guns have featured in Oxford life before. About 15 years ago at Worcester College a group of students was incensed at the advance of the grey squirrels and decided to eradicate them from the college grounds by poison.

This proposal met with a serious amount of flak so the students abandoned the idea. One night, very late, the quads resounded with great thuds and whacks and several grey squirrels were shot dead.

One student developed an irrational dread, not to say hatred, of his scout. He threw breadcrumbs, then books when the scout approached to clean the student’s rooms and make his bed.

When his techniques failed to stop the scout, the undergraduate, in a rage, picked up the fridge on his staircase and threw it out of the window.

He was summoned by the bursar who told him: “If you ever do that again you’ll be in big trouble.”

And I haven’t even started on the Piers Gaveston Ball, the Assassins or the Bullingdon Club…