I must say, The Dean was very appreciative of having a cup of tea delivered to his rooms. It was a bit tepid by the time I had carted it across the river and up two flights of stairs and, on reflection, he thought it would have just been easier for him to make it himself in his rooms but – he seemed quite pleased nonetheless. My hastily-invented, and then abandoned, tea delivery service idea was deemed charming but impractical. Thank God. I have no idea how I would have explained to Head Porter that our staff are now tea maids for The Fellowship.
More frustratingly, I had wasted valuable time that I should have been spending investigating the mysterious disappearance of Dr F’s copy of Private Eye. I make the obvious enquiries with the newsagent who supplies Old College, I speak to the humourless but surprisingly helpful Head Of Housekeeping. Abrasive at the best of times, Head Of Housekeeping is not amused at the finger of blame being pointed at her staff, but once I explain that, actually, the finger of blame is merely being waved in their general direction, she relents a little. She will look into it, but is of the same opinion of myself and Receptionist. It seems a little unlikely. (By the way, I am not sure why we are all making the same sweeping judgements on the average readership of Private Eye, for all I know housekeeping staff absolutely love it).
I speak to the Porters responsible for delivering the papers these last few weeks. All confirm that Dr F’s reading material was safely deposited in the Senior Combination Room on each occasion. I have no reason to disbelieve them.
The pink-tinged fingers of dusk are creeping across the sky and I am painfully aware that Junior Bursar will be requiring a report any minute now. I stare at my keyboard and huff and puff a little, enough to attract the attention of Receptionist.
“Did you find out anything about our mystery thief?” she asks.
“Not much,” I reply “Nothing we didn’t know already. The magazine is definitely being delivered to College from the newsagent. The Porters delivering the newspapers are all adamant that it was there and that they put it on the reading table in the Senior Combination Room. Head Of Housekeeping is looking into things but their rota means that the Bedder has already cleaned the room before the papers are delivered. That would mean a Bedder going back especially to steal that publication, which seems a little strange. Particularly as the Bedder responsible for that floor is Eastern European and has limited English.”
“I don’t think it’s the Porters,” says Receptionist. “I have known most of them for over fifteen years. I know they’re not always the most reliable of people, but they are certainly not thieves.”
“I don’t think it’s the Porters, either,” I reply. “But clearly someone is taking the bloody thing.”
“Junior Bursar is going to want something a little more elaborate than that,” Receptionist sniffs.
“Yes, don’t worry, he’ll get his report. I have a feeling I’m making this more difficult for myself than is necessary. There could be a simple explanation I have over-looked.”
“Oh? What’s that, then?” I don’t reply to Receptionist, but start tapping feverishly away at my keyboard. Within five minutes, Junior Bursar has his report and I have a plan. I feel more optimistic about the matter entirely. The thing with having a plan is, it doesn’t have to be a particularly good plan, it just has to be a plan. It is far better than having no plan at all, and my plan has been so sketchily outlined to Junior Bursar that it is very open to interpretation. But it looks like I know what I’m doing and actually, like all the best plans, it is simplicity itself.