Sir Oliver Popplewell became, in his own words, officially 'judicially senile' after a distinguished career at the Bar, as a High court judge specialising in defamation, arbitration and sports law - an appropriate niche for a Cambridge cricket Blue. And in public life he achieved prominence as chairman of important public enquiries such as the Bradford Stadium disaster. Hallmark: A Judge's Life at Oxford, the sequel to his acclaimed autobiography, Benchmark: Life, Laughter and the Law, tells how he went to Oxford University to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics as the oldest undergraduate ever to be admitted - with considerable press and media coverage and good-natured amusement among family and friends. Here is a sharply observed, sympathetic yet critical picture of modern Oxford seen from the perspective of a leading judge and public figure who could contrast this experience with his Cambridge days from the late 1940s - a more formal time of compulsory wearing of gowns in town, back to college by 10.00 pm and when dons were addressed as 'Sir'. But academic rigour is maintained and Oliver Popplewell survives the stress of admission - with no privileges for former distinction. He admires his tutors, young enough to be his children but all 'obviously fearfully clever'. He grapples with the courses, finding economics surprisingly disappointing, statistics a waste of valuable time, philosophy a struggle - for an essentially practical legal mind - but politics richly fulfilling. He takes his examinations, frets over results and obtains his degree. But this is much more than the story of an older student. It is a hugely entertaining account of a life lived to the full. Oxford is woven into a rich social and cultural pattern and serves as a vantage point. He throws himself into sport - rugby, cricket and real tennis. His interests include the Oxford Union, journalism for the Oxford Mail, The Sunday Times, with reviews for the Times Higher Educational Supplement and he appears on BBC TV and radio. He does not neglect the law: he advises those preparing for the Bar and comments with value for professionals and lay-people alike on current legal issues. There is a cavalcade of leading personalities from academia, the law, entertainment, the arts and business. Also a stream of comment on contemporary life - penetrating, even acerbic but always sympathetic. Sir Oliver takes his readers into his confidence, shares his experience and presents a unique facet of a fascinating life which can serve as a warm but sharply observed social and cultural history of modern Britain.
A Judge's Life at Oxford