Junior Bursar has, in my humble opinion, the best rooms in Old College. Situated half way up the flag tower, they not only afford excellent views of both Old Court and the streets beyond the College, but also feel swathed in enchantment. Whether it is the smoothly curved stone walls or the very presence of Junior Bursar himself it is difficult to tell, but I feel like I am inside a wizard’s tower.
I suppose Junior Bursar has something of a wizard-like element to him. I got the impression early on that the Porters were a little nervous of upsetting him, as if he had some kind of hitherto unknown mystical power. He can certainly be difficult at times but the only thing mystical about him is how he has managed to survive for so many decades at Old College without going completely insane. Or maybe he has, who knows? He may just be very good at hiding it.
The Junior Bursar I have before me now seems to be a very different creature to the one I have come to know and… well, not quite love but have certainly developed an unlikely affection for. The smile he offers me now is not just on his lips but permeates his whole face and even twinkles in his eyes. He radiates a sense of genial well-being. I suspect it has something to do with his impending retirement. And he is obviously very much looking forward to his party.
“Now, Deputy Head Porter” he begins affably “Of course Catering will be organising the food and drinks but I rather hoped you would be able to assist me in the area of entertainment!” I hope he doesn’t mean me, personally, as the entertainment.
“What sort of thing were you thinking of, Sir?” I ask.
“Well, we will need a band, certainly” he eagerly replies “Something upbeat, dancing music, you know? And I saw once at a party where the host had hired a magician to mingle among the guests performing tricks, it was just super.”
“You want a magician?” I try not to sound too surprised.
“What do you think, Deputy Head Porter? I think I would like one. Do you think it would be too much?”
“Not at all, Sir. It’s your party, you have what you want.” This seems to please Junior Bursar very much. His affiliation with wizardry is clearly more potent than I first thought.
“I shall tell you what else I would like,” I detect a slight edge in his voice, now.
“Go on, Sir”
“I would like to know with whom Head Porter was arguing with in the street the other day?”
“I’m not sure I recall the incident to which you refer, Sir” I lie. Junior Bursar clearly does not believe me.
“Is that so? Well, well. Perhaps you should make a point of being better informed about such things, Deputy Head Porter.”
“I will do that, Sir.”
“Please make sure that you do” these words are delivered so sincerely I find myself searching Junior Bursar’s face for signs of his intention. I see nothing but the genuine smile. “Balloons!” He says suddenly.
“I should very much like there to be balloons. I suppose The Master will allow balloons in the Wide Gallery, will he not?”
“I should think so Sir. Is that where the party will be held, in the Wide Gallery?”
The Wide Gallery is a very grand room in The Master’s Lodge and, in my mind, completely unsuitable for dancing music and balloons. Which will make the whole event altogether much more fun, I have no doubt.
I leave Junior Bursar’s rooms in absolutely no doubt that the retirement party preparations are to be my very uppermost priority. Junior Bursar will be requiring regular and detailed updates on every aspect of my endeavours. But the missing key! I have to find out which is the missing key!
Now, why do I get the impression I am being deliberately distracted?