“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
Oscar Wilde, The Critic As Artist
You can tell a lot about The Dean’s state of mind by observing the state of his rooms. A scene of chaotic disarray is usually a sign that all is well and things are continuing as normal. You see, when The Dean is agitated or troubled, he tidies. He paces, too, but that is more of a general thing. He says it helps him think. If the threadbare tracks across the centre of his carpet are anything to go by, he does an awful lot of thinking. But tidying is another thing entirely. Tidying is serious.
Things are looking unnervingly spick and span, I am sorry to say. The mountain of paperwork that usually occupies the ancient red leather sofa has been cunningly ‘filed’ in the gaps between the arms and the seats and most of the books have been returned to the wooden leviathan of a bookcase on the far wall. The man in question has worked himself up to a furious manner of pacing and I fear for the integrity of the floorboards. Tidying and pacing. Goodness.
Head Porter and I know better than to interrupt The Dean when he is pacing. We stand quietly to attention, occasionally exchanging knowing glances. I am looking around for the ubiquitous whiskey bottle but it is nowhere to be seen. Perhaps The Dean does not feel like sharing today. The door opens and Porter shuffles in, red-faced and panting. His moustache is sprouting wildly from his upper lip and he looks, quite frankly, rather dishevelled.
“Sorry I’m late,” Porter says. “The bloody Master’s Cat found its way into the Lodge. It emptied half of the pigeon holes before I knew it was there, the bugger. Then it got on top of the key cabinets and did a poo.”
“Hang on a minute,” I say “If we’re all here, who is running the Lodge?”
“The Lodge is closed!” replies Porter.
“What?!” Head Porter gasps. “Close the Lodge? Good Lord!”
“The Lodge was closed at my request, Head Porter” says The Dean. “What I have to say is important and I wanted the whole team here.”
“The Porters’ Lodge has never been closed, not since fourteen forty eight” mutters Head Porter.
“Never mind about that now,” says The Dean, waving an arm dismissively. “Listen. I had a quite remarkable dream last night and I want to tell you all about it.” An excellent and completely valid reason for closing the Porters’ Lodge for the first time since fourteen forty eight. “Now then – I was in this ginormous forest and was possessed by the greatest hunger I have ever know. In real life, I have never been so hungry. So I ate berries and flowers and things, but that was no good. So then I started eating other things in the wood, like rabbits and squirrels. Still, nothing satisfied my voracious appetite. Eventually, I came to a clearing and there was a little village. It looked a bit backward but they had lit some fires and the people had were clothed so I thought they might have some proper food somewhere. I didn’t recognise any of the people, but whenever I tried to approach someone they ran away, screaming…”
“Sounds like they recognised you, Sir!”
“Be quiet, Head Porter!” The Dean is momentarily put out, but continues with enthusiasm. “Anyway. Eventually, I have frightened off all of the villagers and am wandering around the village looking for food. I’m really starving now. Then, I see a well and I look down the well and see my own reflection – would you believe it, I am a tiger! And then I woke up and I am sorry to tell you that I had chewed my pillow almost beyond recognition. It’s a good job I sleep alone, I tell you.”
The Dean looks to us expectantly, as we Porters look to each other for any kind of clue as to what might be an appropriate response. As ever, it falls to yours truly to tackle the thing.
“That does indeed sound like a very exciting dream, Sir” I begin, carefully. “And I am sure I speak for all of us when I say that we are pleased you have shared it with us. But what, if I might ask, has any of this got to do with anything at all?”
“Don’t you see?” exclaims The Dean, arms outstretched and eyes bulging. “It is my subconscious telling me to be more like a tiger. A tiger! These mysteries won’t solve themselves and the only way we can make progress is to be a tiger.”
Head Porter leans towards me and lowers his voice.
“Where is he going with this?” he whispers. I can only shrug and pray that this is simply a continuation of the dream and I will soon wake up to more reasonable surroundings. A sharp gust of air followed by a gentle cough causes us all to spin round towards the door.
“How the blazes did you get in here?” thunders The Dean. “The man is a bloody phantom, I tell you.”
“Please forgive the intrusion.”
It is The Bursar.
“I know exactly what it is that you should do.”