“Deputy Head Porter! Deputy Head Porter!”
The abrupt sound of The Dean’s voice causes me to jump in my seat and spill a little of my tea over my desk. I look up but it is a few seconds before the formidable figure of The Dean comes into view. Today’s outfit is a good one – blue trousers, a stripy shirt (sleeves rolled up in a rakish manner) and a charming pink jumper slung elegantly over his shoulders. This style of jumper-wearing is popular in Old College. Why is it that highly educated people cannot fathom how to wear a jumper correctly? But anyway. I get to my feet to greet my esteemed visitor.
“Good morning Sir!” I beam.
“Do you know what I can’t stand, Deputy Head Porter?” The Dean barks at me. I imagine there is an endless list in answer to his question, but by his tone I don’t think he would appreciate this.
“What can’t you stand, Sir?” I enquire with trepidation.
“Idiots!” he replies, emphatically. “Idiots, Deputy Head Porter. And I tell you what else. Fools!” Well, this seems reasonable enough, I suppose. “Do you realise how many idiots and fools I have had to deal with already today?”
“I cannot imagine, Sir”.
“Too bloody many! I tell you, Deputy Head Porter, this is supposed to be an educational establishment but I find myself faced with incompetence at every turn.”
It is difficult to judge The Dean’s intentions, here. On the one hand, he could have just had a bad morning and has come to vent some frustration in my general direction. On the other hand, I could be in an awful lot of trouble for one reason or another. The Dean rolls his eyes and shakes his head in a mock world-weary manner and perches himself on the edge of my desk. I think I’m in the clear on this one.
“So come on then, Sir. Where are all these idiots and fools? I’ll go and sort them out for you” I feel this is above and beyond what is required of me but this is The Dean, after all.
“They’re mainly part of the furniture, I’m afraid” replies The Dean, with humour. “If they could be sorted out, I’d sort the buggers out myself.”
“I’m quite sure you would, Sir.”
“Anyway, Deputy Head Porter, how are things with you?” I consider my response carefully.
“I am living the dream, Sir.” The Dean looks mildly surprised for a second, then bursts into laughter when he recognises my deadpan sarcasm. He places a hand on my shoulder and says
“Oh! I thought you were being serious there for a moment! Haha!”
Well, The Dean is in a jolly mood today. This is unusual in itself, but even more so when he has clearly had a run in or two with person or persons unnamed.
“Things are pretty much as they should be, Sir” I continue “Nothing of note to report either way. So what can I do for you? Have you just come for a bit of a moan?”
“No, no, I do actually have a real reason for coming to see you. I don’t suppose you have seen Senior Bursar, have you? I’ve been trying to track him down but there’s no reply from his rooms and I can’t seem to get hold of him.”
I think carefully. Senior Bursar certainly arrived in College first thing this morning, he made his usual trip to his pigeon hole to check for any messages.
“I saw him earlier, Sir. Hang on, let me just check something” I lean over to my computer and click open my email. Yes, I thought so. “And he sent me an email about an hour ago, look” The Dean looks over my shoulder, then scratches his head.
“That is particularly strange, I’ve been to his rooms several times around that time, and rung him too.”
“He’s ignoring you, Sir” I tease The Dean.
“He had better well not be!” The Dean replies, but without malice. “Odd though, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know, Sir. Senior Bursar ignores me all the time.”
“Yes, but I am The Dean Of College!”
“That is true, Sir.” The Dean thinks for a moment then turns to me again.
“I wouldn’t normally ask this, Deputy Head Porter, but can you get me into his rooms?” I hesitate. Of course I can, I can get into any room in Old College.
“I can, Sir, but it would be a little… irregular” I answer carefully.
“Well, I want you to open his rooms for me,” The Dean says firmly “On my head be it, I’ll make sure you don’t get in any trouble. You are following my orders after all.”
“I cannot very well refuse the orders of The Dean Of College now, can I?”
“Quite right. Bring your keys and follow me.”
I accompany The Dean, at some pace, to Senior Bursar’s rooms. They are at the top of a large staircase which has such widely spaced steps that my little legs always struggle to get up there at speed. The Dean is not so encumbered as he has longer legs than me, which means I have to scurry a little to keep up. By the time we get to the top, I am quite out of breath.
We reach Senior Bursar’s door and I knock and call to him, just to be sure. There is no response.
“He must be out somewhere,” I suggest.
“Just open the door” replies The Dean.
I find the correct key and it turns smoothly in the lock. I push the door open and The Dean enters before me. Unsure as to whether I should be following him in, I hover in the doorway awkwardly. Then,
“Oh my GOD!”
I hurry in to find The Dean in a state of shock and covering his face. A quick look around the room and I soon see why…