I have just copied and pasted this vignette from an unpublished memoir of my three years as a student at Oxford in the 1960s:
Over a very long lifetime - he died at the age of ninety five in 2001 - Frank Pakenham, Earl of Longford, became a figure of fun, derision and some anger. He campaigned against pornography alongside the derided Mary Whitehouse; attracted anger for his friendship with the Moors murderer, Myra Hindley; and from being a supporter of gay rights when male homosexuality was still criminalised became an outspoken Roman Catholic opponent.
But in the 1960s he was also known as a prison reformer and Leader of the House of Lords in Harold Wilson’s Labour government. As such, he was invited to speak at the Labour Club and was, as usual, offered dinner beforehand at the Oxford Union. The year was 1966.
Unusually, among those standing around in the group assembled for pre-dinner drinks, there was a black student, taller than many of those in the room and very striking; though an active member of the club I hadn’t seen her before.
Lord Longford arrived in the company of the club chairman (as we then styled Chairs). Longford was also taller than many in the room and shortly after strode across to this student, offered his hand, and asked, Where do you come from?
There was a slight pause and then, with a generous smile, she replied, Buckinghamshire.
It was wonderful. If in those days we had fist-clenched Yes! I would have fist-clenched Yes! And thanks to this early experience, I never used Where do you come from? as an opener. Just one Buckinghamshire saved me from one kind of obtuseness, though there were no doubt others.
Sometimes, of course, there is a tale to be told and if there is, it will be told in its own good time. I never saw this student again; perhaps she decided that the Labour Club was not for her.
In retrospect. the context was one which invited other opener questions, such as What are you studying? and How do you feel the Labour Government is doing?