I return to The Porters’ Lodge the next day with so many emotions running through my veins I do not even know what I feel. So much so, I must use the most hated oxymoron of ‘felling numb’. This is clearly emanating through my every pore as Receptionist grabs my arm as I career through The Lodge.
“Are you alright?” she asks, her pretty, colourfully made-up face etched with concern.
“…Yeah” I reply, as brightly as I can. Which isn’t very brightly.
“You were in that meeting a long time yesterday, did he give you a hard time?”
“A bit,” I shrug my shoulders, as if to shake off the weight of the world I feel sitting there.
“Oh, I shouldn’t take it to heart,” Receptionist coos soothingly. I swallow hard and walk Receptionist through to the kitchen, where I can make some much-needed tea.
“He said… some things…”
“Pay no attention,” she says quickly “He does this sort of thing all the time. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner.”
“Oh, it’s just his way of showing you who’s boss. All The Porters have had it at some point. Some more often than others. The man has no people skills. We were all wondering when he was going to give you the hairdryer treatment.”
I stop and look at Receptionist. She is being deadly serious.
“What? Really?” I ask, a little non-plussed.
“Yes, it’s just him. I hope you gave as good as you got!”
“I told him to find a new Deputy Head Porter,” is my glum reply.
“Don’t worry about it. You have a few days off coming up, try and relax. Things will be back to normal when you come back.”
Receptionist leaves me to my tea-making reverie and I turn her words over in my head and try to make sense of it all. The worst of it is the loneliness of it all. I have not been at Old College long enough to forge any really close, trusting friendships. There is no one in this surreal (and, it seems, sadistic!) world I can share my concerns with. No matter. It will probably all be alright. And, if not, I always have my ‘security professional’ qualification to fall back on! Yeah.
After my days off, I return to The Lodge to find a beautiful, brand new waistcoat hanging on my locker. It is lined with the same elaborate silk as my suit. The crest of Old College beams magnificently from the left breast. I also find a sealed envelope in my in-tray. Within is a lovely surprise. It is a letter from Senior Bursar informing me that I am in receipt of a very small (but very gratefully received) pay rise. Unexpected to say the least.
Hey ho, here we go. I obviously have misjudged my understanding of the intricate workings of Old College. Stick, carrot… looks like I am due more stick than I am carrot. To draw a rather saucy simile, it appears I will have to bend over and take the stick like a good girl. However, my buttocks will be clenched so tightly that that stick will be broken asunder if it hits me too hard.