Thump. Thump. Thump!
Thump. Thump. Thump!
Oh, good lord what is that terrible noise?!
Thump. Thump. Thump!
I realise with growing nausea that the awful thumping is coming from deep within my skull. Groaning softly, I force my eyes open. Even this small manoeuvre is accompanied by the most hideous creaking and scratching as the lids grate across arid eyeballs.
I am face down on a battered and elderly red leather sofa. The Dean’s red leather sofa. Oh. No.
As a vague sense of panic forces my protesting frame into a sitting position, a mortarboard slips from my head and tumbles onto the carpet. The Dean’s mortarboard, no less. My. God.
I hurriedly check that I am fully clothed. I am. All that is missing is my College tie. Okay. Things are not that bad. I glance over to see The Dean slumped in his armchair, a wistful smile upon his face and my bowler hat balanced perilously atop his head. And he is wearing my tie.
The Dean’s rooms are in a glorious state of disarray. The decanter is empty, as is another bottle of finest Scotch. From the looks of it, we even had a go at the crème de menthe. Good lord. No wonder I feel so bizarre. What on Earth happened?
A strangely bovine grunting announces that The Dean is stirring. I try to appear as nonchalant as possible, whilst struggling to keep the contents of my stomach exactly where they should be. He wakes with a start and my bowler hat lands squarely in his lap. Obviously as confused as I am, The Dean takes a moment to register his surroundings and longer still to register me.
“Good morning, Deputy Head Porter!” He announces cheerily. “Top night last night, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes?” I venture.
“I particularly enjoyed the singing, very good. Although, I wouldn’t give up your day job!” The Dean gets up and removes my tie from around his neck. He shoves it into my upturned bowler and hands my uniform back to me. “Although, you were officially The Dean of College for a while there!”
I scoop his mortarboard from the floor and offer it up. I can’t believe I don’t remember that.
“Look, Sir” I say “About last night…”
“Oh, don’t worry Deputy Head Porter,” The Dean replies, winking. “Your secret is perfectly safe with me. I shall not tell another living soul.” Bugger! What?!
“That is good to know, Sir” I say uneasily. This is certainly not good to know. “I should probably head along to the Porters’ Lodge and… do some Portering.”
“Quite right,” agrees The Dean, nodding. “That is what we pay you for after all. I am surprised you have the stomach for it, I must say. You’re quite the lively one after a few drinks, aren’t you?” I am?!
I smile and force a little giggle that sounds more like an asthmatic gerbil having some kind of fit. At a loss for anything else to say, I edge awkwardly towards the door.
“I’ll see you later, Sir” I mumble and make a sprint for the staircase.
I am lucky in that I do not encounter anyone else upon exiting The Dean’s rooms. I would not relish the opportunity to explain that. Primarily because, of course, I have absolutely no idea what happened anyway. Probably for the best.
The walk through the cloisters and courtyards and over the bridge back to the Porters’ Lodge revives me somewhat. I am greeted by Porter, who is sorting through keys.
“Morning ma’am,” he says. “By ‘eck you look rough.”
“Thank you, Porter” I reply. “And I’m not surprised I look rough, I’ve just spent the night with The Dean.”
Porter’s eyebrows elevate slowly and deliberately across his forehead.
“Not like that,” I explain quickly. “Certainly not.”
The door swings open behind me and a distracted-looking Head Porter saunters into the Lodge.
“Good morning, Deputy Head Porter” he says “Bloody hell, you look dreadful.”
“I know” I groan. “How was your night, with your daughter?”
Head Porter looks at his shoes for a moment, apparently in thought. When he finally returns his face to mine, there is something of a little determination on it.
“D’you know, we should have a proper catch-up” he says. “About the Lord Layton and other things. Do you fancy a drink after work?”
I nearly lose control of my stomach once more at the very suggestion. Orange juice. I will just have orange juice.
“Of course, Head Porter. That would be lovely.”