Footsteps Of The Templar

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow

So there we have it – the resolution of Footsteps Of The Templar, from both the point of view of our dear Deputy Head Porter and also that of emerging online sensation, Terry the cat. Phew.

I had all but forgotten the details of the Holy Grail adventure, until I compiled all the posts into a complete collection to send to my fellow adventurer and co-writer, the notorious Professor VJ Duke. It wasn’t too bad at all, was it? I particularly liked the puzzles. But then I would say that.

I note that I am once again in the unenviable position of being ‘without Bursar’. This keeps happening and I am not entirely sure why. Okay – I realise that I keep killing them off or, in this instance, trapping them in dungeons (he’s probably dead. But don’t rule out a dramatic return if I run out of ideas). It escapes me as to why – the handful of Bursars I have come across in real life I have liked very much, so why I insist on giving them such gruesome endings is beyond me. Still, I need another Bursar. Any suggestions as to the particulars of the new Bursar shall be gratefully received, but please keep in mind that they probably won’t make it to the end of the series. A bit like Sean Bean really, in every film he has ever been in. Hey – Sean Bean could be the new Bursar… Hmmm…

Me and Terry. We loves you lots. Mwah!

Me and Terry. We loves you lots. Mwah!

In the new series of Secret Diary Of PorterGirl, the reputation of the Old College choir is in jeopardy, a major character meets their soul-mate whilst another becomes the victim of a sustained (yet strangely hilarious) hate campaign. I can’t promise another wedding by the end, but there will be the usual mix of danger, nonsense and mystery to accompany rather uncharacteristic moments of romance and musical interludes.

In the meantime, the immediate future holds for me adventures in galaxies far, far away so please excuse my absence from the blogosphere whilst I attempt to get a tan and in all likelihood get very fat. For those unfortunate enough to be ensnared as one of my Facebook friends – I apologise in advance for the flurry of largely inappropriate photographs that will no doubt grace my profile in the coming days and weeks.

For those that are interested, the book is doing rather nicely and gentle pressure is being applied for me to attend book and literary fairs… in actual person. Eek. If anyone knows of any good ones near them, please do let me know.

It's the book. You can buy it by clicking on it. Go on, you know you want. to.

It’s the book. You can buy it by clicking on it. Go on, you know you want to.

I really need to get a wriggle on with the second book in the series, in fact, which is hopefully going to be released in Spring 2016. Keep those fingers crossed.

In the meantime – keep up the good work, remember to brush your teeth and if you can’t be good – be careful.

Lucy x

All Good Things

Stood at the edge of the dance floor, where now only the hardcore of dervishes persist in an increasingly erratic display of alcohol fuelled carousal, I await with interest the pearls of wisdom Professor Duke seems intent on sharing with me. Despite his previous urgency at garnering my attention, he appears to have drifted into abstraction; perhaps forming his thoughts into something approaching clarity.

Many of the wedding guests have since beaten a wobbly path to their beds, leaving a cluster of die-hard detectives and several battle-hardened relatives gamely sustaining the dying embers of the party to the bitter end. They are making an admirable attempt to remain a raucous troupe, but there is the sense that they too will soon succumb to the need of slumber. The Professor turns towards me and looks me in the eye.

“So, here it is, and I shall tell most of it, Deputy Head Porter. Junior Bursar is quite insane. Mad, in fact. Madder in the head than anyone’s been before.” Well, this is an astute observation but hardly a revelation. “We might as well add The Curator to the list. I think he’s mad, too. How horrid, but true.”

“Yes indeed,” I reply, nodding. “Certainly they are both on the far side of reasonable. I am beginning to think it might be me. I just seem to attract these types.”

The Professor chuckles and shakes his head vigorously.

“Nah, I bet not!” he says, amused. “But…you might have a point there. Oh well. Anyways and a few: Both those fellows were guardians of the Grail. It was a great passion for both of them, I think. And the Antique Shop owner – he has dedicated his life to the search for it and he is quite unstable, you must admit. He’s mad, and that’s all there is for it.”

“Do you think that the Grail has driven them mad?”

“I actually do, can you believe. The Grail, or the love of the Grail, either or.” The Professor thinks to himself for a moment. “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness. There. I think that explains it. Now you probably think I’m mad.”

