Female departmental heads are quite the unexpected thing at Old College, so Head of Housekeeping is rather special. The daughter of hoteliers, Head of Housekeeping always had her eye on a career in hospitality – but first explored the full benefits of a wild youth during a globetrotting gap year, followed later by college and work experience in some of Europe’s finest hotels.
Few at Old College would believe that as a youngster Head of Housekeeping was a feisty bohemian beauty, as there is little about her demeanour to suggest that now. With a penchant for bleach and multiple pairs of spectacles, she always seems far more at home dealing with detergent rather than people. She is an infinitely practical woman with little tolerance for whimsy, which perhaps explains her inexhaustible agitation where The Fellowship are concerned.
The quirkily named Bedders (the Housekeeping staff) are a delightfully mixed bag. There is a clutch of tenacious veterans who view the cleanliness of College as a matter of personal honour and have been around for almost as long as some of the Fellows. However, they are hampered somewhat by a transient ragtag band of casual workers whose efforts are less than diligent and quite often criminal. Head of Housekeeping masters them with aplomb through an uncompromising, non-nonsense regime that never fails to avert disasters of a domestic nature.
Head of Housekeeping is an unlikely ally of Deputy Head Porter and from the very start annoys Head Porter by pre-empting the practical needs of a lady in the Porters’ Lodge, which of course he hadn’t even considered. There is a barely concealed tension between the two department Heads, although it is difficult to say where the origins of this lie. Thankfully, this mutual contempt does not extend to Deputy Head Porter and Head of Housekeeping comes to her rescue on more than one occasion. She has nothing but sympathy for her having to contend with Head Porter on a daily basis and sees it as her duty to support her endeavours in the running of the Porters’ Lodge.
I think I would have gone quickly insane without Head of Housekeeping at the real Old College. She is, of course, not as stern and impersonal as her fictional namesake, although I was widely warned of her difficult nature when I first arrived. I didn’t find her difficult at all, in fact quite the opposite. She was someone I often went to for advice and although she was certainly very focused on the militarily-like running of her team, she was always helpful and keen to collaborate. I hope she sees the humour behind her character, as she is certainly an admirable woman.
**Coming tomorrow – Up Close & Personal with Head Porter!**