With less than a week to go before term starts again, Senior Tutor is starting to get twitchy about the inevitable drunken gatherings of our dear students. He has summoned The Committee For The Prevention Of Drunken Behaviour to meet once again.
The Chair of the Student Union is still languishing at home with mummy and daddy, but present in Senior Tutor’s rooms are the usual suspects of Nurse, The Dean and Senior Tutor himself. As I enter the room, The Dean is hurriedly exiting it.
“Oh do get out of the way, Deputy Head Porter!” he chastises me as if I were a small child. I sidestep smartly to avoid the flourishing arm of The Dean as he bundles through the door grumpily. Today’s outfit consists of a lovely blue jumper (with a hole just below the collar) and brown trousers. I didn’t quite catch a glimpse of the shirt, but I suspect it may be yellow.
“The Dean is feeling unwell,” Senior Tutor offers by way of an explanation.
“Ha! He has been feeling ‘unwell’ since Formal Hall last night!” Nurse snaps distastefully.
Ah. Formal Hall. An unusually elaborate meal held once a week for The Fellowship. It’s the one where they get the really good wine out.
“Shall we begin?” Senior Tutor asks tactfully. “The Dean will be back momentarily, I have no doubt.”
Nurse and I sit down. After the last meeting, I am filled with nothing but fascination as to what will happen next.
“As you are aware, we are here to deter and protect our young charges from the evil of succumbing to over-indulgence,”
Yes, I think to myself, And to prod them mercilessly when they are unconscious, as I recall.
Senior Tutor continues: “I believe strongly that Fellows and staff should lead by example at all times. However, I have growing concerns regarding this, following the staff Christmas party…”
Ah, yes. The staff Christmas party. I have hazy memories of this. The day preceding the evening of the staff Christmas party involved, for me at least, two lunches – both of which offered complimentary wine, one of which included venison – and a general ‘festive’ atmosphere. If you know what I mean. The party itself was gate-crashed in spectacular style by several members of The Fellowship. I recall being in the bar, enjoying a fabulous glass of red and sophisticated background music more akin to a London hotel than a College drinking establishment. The band were tuning up but had not yet started to play. All of a sudden, the doors where thrown open and careering through them came a selection of Doctors and Professors, some very elderly – all drunk as lords. They hit the dance floor immediately and flailed around wildly, even though the band hadn’t started playing yet.
What happened next, I only have a patchy recollection of, at best. There was dancing. There were funny coloured drinks in very small glasses. There was a general tendency to falling over. I remember dancing inappropriately with Dr C then him urging me to take some A-Levels. Or something. Ah, the staff Christmas party…
The Dean returns, looking pale and a little sheepish.
“Have I missed much?” he asks, collapsing into a sturdy and practical leather chair near the door.
“We were just discussing the unfortunate antics of the staff Christmas party,” replies Senior Tutor. The Dean brightens up a bit. He was not one of the gate-crashers, but had heard the rumours.
“Ah! Yes, an absolute disgrace by all accounts,” states The Dean. “We should do away with it all together.”
“The point I’m making,” Senior Tutor continues, with a patience that has every sign that it is being stretched, “Is that we should be setting a good example of responsible drinking.”
There is an audible sigh from The Dean, as he rests his head in his left hand and sinks a little lower into his chair. I gaze resolutely at my shoes and shift uncomfortably in my seat. Only Nurse sits proud and upright, a shining beacon of abstinence and sobriety.
“We can’t expect our students to behave in a respectable manner when we ourselves are roaring drunk, rolling through the cloisters. This will not do” Senior Tutor is determined and resolute, and is staring intently at The Dean. My heart goes out to The Dean at this moment, these meetings are impossible with a hangover. I should know.
Senior Tutor rises swiftly from his seat behind his desk and strides purposefully over to the window. He seems to contemplate the view for a while, before finally turning back to the assembled Committee.
“What I have in mind,” his voice is soft, low and even. Each word is spoken as if it is floating on a cushion, quite apart from its neighbours, “Is something quite radical for Old College. I will not tolerate the acceptance of this increased level of intoxication by Fellowship or staff.” The gaze of Senior Tutor falls squarely on me. “And the Porters will be my essential tools in accomplishing this!”
I realise with horror that Nurse and The Dean have also focused their attentions in my direction.
Oh dear. I do not like the sound of this at all…