I look over to our weary-looking hosts, the newly wedded Mr and Mrs Porter, sway languidly together in a dance that plays to a tune no one else can hear; sweet nothings whispered between them, dreams and promises flourishing from their freshly seeded vows.

“”And what about them?” I ask, smiling and nodding over. “Do you suppose that they are mad, then?”

“Oh, without question!” the Professor replies, adamant. “But you know? Madness is no bad thing, I am thinking, if you can go willingly into it of your own choosing. It is only when it is thrust upon you that it becomes a vexation. Love – well – that is an elective madness.”

I have surely had too much to drink. The Professor is making perfect sense. 

“Take Head Porter, for instance,” he continues, pointing to where our friend is in the dying throes of seduction. “He looks quite excited and ready to jump headlong into enamoured insanity if you ask me.”

“Poor chap. He never has much luck with the ladies.”

“He should get a bit madder, then try his luck, I say!”

“Talking of mad people,” I say, something suddenly coming to mind. “We should check on The Dean. I want to know what he has done with the Grail.”

We find The Dean in his rooms, large whiskey in hand and a self-satisfied smirk upon his face. He seems quite pleased to see us.

“Aha! I wondered if I might see you chaps! Cheers!” he raises his glass by way of a greeting. “Head Porter not with you?”

“He is making a last ditch attempt and seducing one of the bride’s friends,” I reply.

“Really? Which one?”

“Anyone, I think.”

“Hmm! Good tactic, I say. Drink?” The Dean does not wait for a reply but instead begins filling the Arsenal mug (which, for some unknown reason has become my drinking vessel) with his finest Scotch.

“I say…you wouldn’t have any more cherry brandy, would you?” asks the Professor, eyeing the decanter with some suspicion.

“No, not at all,” The Dean replies. “But you can have some of this and just pretend.”

“Rats and a heifer. It will do.”

Once we are all furnished with unnecessarily expensive whiskey, I decide that I must ask the thing that I am sure we are all most desperate to know.

“Sir, where did you hide it?”

“Hmm?” The Dean gives an Oscar-winning performance of perplexity. “You mean the Grail?” As if I could mean anything else. “Ahh. Well. I have deployed the usage of such sly chicanery you wouldn’t believe. I have hidden it where no one would think to look.”

“Good for you,” says Professor Duke, wincing as he sips tentatively at his whiskey. “I always hide my important stuff where everyone looks first, dadblameit. Now, where did you hide it?”

“In plain sight, of course!” The Dean replies, with a flourish. “It is right in front of your eyes and neither of you spotted it at all. You may now bask in awe at my genius.”

Seeing an excellent excuse to rid himself of the unwanted beverage, the Professor places his glass on the coffee table and begins to search around. I am quite happy with my offering, as it happens, but feel I must join in the hunt. It does not last as long as I was expecting, but then we do know what we are looking for.

“Aha! I found it!” the Professor grins and points to the Grail, nestling comfortably on The Dean’s writing desk among the usual conglomerate of articles that for some unknown reason are essential for his everyday life. “And…I see you’ve filled it with paperclips.”

“Well, it might as well make itself useful whilst it’s here,” says The Dean, dismissively.

Well, quite. Although it seems at first to be a somewhat humble engagement for a thing of such undoubted legend, the more I think on it the more I feel that a quiet and unassuming existence – quietly going about its business without the need for pomp and circumstance – is rather more apt than one might imagine.

As I let the burning amber liquid slide down my throat and fuzzy my head, I idly ponder the venture now behind us and think to myself that we might now declare ourselves knights, having followed with such fortitude in the footsteps of the Templar. The acquisition of the Holy Grail may sound like quite the prize, but that is a simple treasure hunt compared to the forbearance of friendship that seems to me to be the real reward. This calls for a dramatic gesture, of sorts.

I clap my hands together to gain the attention of my esteemed companions.

“Gentlemen!” I begin quite grandly and fear that I won’t be able to keep it up. “Gentlemen. We have solved puzzles, cracked codes, got into fights and travelled all the way to France. The upshot of which is that we have discovered the Holy Grail!”

