On 4th November 2013 I began an anonymous blog, writing fictionalised accounts of my experiences as the first female Deputy Head Porter at a prestigious Cambridge college. Four years later and the blog has spawned three books, two Poirot parodies and post-Brexit pre-dystopian romp Who Shot Tony Blair? Not to mention a raft of new friends and readers, without whom the continued successes of Old College would not be possible.
From the very outset, there has been one person who unfailingly encouraged and supported me through those uncertain early days, through the unpleasant and unwanted press attention when I was unceremoniously ‘outed’ by The Tab and Cambridge News, through the many hiccups and pit-falls that left me doubtful as to my future as a writer. He surely needs no introduction – our very own Head Porter, actor Paul Butterworth.
As well as giving his time and unparalleled talents and experience to the PorterGirl project, Paul has been invaluable as a listening ear, shoulder to cry on and provider of sensible, down-to-earth advice. During an unhappy and life-changing period in my personal life, he made sure I never doubted myself, never gave up and never lost sight of my dream. I also had the dubious pleasure of assisting him with the most disorganised and unintentionally hilarious house move in history, which saw us taking an axe to his furniture in the street, much to the bemusement of his now-ex neighbours.
So when big and important life events occur, it is natural that Paul and his illustrious lady-friend – The Headmistress – are the first people I turn to raise a few glasses and chew the fat. Not only did I want to celebrate the recent success of The Box Under The Bed and discuss next year’s projects, but I also wanted to introduce them to my Chap and have them give him the once-over. And so it was that we chose a cosy riverside drinking establishment as the setting for this most important of matters. The Chap was so nervous at this proposition that he briefly forgot my name at the beginning of the evening, but we don’t think anyone noticed.
Luckily, Paul had many auspicious tales of his own to share, giving The Chap ample time to reacquaint himself with my given moniker. Our own Head Porter has appeared in J K Rowling’s TV series Strike as a main character’s dad and has just finished filming a lead role in popular daytime soap opera Doctors, as well as appearing in two shorts, Hatched and Finding Hope. As The Chap and Paul are both BAFTA members, there was plenty of common ground to keep the conversation going, giving The Headmistress and me a chance to get down to the really serious business of trading gossip, talking nonsense and drinking wine.
The evening was an unmitigated success, much like Paul himself, and I was heartened to learn that despite the glamour and prestige of his career, he still feels most fondly of one particular PorterGirl escapade, where we briefly became rappers and even shared a screen kiss…
It has been quite an eventful four years, certainly. There was no way I could have know what was to come, when I clicked ‘publish’ that very first time. My own achievements are pleasing, of course – but perhaps the most cheering and pertinent aspect of PorterGirl and all it has become has been the opportunity to encourage and inspire others, and pass on a little of the help and support that people like Paul have given to me. Seeing fellow fledgling writers grow in confidence and ability is beyond satisfying and gives me that very special fuzzy feeling in my tummy.
A bit like the wine.
And, of course, The Chap.