Month: January 2018

Sinister Dexter – The Dean Discovers A Thing

An excerpt from the forthcoming PorterGirl novel, Sinister Dexter, where The Dean is delighted to share with Deputy Head Porter the results of his haphazard investigations…

The rooms of The Dean are in their usual of state of familiar chaos; the elderly red leather settee groaning under an avalanche of books and folders, shelves stacked high with miscellaneous items with no discernible arrangement or order and, of course, the well-worn rug in the middle of the floor, its threadbare centre testament to The Dean’s favoured pastime of pacing. The Dean paces when he is thinking, when he is furious, when he is in good humour (a rare one, this) and at any other time he isn’t physically nailed down somewhere. Except when he is drinking, another preferred pastime that has the apparent importance of being secondary only the breathing. It is most odd that, although I have seen The Dean drinking on endless occasions, I have never once seen him drunk. There was an occasion, during the summer, when I foolishly accepted an invitation to drink with The Dean and I awoke the next morning on his red leather settee with a pounding head and absolutely no recollection of the previous evening. It soon became clear that I had revealed something of note to him, but he has never repeated it and I am too embarrassed to ask. It has given our relationship an unexpected quirk that I could probably live without.

There is something remarkably different about The Dean’s rooms today, however. His beloved tropical fish tank has acquired a jaunty miniature castle and the colourful little finned fellows within seem rather pleased with it. I also spot several very tasteful paintings on the walls and his high-backed leather ‘drinking’ chair has a purple crushed velvet throw draped over it. It isn’t like The Dean to trouble himself with interior design so I wonder who could have been responsible? There doesn’t seem to be a sensible way of broaching the subject without appearing nosy, so I plump for an insensible one. Hauling the purple throw around my shoulders like a cape, I strike a superhero pose.

“I like this, Sir,” I announce. “Very swish.”

“You like it? Take it. Have it. Get it out of here. I hate it.” The Dean waves his arms dramatically, as is his wont. “My sister has been interfering. It’s her way of trying to thank me but it’s just buggering about and interfering. Mind you, the fish like their new castle very much, as I’m sure you can see.”

“Indeed I can, Sir,” I nod approvingly. “I’m sure your sister had the best of intentions, Sir.”

It would be rude to ask why she felt the need to thank him, but luckily The Dean tells me all about it anyway.

“My young nephew got himself into a bit of a pickle at school,” The Dean explains, with some vigour. “Not his fault, you understand, the school are clearly idiots. His teacher said that he was too clever for his own good, which I fail to see how such a thing can even be possible, given that there is no such thing as being too clever. If everyone were as clever as me, Deputy Head Porter, the world would be a very different place, I tell you.”

It would be a very frightening place indeed, I imagine. The Dean’s particular brand of intellect is not for the faint hearted. But anyway. He seems to be enjoying himself and is pacing with gusto, now. The Dean continues.

“Preparations for the school nativity play are underway and all the children were to be assigned a role. My nephew, being a forward sort of a fellow, suggested that he might be all three of the wise men, due to his inarguably superior intellect. Far too bright to be just one wise man, that would be a veritable insult. Three wise men is more like it. Very reasonable, you might think! The blasted school, however, took a very different view.”

“Shocking, Sir.” I’m beginning to sense a familiar family trait, here.

“Shocking, yes! The buggers. They thought they could make amends by offering him the role of Joseph. The bloody cheek!”

“What a cheek, Sir.”

“As my nephew quite rightly pointed out, there might be some chaps about the place who would be quite happy to be the husband of a woman carrying a baby that wasn’t even his, but that chap certainly isn’t him! My nephew flat out refused to play a cuckold, even if the man cuckolding him is The Almighty.”

Obviously refusing to play second fiddle to God runs in the family.

“And so his teacher – ridiculous woman – starting crying or some such nonsense, my nephew was suspended with immediate effect, stern letters were sent home and my sister was at a loss. What could I do but pop along there and show them the error of their ways? I told them straight – the amount I’m paying in school fees surely gives my nephew the right to point out these things and shouldn’t they be delighted that they have such a moral and upstanding young man among their ranks? They soon saw things my way, I tell you.”

