Some witty rogue once remarked that there are only two people you should ever lie to – your girlfriend and the Police. While this particular citation might rouse admiring chortles at the bar, I am not convinced of the wisdom of it myself. I have, in my time, been both a girlfriend and the Police and I didn’t appreciate being lied to in either capacity. I cannot help thinking that on this occasion The Dean could be making a mistake.
But it would appear that there are weightier matters at hand. While my bowler-hatted colleagues are tracking down the Bursar candidates, I am entrusted with the crucial commission of furnishing The Dean’s rooms with a fine selection of single malts. Considering current events, this may seem like a rather inconsequential trifle. But then, things at Old College are rarely as they seem.
Happily, there is a man who can assist me in my alcohol-affiliated affairs. A man who can offer far more than a friendly ear, Head Of Catering has been reliably attending to my victual and beverage needs since the day I first set foot amongst the dreaming spires. I find him in his office, drinking a small coffee and eating a large biscuit. There is just the smallest of furrows on his brow, which suggests that today is going rather well.
“Hallo, Deputy Head Porter!” He says, evidently jolly. “Would you like a coffee? I’ve got a pile of samples here from a new supplier. They’re quite good.”
“I’ll have a tea, if it’s all the same to you” I reply. “I wouldn’t mind one of those biscuits, though.”
Head Of Catering chuckles and reaches across his desk to offer me a box of assorted biscuits as big as my head. I consider my options carefully. The chocolate ones are an obvious draw but the honey and almond offerings also hold a certain appeal. Head Of Catering waits patiently as I cast my eye further, rejecting the raisin option (they seem a little too healthy, somehow) and lingering on the cherry ones. Then, like a shining beacon of deliverance in a dark and lonely box of biscuits, I spy what is surely the Holy Grail of tea accompaniment. A chocolate AND cherry biscuit! Offering up a small but earnest prayer of thanks to the Gods of sweet nibbles, I make my selection.
“Of course, you know that these aren’t biscuits, Deputy Head Porter,” says Head Of Catering. “They’re cookies. Still quite biscuit-y, but much bigger. I thought you might like them.”
I assure him that I am very approving. Sitting down with my tea and cookie, Head Of Catering is keen to share with me the recent success of the Unlikely Law Association conference. It seems that having pigeons defecate all over their belongings did nothing to dampen their spirits and the feedback on their time at Old College has been most favourable. Housekeeping and Catering were particularly singled out for high praise and this has made my chum very happy indeed.
Conversation turns to The Dean and his lack of whiskey. The consummate professional, Head Of Catering immediately assures me that a beverage befitting of The Dean will be delivered to his rooms with haste. We ruminate on the fact that he only ever has one glass. Is it because no one ever wants to drink with him or because he never wants to drink with anyone else? It is a puzzle. Head Porter also pops up in our discussion and it seems that Head Of Catering has some concerns about the wellbeing of my brave and fearless leader. I gloss over the details, but clearly other people are starting to notice the effects of his family problems.
Before my friend can press me for further facets, we are joined in his office by a very smiley Head Of Maintenance. I imagine that word of the huge cookies and luxury coffee has got out, a supposition that turns out to be correct. As Head Of Catering prepares a caffeine-laden refreshment for our companion, I decide this is an excellent moment to enquire about the painting and decorating team.
“Oh, they’re good chaps, Deputy Head Porter, no doubt about that,” says Head Of Maintenance with confidence. “I have been using the same blokes for years. They do a fine job and are honest as the day is long. Why do you ask?”
“No particular reason,” I reply. “They haven’t been moving any of the artwork around by any chance?”
“Not that I know of,” Head Of Maintenance pauses for a moment’s reflection. “But be assured that if they did, they would take the utmost care. They’re very particular, you know. It’s almost an insult to call them painters and decorators, really. They are craftsmen of their trade. They take a real pride in their work.”
“Well that’s good to know.”
“Actually, I’ve just come over from the Lodge,” continues Head Of Maintenance. “Porter has got his knickers in a twist over something or other.”
“That’s not unusual” I say “I don’t suppose you know what?”
“Apparently, he had been talking to one of the candidates for the Bursar position. I don’t think he liked the look of him.”
I finish the last of my tea and cram the remainder of the cookie into my mouth. My God, that is one excellent cookie. I make a mental note to take whatever steps necessary to secure a regular supply of those.
A potential Bursar has surfaced. This is, without doubt, a matter that must be attended to immediately.