I learned a great deal at university, about half of it from a man called Raymond Foulk. Ray was not Professor Foulk or even Dr Foulk: Ray was a near contemporary — he was in the year below me — but a mature student, then aged about 44. Shortly before he arrived at the beginning of my second year to read architecture, the college investigated his past life and sought to exile him to first-year accommodation far outside the college walls to prevent him corrupting the youth. There was nothing remotely illegal or nefarious about his past — but he had created and run the three Isle of Wight Festivals with his brother, and the college authorities had somehow become convinced they were admitting a second Howard Marks. This was ironic since, although Ray might have indulged in the odd toke de politesse, he was generally far more abstemious and responsible than the rest of us.
Perhaps some percentage of university places should be reserved for mature students. Most of what you learn at university you learn from your coevals, and there is a limit to what you can learn from people no older than you. Fifteen years before, when I and the rest of my undergraduate cohort were just out of nappies, Ray was variously negotiating with Bob Dylan or Jerry Lee Lewis, investing in the art deco furniture of Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann or flying Buckminster Fuller across the Atlantic to visit Milton Keynes. He drove a 1965 Bentley T1, but later bought a hideous Talbot Solara as a second car. ‘Why would you buy a Talbot Solara when you own a Bentley?’ I asked. His explanation was pure Ray: ‘You need a rotten car to remind yourself how good the Bentley is.’
Ray is one of the best examples of the creative-entrepreneurial mindset I have ever met.