The Oldie Literary Lunches have become a venerable institution on the London literary scene since they were first launched in 1996. The lunches feature three speakers who each address the audience for ten minutes. Writers Martin Bell and Clover Stroud spoke alongside Ysenda over a three-course literary lunch at the Savile Club on 6 June.
“‘Put your hand up if you went to an all girl’s boarding school?’ was Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s opening line. A quarter of the room raised their arms. Her book, Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls’ Boarding-Schools 1939–1979, deals with the boarder’s life during that era. It was a time when housemistresses had a matronly – and militant – Victorian attitude to fresh air: windows were open all night and all year round. Words like ‘menstruation’ were just too embarrassing to utter. Instead, girls signed the ‘off games book’ (what Ysenda referred to as ‘the correct euphemism’). When it came to university, Ysenda said, the old-fashioned options were Oxford, Cambridge or you might as well forget it. But there was some consolation for these badly educated girls; they have made up for it with a lifelong addiction to Radio 4.” Annabel Sampson, The Oldie