“But it was Junior Bursar that actually discovered the Grail,” points out Professor Duke.

“Well.. yes… but we had the right idea and we got it off him in the end.”

“Wasn’t that the dadblamed Terry?”

This grand speech isn’t going dreadfully well. It sounded absolutely brilliant in my head, as well. Pah!

“Look, the point is,” I continue, determined not to be put off. “We clearly have something quite remarkable to celebrate. I think we should all have a bit of a dance.”

The Dean and the Professor look doubtful, but I put on my very best pleading face and they are powerless to resist. The Dean breaks first.

“Very well, Deputy Head Porter,” he huffs, turning to his ancient record player with the wobbly needle. “But you know I only have one record.”

“I only dance to certain things, it’s said,” says Professor Duke. “What have you?”

“It’s the theme tune to Minder.”

“I might romp to that!”

As The Dean fiddles with the elderly device and the Professor takes my hand in anticipation of our victory rollick, I cannot help but think that there couldn’t be anything else quite so perfect for this exact moment in time; the perfect end to the perfect quest.

You know what they say about all good things, don’t you?

In memory of George Cole

With Professor VJ Duke

Goodbye, Old Friend

There is silence in Old Hall, except for the sombre sound of the Professor’s sword clattering morosely as it falls to the flagstoned floor.

“Oh… Oh my…” mutters Junior Bursar, his face awash with pallid horror. “I mean, I didn’t quite mean to… oh goodness…”

For a second, I am bewildered and frozen, unable to breathe or move, my heart unable to beat at all. In a moment I am detached from myself, floating listlessly to the roof, buoyed by a dreadful sense of nausea and looking down on an ugly scene that unfolds in crippling slow-motion.

All at once, the present comes bursting back in a vast, crashing wave of consciousness; the taste of metal in my mouth and the deafening rush of blood through my ears as a great thundering in my breast brings me very much back to reality. A sound of whimpering comes to my ears from a source unknown. It takes yet another second to realise that it is coming from me.

“Professor!” I cry, running to where he lies prone on the floor. I fling myself upon him, holding back my frightened sobs but unable to prevent a determined tear from finding its way onto my cheek.

“Dadblameit! I’m vexed, you know!”

“Professor! Are you okay?”

“I really am very sorry…” Junior Bursar is shuffling contritely nearby.

Professor Duke sits up abruptly, flinging me to one side as he does so. His face is a vision of pure rage and his eyes burst with fury and the colours of a thousand stars. He fixes Junior Bursar with the coldest, darkest stare I believe I have ever witnessed. And that is saying something. If looks could kill, this would be nuclear war.

“LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE DONE!” the Professor roars, holding aloft an object that appears to have once been his top hat.

“My dear fellow, I really am…”

“MY HAT!!! IT’S…NO MORE! Well, it’s here, it’s just a shadow of it’s FORMER GLORY!”

Giving the Professor a quick once-over, it seems that the white suit remains immaculate and there is not a scrub nor a bump anywhere about his person. The only casualty appears to be his beloved topper. Whilst this is something quite clearly approaching a tragedy, I am certainly surprised by the almost harrowed remorse being displayed by Junior Bursar.

“Professor Duke – boundless apologies – it might be one thing to kill a man, but the desecration of his headgear is quite unforgivable. Might I..?” Junior Bursar reaches out to the mangled millinery but his hand is slapped smartly away.

“Don’t touch me!” the Professor snaps. “ I don’t want to end up like my hat, heathen! You have done quite enough damage already. Look at it! I have had this hat since I was a baby…”

“I didn’t mean it. I was aiming for your head.”

The Professor’s response is barely intelligible and probably would not be repeatable even if it was. Snarling and rabid, he launches himself at Junior Bursar, grappling at his throat and sending them both tumbling across the flagstones in a bundle of mortal combat.

For cripe’s sake. Here they go again. 

“Ho ho, what’s this? A fight! Bravo!”

I turn to see The Dean swaggering through the doors, followed by a peaky-looking, but nevertheless upright, Head Porter. I get to my feet and join them, the three of us watching the ensuing battle with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

“Is this about the Holy Grail?” asks Head Porter, scratching his head.

