Financial Times sells lunch with Oxford don on eBay

The Financial Times has sold lunch with Oxford classicist Robin Lane Fox as part of its 2012 Seasonal Appeal.

The online auction for the lunch, which the listing describes as a “unique opportunity,” lasted for ten days and attracted four bidders, who managed to rack up a grand total of £910.

Fox, who is a Fellow in Classics at New College, has written a weekly column for the Financial Times since 1970. He is master of the College’s main garden, as well as eight other College gardens. Known by some for his often controversial views, he infuriated many of his readers by describing this summer’s Olympic opening ceremony as ‘piffle’.

According to Wilfrid Jones, a second year musician at New, Fox is a “well known figure” in the College. “Classicists refer to him as fiercely intelligent,” he said. “My Dad, an obsessive gardener, is always asking if I’ve met him yet so I’m sure the person who won the bid will find him fascinating.”

Speaking to The Oxford Student, Fox himself commented on the charity auction, saying: “The lunch is entirely for charity and is an idea of the FT’s, now three years old. About 25 columnists are auctioned off and all proceeds go to the charity of the year. Obviously readers bid mainly to help a good cause.

“I have no idea what my winner will like to talk about, but gardening will surely be part of it. The charitable aspect is crucial – bids do not exactly set a fee which I can now charge for having College lunch.”

Holly Hewlett, one of Fox’s third-year students, has some words of advice for the winner of the auction: “Robin would HATE to live in Archaic Sparta – we had a tutorial about this!. So I’d advise when the meal is brought over to comment on how preferable the food is to Sparta’s favourite dish, black broth. That should encourage a very animated discussion.

“If the winner has done their research, they will know that Robin adores Alexander the Great. DO NOT insult him, or Pericles, or Solon (two Athenians – do your homework). The winner might call it ‘being provocative’ or ‘controversial’; he’d just call you ‘wrong’.

Hewlett continued: “Essentially, the winner can expect to find a great lunch companion in Robin and I guarantee the conversation to be as fascinating as it is entertaining.”

Alongside the gardening and traditional scholarship for which he is most known, Fox also acted as a consultant to film director Oliver Stone during the making of the 2004 film ‘Alexander’, an epic based on the life of Alexander the Great.

In a behind-the-scenes documentary produced by the BBC, Fox reflects on his experiences on set in Morocco, saying: “I hate the heat, I hate deserts. I love green fields, I like gentle rain, I love my garden, I love my horse and I love my University.”

According to the eBay listing, the charity lunch will be held “at a mutually agreeable time in early 2013.” All proceeds will go to The Global Fund for Children, a US-based non-profit organisation which aims to “transform the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children.”