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This article is taken from PN Review 233, Volume 43 Number 3, January - February 2017.

John Jane Griffiths
TO BEGIN BY SAYING that when I think of John I think of grids will hardly sound like a compliment – but it rather depends on the grids. There was the chess board in the corner of his college room, and his occasional mention of a particularly challenging move, sent by post. There was the over-life-sized chessboard of Otmoor: the landscape that Lewis Carroll wrote into Alice through the Looking-Glass. There were sestinas, black on white squares of six-by-six lines with a three-line tail. There were printers’ type-trays and their apparently nonsensical, practically logical divisions. There was symbolic logic; that is, more Carroll. There were sestinas made up entirely of lines from Carroll’s Symbolic Logic. There were quads, of course, and although this may be memory playing false, I’d instinctively say New Buildings II :  2 was a perfect cube. Certainly the ceiling was high enough for my twelve-foot rowing boat to be stored there, resting on its stern just inside the door. John said: ‘My scout will wonder what it’s for’; why precisely we put it there escapes me, but I do remember carrying it from the river across the lawn while a visiting friend from Christ Church looked on in horror.

As for why it’s that, particularly, that comes to mind – well, it goes back to the question John asked during admissions, when for some reason candidates were put in a rocking chair, and because I was still recovering from the flu his voice seemed to be coming from somewhere near that very high ceiling: ‘Surely you don’t mean ...

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