Continued from ‘Contemplation’…
While I wait for our drinks to be served, I think about what Porter has said. Clearly, there is a lot I don’t know about Head Porter and the evident bad feeling in The Lodge. I find his apparent reasons for employing me interesting. I hope I have proved myself to be more than he thought I was, if not to him then to The Fellowship and my Porters. Needless to say, my opinion of Head Porter has diminished somewhat. To think I worked so hard to overcome the predispositions and sexism of Old College, only to discover that was the very reason I was employed in the first place! I wasn’t there to challenge prejudice, I was supposed to embody it!
No wonder Head Porter is so riled. He wanted a good little girl who would shut up and do as she is told. What he got, was me.
I suppose I would be pretty pissed off, in his position.
I deliver a fresh pint of whatever passes for the best ale in this establishment to a very grateful Porter. I settle down with my third glass of wine and an entirely different view of the situation in hand. Although the wine must take some credit, my improved perspective owes much to Porter’s revelations. And he is not finished yet.
“Right then,” I take back a generous mouthful of what now seems like bloody good wine and attempt to summarise. “I got this job because Head Porter thought he could either bully me, or… you know, or both. He could then go on running The Lodge in whatever way he saw fit, without any challenge from me. He achieved this by fixing the interview dates so that he could pick the person he thought would be easiest to push around. Things haven’t quite worked out like that, so now he is taking it out on me and is trying to assert some authority. I suppose after today’s performance he hopes I will fear for my job and become subservient.”
“It’s not just that,” Porter continues, having enthusiastically begun his second pint. “He feels threatened. You see, once we all found out he had given you the job, some of the Porters, myself included, went and told The Master and The Dean what was going on. About him fixing it and that. Anyway, it was too late to do anything because you had already accepted the position so The Fellowship had no choice but to go along with it. But they were pretty annoyed about the way it had all been carried out and I think the idea was to prove that he had made a bad decision and employed the wrong person to meet his own ends.”
“Ah!” I interrupt “That might explain some of the strange errands and tasks I was given, early on?”
“Yes! I think they were trying to prove you weren’t up to the job. Thing is, you’ve actually turned out to be quite good at it and I know a few of The Fellows really quite like you…”
“Which is a good thing…?”
“Well, sort of, but it would have been better if you were rubbish because then they would have been able to drag Head Porter over the coals for employing a young girl with no experience.”
I think about it for a moment.
“I’m not that young,” is all I can think of to say.
“Besides,” Porter continues “He has already rubbed quite a few of them up the wrong way. Like I said, you don’t know the half of it. There’s a few in The Fellowship that can’t stand him. They are looking at any excuse to get him out.”
“Really?” my curiosity is piqued “Who?”
Porter shakes his head and chuckles.
“I’m not going into that,” he replies diplomatically. “But what I can tell you, there’s some Porters that feel the same way.”
There is an uneasy silence between us, where what is left unsaid says more than can ever be expressed in words. Porter finally breaks the stalemate.
“There are quite a few people at Old College that would rather you were Head Porter,” Porter says finally. I stare into my glass. I haven’t even completed one academic year, yet. In my heart, I know I am not ready to be Head Porter, if that could even be possible.
“I just want what’s best for The Lodge,” I eventually manage to reply.
“Have a think about what I’ve said,” Porter is getting up to leave. “Don’t let him get to you and don’t believe what he tells you. Come back tomorrow.”
I nod and smile. Against my better judgement, I get up and hug Porter. I watch him leave and I finish my wine. As I make my way through the streets of the City, I am at least grateful that there is never a dull moment where Old College is concerned.