“No, this is about the Professor’s hat,” I reply. “Junior Bursar has destroyed it with a pole-axe, look.” I offer up the tattered remains as evidence. There is a collective sharp intake of breath and anguished expressions.

“Rum business, that” says The Dean, shaking his head. “No wonder the old chap is so angry. Go on, Dukey – give it some welly!”

“He really doesn’t need any encouragement, Sir” I reply. This is true. In fact, Professor Duke is getting worryingly close to causing the old fellow some serious damage. “You know, I think we should probably stop him.”

The Dean lets out an irritated sigh and looks generally disappointed.

“Well, I suppose you’re right, Deputy Head Porter” he huffs. “There is rather a lot of blood getting about the place. It’s a bugger to get out, you know, Head Of Housekeeping will be furious.”

The Dean and I tackle the Professor, who by this stage is a veritable pummeling machine. We grab an arm each and, with quite some difficulty, haul him away from a dazed and bloodied Junior Bursar who himself is dragged to his feet by Head Porter. Still growling and spitting, Professor Duke puts me in mind of Terry when I pull him off his latest kill. This is probably why I begin to absent-mindedly stoke his hair and offer soothing utterances. Surprisingly, this seems to work.

“Now see here, Junior Bursar,” says The Dean, approaching him slowly with the beadiest of looks in his eye. “I like a good rumpus as much as the next man. But you have completely savaged this man’s hat! That, old boy, is not only uncalled for but also ungentlemanly. Hardly befitting behaviour of a member of Old College.”

“Hmmm” is all Junior Bursar can offer in reply.

“Now, in order for the honour of Old College to be upheld, I see no option other than for you to take leave of this place immediately and at once resume your retirement in Tuscany. You can take your Grail with you and no more shall be said about that or the matter of the hat, agreed?”

“But.. the Grail..?” Head Porter whispers but is cut short by The Dean.

“He won that fair and square many a moon ago, it is not ours to take. Now,” The Dean turns back to Junior Bursar. “What say you, Fellow?”

“It would appear that it is the only recourse for all honours to remain intact,” Junior Bursar agrees, reluctantly. He says no more, but nods stiffly at each of us before turning away and placing his cuff carefully under his bleeding nose before walking away with slow, painful steps.

“Do you think he will keep his word?” Head Porter asks, once he has gone.

“Oh, I should think so,” replies The Dean, nodding vigorously. “He might be a murdering, Grail-stealing sociopath but he is a man of his word, without doubt.”

“My poor, dadblame hat,” the Professor mumbles, glumly turning the battered remnants over and over in his hands.

A thought strikes me.

“Do you know, I think I have an idea,” I say, tucking my arm in his and giving it a squeeze. “Come with me.”

***

Dusk has thrown her velvety shawl across the evening and the warm night air is sweet with the smell of night flowers as we stand at the edge of the excavation site in Apple Tree Court.

“Whatever are we doing here, Deputy Head Porter?” asks The Dean, no doubt keen to return to his whiskey and whatever remains of the wedding buffet.

“I thought that this would be a fitting resting place for the dear departed hat of Professor Duke,” I reply. “Down here lies the most ancient and important parts of Old College. These foundations have definitively sustained the very heart and soul of our esteemed establishment for centuries. I thought that if the hat were to be interred here, a little bit of the Professor would forever be part of it all.”

Professor Duke beams with delight.

“I’m thinking this is rather brilliant, the sudden,” he says. “I think we’re all glad, now, that my hat obviously feels no more pain. You know, I’m thinking it died immediately. Which is the best death to be had for a…warrior hat! Now, the fuzzy little brute will rest in peace—forever.” He gives his favoured headgear a final pat, before casting it gently into the exposed bowels of Old College. “Goodbye, old friend.”

“We can always go hat shopping tomorrow,” I say, soothingly. This does not go down well.

“I’m thinking it’s too soon,” the Professor whispers.

“I say, what’s going on over there?” remarks The Dean, pointing over towards the flowerbeds by the cloister. “That looks like Terry. Is he… digging?”

“He’s probably burying a poo,” I reply, helpfully.

“I bet not,” says the Professor. “ If he is it’s a strange way to go about that. He looks rather excitable about something. I think we should investigate…”

With Professor VJ Duke