I’m sure they did. When dealing with The Dean there is usually little option but to see things any other way. Whilst I pity the poor school for having him on their hands, I find it remarkably touching that he takes such a keen interest in his nephew’s education. I never really thought about The Dean having a family, I suppose the thought that there might be more like him was too disturbing to entertain. Mind you, I only discovered that he has an actual name just recently, although I am disappointed about that as it is surprisingly pedestrian. But anyway. The Dean has finished his story and no doubt I am expected to make some comment or remark. It’s difficult to know what to say.

“What role did he get in the end?” I ask.

“Oh! He’s the director. Quite right, too, I say. But listen, Deputy Head Porter, I do wish you wouldn’t ramble on. We have important things afoot!”

To find out the thing discovered by The Dean, you will have to wait for the book, I’m afraid. Well, no one likes a spoiler, do they?

Trenton Babbage & The Bacon Smugglers – Part Four

We return once more to the eclectic adventures of the Bacon Smugglers, as written by guest blogger, Trenton Babbage

[New year, new algorithmic results: 804 words is now the optimum – must have been all the extended rants about reneged resolutions. Long Live Content!]


Sitting in an iconic bastion of British transport that is a South West Trains train arriving at the internationally envious hub that is Southampton Central train station, can only be described as arriving in Southampton on a train.

I’ve booked us into the Grand Harbour Hotel: walk east on Western Esplanade/A3024 – 361 ft; turn right towards Harbour Parade – 43 ft; turn right at Western Esplanade/A3024 – 0.1 mi; slight left towards Harbour Parade – 20 ft; turn right towards Harbour Parade – 69 (teehee) ft; turn left towards Harbour Parade – 0.1 mi; turn left towards Harbour Parade – 36 ft; turn right onto Harbour Parade – 0.2 mi; at the roundabout, take the 2nd exit – 0.1 mi; turn left onto W Quay Rd/A33, destination will be on the left – 157 ft.

We arrive late, but the restaurant’s still serving.

“I’ve booked us two rooms, so we can each have our own personal space, and of course two rooms means two beds for naked jumping, and possibly some sexual intercourse, depends how good the jumping is. Gin?”

“Have we met?”

“I’ve given us three days and four nights to stock up, find a butchers, crew if necessary, and most importantly, source a vessel; there’s one outside called ‘The Good Ship Venus’ and has ‘take me’ written all over it…I did it whilst you were in the toilet; we’ll keep an eye on it and when the owner shows up I’ll offer my bespoke boat cleaning services, turn on the charm and whatnot, and depending what sort of chap he is we’ll get him to come with us.”

“And what if he’s the wrong sort? I still have the hobnobs.”

“If he’s the wrong sort we’ll knock him out with some biscuits and steal his boat, yes.”


Neter Wrobahr is a great green beast of a man; at 18ft 37in of age and 67 years in girth his squirrel mane is the scabbard of all men south of east, and most of those drove a cabbage. He constantly keeps about his person a collection of horses, dogs and babies, so we know immediately that he can be trusted; a wise man once said ‘never trust a man whom horses, dogs, or babies do not like’, so whenever Neter met anyone new he would thrust his collection of organic moral diviners at said person and let nature take its course.

Naturally Perl and I pass the test; we are trust worthy till death; I admit to painting his boat, offer of course to clean it thoroughly, but he says he likes it, I’m quite the artist apparently.

So with our vessel secured and our first mate mated the three of us head back to the bar for a much earned drink; there are tales of woe, yore, fancy and bacon, together with dancing and facial hair tickling – Perl cannot wait until she reaches the age where she can tickle her own facial hair, and then find a young child to kiss, they love that they do – and when all six eyelids are struggling to remain open there is talk of slumber. We offer Neter one of our rooms which he gladly accepts. We then stumble towards the lifts…the combination of gin and a subsequent tab of bacid gives the stumble more of a swim like feel, so while Neter does the usual holding onto chairs and hugging walls, Perl and I are engrossed in the individual medley [is the reader expecting a breaststroke joke at this point? Maybe, hence I’m loathe to put one in] and I stroke her breasts in the most unamusing way possible.

