I go to sleep quickly. I need a minimum of six hours and I like to be in bed by 11pm. I often wake up in the night, so I’ll go downstairs to get a book – anything from Zadie Smith to John le Carré – to read. I’m awake when the alarm goes off at 6.25am. My wife is an artist, so she has a different routine; in the morning, we converse amicably, but briefly!


I’m a creature of habit; I can’t leave the house without a cup of tea in my system. Eating is a social aspect of my job as Bodley’s librarian and fellow of Balliol college at the University of Oxford; I go to the canteen once a week at 12.45pm for a hot meal or a salad. Otherwise, it’s a generic sandwich. I’m not a snacker; my next meal will be at 7pm. My wife is a great improviser – she’ll pick three ingredients from the fridge and know what to make. I’ll cook a roast or risotto from Ottolenghi or Nigella at the weekend. I like shopping for food. One of our joys in life is going into the Oxford Covered Market on a Saturday morning.

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I get to my office – in a beautiful 18th-century building – for 7.45am. Between 8.30am and 6pm, I go from one meeting to the next, so without that 45 minutes first thing I wouldn’t be able to function. I’m the 25th person to hold the position of Bodley’s librarian and I feel a huge responsibility. I don’t want to screw it up. That’s on my mind daily.


We have two daughters, aged 19 and 22. Our youngest is back with us for the summer from university. As I get older, she reconnects me to a generational perspective on life. She has well-thought-out views and we have lots of debates; it’s quite a jolly household. My mum is still very much with us – she’s 89 – and lives on the coast in Kent. We visit her often. My wife and I grew up by the sea, so it’s nice to go back.


We are lucky to live close to Port Meadow, so we walk a lot of weekends. We often go into London to see an exhibition at the Tate or the Royal Academy. I have a private research library at home, where I try to write. I enjoy reading and thinking about the past. Thinking time is really precious

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Tolkien: Maker Of Middle-Earth is at the Weston Library, Oxford, until 28 October.

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