The Secret Life Of Head Porter

Over-indulgence is a funny thing. Youth has the stamina required to pursue such endeavours, but not the experience to master it as an art. With age comes a more knowing approach to these things, certainly, but wild intentions are often tempered by an uncooperative constitution.

Old College has seen more than a thousand feasts and The Great Feasts number almost five hundred. It takes several days before the old place seems quite right again after The Great Feast. It takes Head Of Catering considerably longer; almost a week later and he is still an emotional wreak. But then the man drinks far too much coffee, the dear chap should consider switching to tea instead. It is far more civilised.

I realise there is little point suggesting this to him as he pours yet another mug of steaming thick liquid that I suspect should rightly be served in little tiny cups. Head Porter and I only dropped by his office with the hope of securing some of those giant cookies he sometimes has, but we have been drawn into a discussion about the woes of the Catering Department. I say ‘discussion’, but that would imply some kind of two-way communication. What we appear to have wandered into is a lecture.

Under usual circumstances we would be happy to chew the fat with Head Of Catering, or at least drink tea until he had finished with us. Just now, though, we are on our way to meet The Dean who has devised a plan of some description. We are not entirely clear on what the plan might entail but apparently he had a dream last night and now everything has become clear. I received this news with a degree of nervous trepidation. The nocturnal workings of The Dean’s mind are uncharted territory and doubtless something not to be taken lightly.

I can spy the giant cookies on a table by the door and am patiently waiting for the lesson on the difficulty of procuring decent dessert wines to reach its conclusion before tactfully drawing attention to them. In the meantime, I nod and coo appropriately. Unfortunately, Head Porter is not devoting his full attention and Head Of Catering is less than amused.

“Here, are you even listening to me, Head Porter?” scolds Head Of Catering. “That’s a bit rude. What are you doing?”

Head Porter looks up, startled, his attention drawn away from his mobile phone which has been holding his attention since we arrived.

“What?” he says.

“I’ve been talking to you, you know, and you’re fiddling with your phone.”

“Oh!” Head Porter exclaims. “That. I have just started using Twitter. It’s an almost constant stream of nonsense and I am just trying to keep up with it.”

“Well!” replies Head Of Catering. “I didn’t have you down as a social media expert. That’s surprising.”

“I am a man of hidden depths, Head Of Catering” Head Porter replies, witheringly. “D’you know, there’s this other thing just for people’s photos and… selfies – is that the word? Selfies. A whole website of people making duck faces and not wearing many clothes. Have you seen it?”

“I bloody well have not!” snaps Head Of Catering “And I’m not sure you should be having any truck with something like that, either.”

“You have to move with the times, you know” he says, a little hurt. Sensing a rather pointless argument brewing, I decide to step in.

“We mustn’t keep The Dean waiting,” I say diplomatically. “We should make tracks. Can we take some of those giant cookies?”

“No you can’t!” Head Of Catering replies. “They’re ear-marked for the Faculty Of History meeting later on.” He eyeballs Head Porter. “I bet they don’t look at frivolous websites.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure” I mutter, not quite under my breath.

“What was that?”

“Thank you for your time, Head Of Catering. We will be seeing you again soon, no doubt.”

“Alright, Deputy Head Porter. Mind how you go.”

We leave Head Of Catering debating the cheese selection for High Table and make our way towards Apple Tree Court and the rooms of The Dean.

“Head Of Catering seems a bit off, don’t you think?” asks Head Porter.

“He’s just a bit stressed, you know how he gets” I reply. “Shame about the giant cookies, though. I would have thought he could have spared a couple. Anyway, what were you on about Twitter and selfies? Have you finally embraced the digital age?”

“I am hoping to track down my daughter,” he explains. “She might have blocked me on Facebook but that’s only the start of it when it comes to the online universe! I’ve set myself up on some of these other sites. I’m pretending to be a struggling musician so she doesn’t know it’s me.”

I must say, I am impressed by both his ingenuity and imagination. He could just about send a text message a few months ago, now he is living an online double life. I hope it is more interesting than his offline one. Although, if you take Head Porter’s word for it, his social media is rather spicy.

“Why a struggling musician?” I ask, genuinely curious.

“I thought a successful musician sounded a bit far-fetched,” he replies. “I don’t want to arouse suspicion.”

“Hmm” I say, thoughtfully. “Okay. Have you had any luck finding her yet?”

“No, not yet, but its early days. On the up side, people send me tweets about gigs and things which look quite fun. I never knew there were so many open mic nights in The City.”

“What an interest!”

“That’s the really clever part about being a struggling musician,” Head Porter tells me, loftily. “I can blend seamlessly into the crowd. No one will expect me to be any good.”

There is a certain logic to Head Porter’s thinking, if you bend the meaning of logic far enough. But anyway. Onwards and upwards to see The Dean.

If I am expecting to get anything more sensible out of him, then I am to be sorely disappointed…


  1. This is definitely laugh out loud fodder. You might dose “the the nocturnal workings of The Dean’s mind” and give him a good dose of valerian root and while you’re about it give some to the Head Porter.

    1. It’s the quiet ones that you need to watch. My dad was a Fundamental Baptist preacher, and I learned early on to choose my battles and my “walkabouts.”

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