The morning brings rain and headaches, but a new world record for the 100m butterfly. We skip breakfast and go on the hunt for a quality butcher. At this moment in time, you’re probably wondering what the purpose of all this is (bless me for thinking it’s only now that you’re wondering what the purpose of all this is); what use is there for a bacon smuggler or two? Isn’t there perfectly good, nay, excellent bacon getting produced on this merry isle? Don’t we have a more than satisfactory bacon trade agreement with Denmark? Yes to both these pertinent questions. But there is a foul plot afoot; there is a place – and there are few who even know of its existence, let alone its location – a place that has such perfect bacon; such sublime methods of rearing, feeding, tickling – a tickled pig is a happy pig; a happy pig is a tasty bacon – slaughtering, cutting, curing, smoking, that it is kept secret from the wider world at the behest of the 1%; they deem it too glorious for the likes of us; it fetches such enormous sums that true, we would not be able to afford it; but these vast sums are arbitrary figures used as labels to denote elitism, and not at all commensurate with costs of production. Now I don’t give a


To be continued…

Killing Your Darlings

Every writer will have to face this dilemma at some stage. No, not the violent dispatch of spouses or family (I’ll cover that next week, for those that are interested) but that heart-wrenching process of getting rid of those much-loved quirks and foibles of one’s writing. It might be a delightful but gratuitous chunk of prose, a pointless character to which you have developed a personal attachment for even a subplot that serves no purpose.

People, I feel your pain. As a writer who revels in using ten words where one will do, has endless pointless characters (many of whom don’t even have names) and scatters superfluous story arcs with gay abandon, I am perhaps more guilty of harbouring ‘darlings’ than the average writer. But my publisher is tolerant of such indulgences as literary excess is rather my style, albeit with tongue firmly in cheek.

But when I received this response after submitting my latest PorterGirl novel, I sensed that the days were numbered for the biggest darling of them all…

Hi Lucy,
I have just finished reading Sinister Dexter for fun, I liked it a lot and your writing is improving all the time.

Sinister Dexter is in your voice and I don’t want to change it too much. I think the story is great and again it is character driven, you do tie your hands somewhat, writing in the first person and in the present tense…

Readers of the books and the original blog will know that I am partial to writing in First Person Present Tense which is, I know, considered to be a bit gimmicky in literary circles. When I first started writing the blog, an-almost-real-life account of my experiences as the first female Deputy Head Porter at one of the UK’s oldest and most prestigious Universities, the device worked very well. It gave an intimate and immediate account of an unusual and unique journey into the esoteric world of the academic elite and allowed me to share the inner thoughts and observations of Deputy Head Porter to great effect. For the first book, even, it still proved effective and I received positive feedback from readers who said they felt like they were with our heroine every step of the way. First Person Present Tense has become the signature style for PorterGirl and is a huge part of the quirky style and feel of the thing.

But I can’t deny, it can be a bit of a bugger at times. Firstly, most people hate FPPT. There is a danger of wandering into the realms of stream-of-consciousness type ponderings on the page. It can make character development tricky for anyone not directly engaging with the protagonist at regular intervals. It’s not that I have anything against other tenses –  Who Shot Tony Blair? and my Poirot parodies are all written in Third Person Past Tense and, I can tell you, it’s a damn sight less fiddly.

The end of Sinister Dexter is set up to introduce an additional character point of view for the book that will follow. I even have a cunning ruse to extricate myself from the shackles of FPPT and move to Past Tense, should I choose to do so. With the trilogy of novels now in place, it would seem an opportune moment to take the series forward and move on from what is perhaps the most striking and recognisable aspect of the PorterGirl style.

But… is the killing of this – perhaps the biggest of darlings – a slaughter too far?

First Lady Of The Keys – Amazon UK     Amazon US

The Vanishing Lord – Amazon UK     Amazon US