Old College – A Visitor’s Guide

Old College – A Visitor’s Guide

Straddling the ancient river of one of Britain’s most venerable cities, Old College is among the most esteemed Colleges of The City University. Even those with a firm grasp of the complexities of higher education are likely to be baffled by the anachronistic nuances of the academic elite, a world mostly unseen by those not permitted passage beyond those hallowed walls. A little light reading is required by any wishing to ingratiate themselves into College life, but it is well worth keeping in mind that even veterans of scholarly society don’t really know what’s going on. A quick glance at this visitor’s guide will have you swanking around like an alumni in no time.


Ruled by a sort of benevolent autocracy, Colleges have at their head The Master of College. This role is usually taken by a person of great academic achievement and often also of high standing within society. The Master of Old College is both a professor of economics and a Lord of the Realm, which is fairly impressive. A somewhat sinister and distant figure, he spends a good deal of time abroad, avoiding his sex-mad, surgically enhanced wife who is sadly devoid of any notable talents beyond those bought and paid for in Harley Street.

Luckily, Old College is blessed with the formidable force of nature that is The Dean to keep things relatively on track in his absence. Previously an international lawyer with a dubious past in Kuala Lumpa, The Dean is fearless, tactless and prone to random violence. A handsome man in his mid-forties, Deputy Head Porter has held a candle for him since their first meeting. Fraternisation between The Fellowship and College Servants is not so much frowned upon as simply unthinkable, and his often frenzied approach to enforcing discipline and maintaining reputation make any union between them unlikely. He is ably assisted by the softly-spoken Senior Tutor, whose remarkable tolerance makes him perfect for dealing with students and Fellows alike.

The Fellowship

‘The Fellowship’ is a rather romantic title for the multifarious conglomerate of academics who make up the ruling body of College. Although there are some bone fide proper jobs performed by members of The Fellowship, a great deal of them seem to exist simply to occupy the dining halls and their only reason for being in College is that they haven’t anywhere else to go.

Keeping an eye on the vast sums of money passing in and out of College are The Bursars. Traditionally, one collects the money whilst the other spends it, although Old College is now down to one Bursar and even he is currently locked in a dungeon in a French chateaux.

Sitting firmly and distantly beneath The Fellowship we have the College servants. All the really important roles are covered by this somewhat pompous term – Housekeeping, Maintenance, Catering, Gardeners and, of course, the Porters.


Ensconced in the muted splendor of the Porters’ Lodge, the bowler-hatted jacks-of-all-trades are at the top of the humble servant pile. Although I am sure other departments might dispute that. The Porters, naturally, are not the carriers of bags but the keepers of keys. The role is so broad and varied it is difficult to encapsulate concisely. Always on hand (except when they are sneaking off for a smoke), Porters act as security, deliver the post and are called upon to deal with everything from lost property to broken hearts. But woe betide any who upset the Porters. Think of Porters as butlers with attitude.

lucy tiff queens for pops

Here I am, doing some actual Portering.


Housekeeping staff whose primary priority is keeping the student quarters from becoming biohazards. Bedders keep the College spick and span whilst accumulating some of the more salacious gossip, which makes them great allies of the Porters.

Formal Hall

By definition, Formal Halls are formal dinners often used for the entertainment of College guests. As such they are governed by certain guidelines, customs and rules set out to ensure all College members behave themselves. Failure to observe these guidelines may result in punishment up to and including death, or something far worse than that – being sent to see The Dean. Eating and drinking (especially drinking) is taken very seriously indeed by The Fellowship and they expect everyone to attribute a similar gravitas to the consumption of victuals. Formal Halls are held once a week in full term and are seen as a way of keeping your hand in for the Feasts and Balls that are a common part of College life.

The Other Place

Among the upper echelons of British society, there are only two Universities given any consideration. Their annual boat races are a long standing tradition and the contention between them goes back centuries. It is considered bad form to utter the name of your academic rivals, hence the University that is not your alma mater is automatically known as The Other Place.


Punting is a prerequisite of proper City life. The art of gently steering a flat-bottomed boat with a twelve foot pole along the urban waterways is one which must be mastered by anyone wanting to be taken really seriously in College. Here in the City, we always punt from the rear of the boat, whereas The Other Place adopts the rather undignified practice of dragging the boat through the water, punting from the front. Heathens.


Fairly frantic punting

(Bit random – but click here to see William Shatner punting in Cambridge)

This covers the basics of a complex and convoluted ‘organisation’ (I use the term loosely) that, despite ambiguous origins and esoteric arrangements, has managed to thrive for eight hundred years, becoming inordinately wealthy and more powerful than government or the church.  How the University wields its power is difficult to know, but how they maintain it can be easily observed. 

Welcome to Old College. You’ll never leave…


First Lady Of The Keys – preorder NOW!

Back To Work!

Secret Diary Of PorterGirl – The Un:Fairer Sex will return on Tuesday 12th January 2016!

Delightful news, I am sure you will agree – but in the meantime I need to make some progress with the bloody book. Plots and sub-plots are hanging together nicely and I’ve got character progression spilling out all over the place.

But there is a problem.

The publisher wants a love interest for Deputy Head Porter. (They also want a name for Deputy Head Porter, but that isn’t going to happen.)

It doesn’t have to be a grand romance and we won’t be straying into 50 Shades Of Old College territory (probably) but seeds of desire needs must be sown in this book with the intention that they flourish and bloom over the next two books.


As you can probably tell, I am not keen but these people know far better than me about such things and I am confident I can write it without turning the whole thing into a vile mush-fest.

But the question is who to fit the dubious honour of this role? Certainly not Head Porter – that relationship is already established and evolving it into a romance would destroy the dynamic.

The Dean would work as an unrequited love – as a member of The Fellowship he could never entertain relations with a College servant. But they have already had one fake affair, so maybe that would be pushing it.

Perhaps a new character is needed. They suggested a love-struck student, but that might be a bit creepy as even the Third Years are typically only 21 years old. A dashing lecturer was also punted as a potential suitor, which is perhaps a little more realistic.

Anyhoo, it has me completely stumped. Any suggestions, ideas and help would be very gratefully received and if I use your idea I will of course credit you in the novel!

In the meantime, I shall devise ways for my characters to die horribly. That I can manage without too much difficulty.

Christmas Special – Christmas Eve At Old College

Here is a classic PorterGirl post, read for you by my good self.

Thank you all so much for sharing the highs and lows of 2015 with me, Old College just wouldn’t be the same without you. This has been a special year for me as it has not only seen the publication of my first book, Secret Diary Of PorterGirl, but I am pleased to announce that I have just signed a three book publishing deal which means that the saga can continue unabated! None of this would have been possible without the amazing support that this blog has received and I love each and every one of you (some rather too much, it must be said. Ahem.)


I shall be back in the New Year to continue the epic tale of The Un:Fairer Sex.