They say that we are all brought into this life with a purpose, a raison d’etre, if you will. That there is a place in this world for all the creatures under the sky. This is a romantic notion and one that I have come to believe is absolutely true. For example, it appears that my place seems to be right at the very epicentre of nuisance. Now, this is rather fun when it is me that is the nuisance. External nuisance, however, is significantly less enjoyable.
I have no idea what happened. One minute, Head Porter was the toast of the town to his female companions; the next, one of them is in tears and the other one has slapped him. It would seem that Head Porter is as dumbfounded as I am, standing here dazed and bewildered.
“Is everything alright here?” I ask, feeling ridiculous even as the words leave my mouth. But it seems to calm down the slapping brunette a little.
“I suppose you’re the wife, are you?” she says in the laboured way of one who has had several too many. “There’s always a wife with men like him.”
“What? No!” I reply, as quickly as I can. “I am most certainly not ‘the wife’. I am just a friend. What’s going on?”
“He’s a beast and a pig!” roars the crying brunette.
“Now wait and hold on for a few,” Professor Duke steps deftly into the fray. “I know this fellow somewhat, and if he was a beast or pig, he’d stink a little more than he does at the minute.”
“I don’t know what’s happening!” Head Porter wails gently.
I have neither the energy nor the inclination to try to unravel the mysteries of the last two minutes with these two drunken hussies. Little good can come of it, no doubt.
“Ladies, I am sorry for any inconvenience my friend has caused you,” I say. “I think the best thing to do is take him off now for a stern talking to about beastliness and piggery. Enjoy the rest of your evening.”
With that, Professor Duke and I bundle a flabbergasted Head Porter out into the street and in the direction of Old College.
Back in the Porters’ Lodge, Head Porter is still none the wiser about where his romantic overtures went wrong. The Professor and I are sat patiently drinking tea and waiting for an explanation.
“I just don’t understand it,” says Head Porter, fiddling with a pen. “Everything was going so well. They laughed at all my jokes, they said my tie was nice… the one I had my eye on was really keen on the tie, actually. Then she started telling me about the poetry she had been writing – something about existential darkness and the crushing pointlessness of existence – so, I know some poems, so I told her a poem and she just went crazy. Imagine that!”
Professor Duke and I exchange glances.
“Poetry can be ugly. What did you recite?” asks the Professor.
“Well, I say poem – it was more of a limerick. It goes – ‘There was once a fishmonger’s daughter / who found herself down on her luck…”
“Right-o!” I jump in quickly. Verses that feature a fishmonger’s daughter are rarely worth repeating in polite company. “I can see the problem here. Basically, Head Porter, it seems to me that you completely misjudge the types of things ladies like to hear during the wooing process.”
“And you’re also misjudging the type of ladies you should be wooing, I say,” says Professor Duke. “You should be a bit more selective. You know, like if you were picking out cherry suckers. You wouldn’t take the first you found. You’d make sure it was the best. Same here, I’m thinking.”
“I just thought that maybe a scatter gun approach might be a smart move,” replies Head Porter, pensively. “You know, law of averages and all that. I thought that if I ask enough ladies, one of them is bound to say yes eventually.”
“Say yes to what?” I ask, but I’m not sure I really want to know.
Head Porter chuckles and waggles his eyebrows in what I assume he believes in a saucy manner.
“Well, Deputy Head Porter – whatever I can talk them into!”
“Oh goodness…” the Professor shudders. “Romance isn’t worth it, I say. If I was you, I’d call a retreat and fall back.”
It is quite clear to me that we will not resolve the myriad of issues regarding Head Porter’s approach to love in one evening alone. There is going to be a considerable amount of work to do before he is even half-way match ready. I suddenly feel quite sorry for the women of The City. Sorry – and worried.
“Evening all!” a crisp greeting from an immaculately turned-out Night Porter rings across the Lodge. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”
“Just passing through, old chap” I reply. “All hunky-dory, I take it?”
“A quiet evening, ma’am. Not much afoot. The Organ Scholar was in earlier, seemed a bit distracted.”
“Oh, really?” This piques my interest. “When was this?”
“About an hour ago, ma’am. He signed out the keys to the Organ Loft.”
It makes sense to me that the poor lad should be finding refuge in his music at a time of obvious distress. Hopefully, an hour of playing will have cleared his mind somewhat and he will be in quite the right mood to be questioned about one or two things.
“Thank you, Night Porter,” I reply, looking knowingly at Head Porter and the Professor. “Maybe I shall pop along there and see that all is well.”