All This Useless Beauty

Evening gallops across the chilled City skyline as the sun surrenders its grip upon the world. I swing idly in my chair in the Porters’ Lodge, gazing out across the courtyard at the Bridge and the to-ings and fro-ings thereon. It is not a particularly beautiful bridge but it has served its purpose unrivalled for the best part of four hundred years. That is beautiful in itself, I think; centuries of unwavering dependability embellishing the mundanity of wood and iron.

Time is often thought of as the thief of beauty but that view is short-sighted. The outer façade of that which is ravaged and crumbled by time is only the superficial covering of the real beauty of what a thing is. The meaning and enduring presence of a thing is where its true beauty lies. So why do we travel so reluctantly along the passage of time, resisting with every step? Would it not be better to trust in nature to reveal what is really there? Someone should tell The Master’s Wife.

“Deputy Head Porter! What are you doing?”

Oh dear. It’s The Dean. And he is smiling. A worry.

“Good evening, Sir.”

“You’re still here?”

“It would seem that way, Sir, yes.” I decide not to mention my intention to join Professor Duke at the Choir rehearsal this evening. “Porter left early and Head Porter is… busy.”

We both glance over to Head Porter’s office, where the man himself is tapping away intently on his laptop, what appears to be the occasional giggle escaping his lips. The Dean looks curious for a moment, before returning his attentions to me.

“Now, then…” The Dean perches on the edge of my desk, managing to loom ominously when I believe his intended motive was casual camaraderie. “Have you heard that Professor Duke is personally invited to attend the Choir rehearsal this evening?”

I place a searching look on my face to try to buy myself a little time, unsure of the wisdom of disclosing my involvement with such a thing. Luckily, The Dean is too impatient to wait for a reply.

“Well, he is. By The Master’s Wife, no less.” He pauses to lick his lips and no doubt gauge my reaction. “It concerns me, Deputy Head Porter.”

The thud of wood on wood diverts our attention and we both look round to see Head Porter jauntily exiting his office.

“Evening!”

“Hello, Head Porter” The Dean replies. “You’re in a fine mood, I see.”

“That I am, Sir.”

“Well, I’d make the most of it if I were you. I have decided that you two are going to accompany me this evening whether you like it or not…”

“Can’t this evening, I’m afraid,” says Head Porter, with unusual conviction. “Tonight I have a hot date. The digital marketing campaign of my good self is reaping rewards left, right and centre. Love is out there and I intend to hunt it down like a wild, passionate dog.”

A vague look of disgust crosses The Dean’s face. I swallow hard with shock and taste a little bit of sick. There is a moment of awkward silence.

“If that’s the way you feel I suggest you take it outside of College walls,” The Dean barks. “We can do without that sort of thing, thank you very much. Deputy Head Porter, I expect you have no such plans. Come with me.”

Despite his previous protests of keeping out of College shenanigans, The Dean declares that we are going to the Chapel. Something unsavoury is afoot, he says, and we simply cannot let it pass unchallenged. We. I don’t pick him up on that. Whatever he is planning, it seems apparent that it is going to involve the assistance of the Porters’ Lodge. Quite right, too.

Arriving at the Chapel, we find Professor Duke cornered by a frisky-looking Master’s Wife, a rictus grin plastered across an otherwise panic-stricken expression. The Choir are gathered in their proper place – robes regally gleaming – waiting for Organ Scholar to arrange himself and the music. The Professor notices our arrival and his look of relief is almost comical. He begins to wave wildly in our direction.

“Well looky! Great to see you all have arrived, at precisely this moment!” The Professor artfully disengages himself from The Master’s Wife and strides over to us rather too quickly to be polite. He drops his voice to a whisper. “What’s up?”

“There’s something unpalatable about this whole situation,” The Dean replies in hushed tones. “I know what The Master said. But I find doing as I am told very difficult.”

“Me too” I add. Well, it’s true.

The Professor nods in agreement.

“You are quite right, overall. Though, you can be wrong sometimes. This choir needs to be inspected, see. They are looking awesome.”

Undeniably, the Choir does indeed look outstanding. The sumptuous outfits are draped gloriously upon some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen in my life. The young ladies have tumbling waves of glistening hair framing elfin features, atop frames of nubile willowy elegance. Their male counterparts are tall and chisel-jawed, broad of shoulder and brooding.

Yes, but what do they sound like?

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