Adrian Briggs (Law, 1975)
Adrian is Professor of Private International Law, and Tutorial Felllow at St Edmund Hall.
By the time I applied to read law in 1974, the Hertford Scheme had been running for some time. I applied, and in due course came up for interview. Roy Stuart asked me a number of unsettling questions, mainly about shooting people who had been left for dead by someone else, or who were falling past a window on the low floor of a high building, just about to reach their own version of terminal velocity. And then, perhaps because I was a Tanner scheme applicant, I was sent along to be interviewed by Neil Tanner.
At least, I supposed it was an interview. When, in an incautious answer to an early question, I ventured the view that the Nuffield Syllabus was all about estimating, I was asked how I would estimate the weight of an Austin Mini if I did not have any scales. When that seemed to be going nowhere, I was asked to calculate the distance flown by a fly which flew to and fro, in a straight line and always at 20 mph, between two cyclists who started a mile apart and who cycled towards each other at various speeds. At the end of all this, Neil seemed to have reassured himself that I knew nothing at all but that it was not my fault. The whole thing was done with a barely suppressed sense of unthreatening amusement that a physics syllabus could have imparted so little knowledge on its victim; and that was that. I got an EE offer, came up in 1975, left in 1979, and returned to Oxford in 1980 as Fellow and Tutor at St Edmund Hall.
I was made Admissions Tutor very soon after my arrival, and so had chance to watch Neil in action at termly meetings of the Oxford Colleges’ Admissions Office. I was never completely sure that I understood what he was arguing for, but I always knew that he was on the side of right. It made it so much easier to come to a view.