Head Of Catering is a man permanently on the edge. The demands of a hungry Fellowship, not to mention staff and students and their guests, have taken their toll on his hairline and left him with an expression of constant panic. Today, he is as frantic as ever in no small part due to the ferocious enthusiasm of Professor VJ Duke.
I had thought that we would be partaking of a spot of tea before heading up to the Old Library to continue our Grail quest (well, more of a Grail meander, really) but we seem to be somewhat waylaid. A chance passing by Head Of Catering and mention of the Professor’s inauguration feast proved to be far more distracting than I might have thought.
For the last twenty minutes or so (probably more), Professor Duke has been talking ten to the dozen at an already frazzled Head Of Catering, whose note-taking skills appear woefully inadequate for a meeting of this nature. A constant stream of colourful ponderings and imaginings fills the air, interlaced with bursts of eccentric suggestions and quite possibly impossible demands. It seems that the Professor is something of a party aficionado with some definite ideas about the impending victuals and a scintillating manner of expressing them.
“So, I hope you maybe see what I’m after. Do you?” asks the Professor “I want it to be a little bit extravagant.”
“Yes, I see what you are getting at,” Head Of Catering replies. “But I was just thinking… the starters…”
“You mean appetisers? My favorite!”
“Yes. I just wonder if maybe there might be rather too many of them. It is usual to have just the one starter. We have got five here already.”
“Well, start as you mean to go on, I say,” replies the Professor with a gallant flourish. “And I certainly want this feast to go on for some time, see. And on. Parties are my favourite things, you know and I want this one to be quite goodly.”
“Right you are, Professor.”
“Now, let us check that you have the important things on your list …. Do you have cherry juice? We need that, definitely. Also, we need those little pizza pocket thingies, some spinach—since it’s healthy and all, though I probably won’t have any—a pasta dish, some sort of grilled salmon maybe? Oh! and an orange salad of sorts. Plus—”
“Oooh!” the noise has escaped my lips before I realise it. I have suddenly thought of a thing. “Can we have those nibbley, meaty things on sticks? I love those.”
“For sure! Put it on the list, please and a few, but hold on to the ‘thank you’, until I taste them,” exclaims the Professor. “Things on sticks, make a note.”
“Things on sticks. Right-o.” Head Of Catering is exercising a well-practiced patience that I always find quite impressive. Professor Duke certainly has the familiar gusto for food that one might expect from a seasoned Old College Fellow. He certainly will fit in rather nicely. But Head Porter was right. He does tend to lead me astray a little.
Quests are very important, though, aren’t they? Yes, I think they are. Head Porter will understand. Hopefully.
“Deputy Head Porter, are you listening?”
“Hmm?” The sound of Head Of Catering’s voice brings me abruptly from my reverie. “What?”
“You’ve gone and dozed off!” scolds Professor Duke.
“No, no” I reply. “I was just thinking about something else.”
“Quite right, quite right” says the Professor, nodding. “It wouldn’t do at all if we thought about the same things.”
Head of Catering snorts a little laugh from his nose.
“No doubt Deputy Head Porter here is thinking of some sort of mischief!” he says. Rather unfairly, I think. Before I can defend myself, Professor Duke leaps in.
“Actually, DHP and I are currently engaged in a strange and complicated matter,” he says in a tone that suggests further enquiries would not be welcomed. “No doubt the little cogs are turning over this thing in that funny shaped head of hers.”
“Well, in that case, I would hate to detain you further than is absolutely necessary,” says Head Of Catering evidently seeing an opportunity to get us out of his office. “You have been most… thorough, Professor. I shall send a copy of the menu for your approval imminently.”
“Right!” the Professor replies, hopping to his feet and shaking Head Of Catering violently by the hand. “Send samples too, if you have a mind too – haha!”
Head Of Catering closes his office door firmly behind us and leaves us alone in the corridor.
“We had better get a wriggle on with finding the Grail if you want to present it to The Master as the feast,” I say.
“Yes, you’re right” the Professor agrees. “Wriggle on, Deputy Head Porter. Wriggling is, after all, quite fun. Off to the Old Library it is!”