Old College Archives – Members Only

The Lost Night

As Deputy Head Porter raised her whiskey-filled Arsenal mug to The Dean’s crystal tumbler with a celebratory clink, she quietly congratulated herself on handling the situation so delicately. Breaking the news to The Dean that the Lord Layton portrait was missing, presumed stolen, was no small undertaking. There had been the keenly anticipated, expletive-laden outburst, of course, but then The Dean was prone to those on the receipt of any unsolicited communication.

The excitement of last term had ignited something unprecedented within The Dean. Although bearing many of the hallmarks of an institutionalised academic, he was really nothing of the sort. His eccentricities come from his genius, which has garnered him international respect and adulation from his contemporaries in the unforgiving arena of the legal stratosphere. It is unsurprising that he gets so frustrated with the vexing nuances of College life. The opportunity to focus his mind on something more deserving of his intellect had been inspirational.

The news of another Old College mystery had, in fact, inspired a number of toasts, each one being more creative than the last. The first toast had been to ‘The Team’, which included Head Porter, Deputy Head Porter and The Dean himself. Deputy Head Porter then reminded him that they had left out Porter, so a further, revised, toast was implemented. A toast celebrating the general brilliance of Old College was made, swiftly followed by a solemn and sincere toast to the great Lord Layton and his marvellous portrait. That didn’t seem quite solemn enough, so a toast to the great Lord Layton and his marvellous work was offered up in recompense. They were very pleased with themselves following this and so were further inspired to toast, not only themselves, but The Queen, Jesus and Tottenham Hotspur (a special request from Deputy Head Porter).

There followed some minor contention from Deputy Head Porter about being forced to drink from an Arsenal mug, but a swift refilling of said receptacle soon moved the conversation in another direction.

“You know, Sir – there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” announced Deputy Head Porter, swaying a little and with the hint of a slur upon her lips.

“Is it… is it that I am brilliant?” The Dean replied, striking a heroic pose and holding his glass aloft.

Although, by now, Deputy Head Porter was heavily under the influence of Scottish nectar, she was not insensible enough to notice compliment bait when it was so theatrically presented to her.

“That, Sir, was one of the several things I was thinking of” she replied. “I have always wanted to tell you how brilliant you are and how much I love you,”

“I knew it!” boomed The Dean with glee “Now, tell me other things like that.”

Thrown off kilter for a moment, Deputy Head Porter had to rapidly call to mind other suitable accolades to lavish upon The Dean. Through the greasy alcoholic fog she conjured the least salacious thing she could muster.

“I have also always wanted to tell you how much I like your… hair?”

“Oh! Fabulous, yes indeed” said The Dean as he preened himself in what looked like it should have been a comedy fashion. Impossible to tell for sure, though. “What about my trousers? Do you like my trousers?”

The Dean’s array of colourful trousers was a much celebrated thing around College, none more so than by Deputy Head Porter herself.

“Your trousers, Sir, are…” She waved her arms vaguely, as if the word she was trying to catch was a butterfly, “Magnificent!”

“Magnificent!” bellowed The Dean “My trousers are magnificent!”

In honour of the great Scottish drink that was fuelling the evening, and Deputy Head Porter’s own Highland ancestry, a rousing chorus of the underappreciated ditty, ‘Donald Where’s Your Troosers?’ commenced and continued for rather longer than was decent.

When they had exhausted themselves and the whiskey, The Dean took to his desk and eventually produced an elderly looking bottle of crème de menthe. An evil-looking drink at the best of times, goodness knows the wisdom of partaking in such a refreshment after a bottle and a half of scotch. Having neither the capacity nor the desire to rinse their current drinking implements, The Dean and Deputy Head Porter chose to drink directly from the dusty yet ornate bottle.

“Come now my dear girl,” began The Dean, passing the alchemic vessel to his companion. “You didn’t come here to talk about my trousers, did you?”

Deputy Head Porter suppressed an un-ladylike belch that was bubbling in her throat and shook her head.

“No, Sir. I came here because you invited me. And to tell you about the Lord Layton.”

The Dean slowly cast his eyes towards the oak beamed ceiling in thought.

“Yes. But no, not that. The other thing. Before the singing.”

“Oh, that” replied Deputy Head Porter. “You have to promise you won’t breathe a word of this to anyone.”

The Dean clasped his right hand to his chest and screwed his eyes shut

“You have my word, as a gentleman” he garbled.

“It was just that… just… you know, I think I am wasting my life as Deputy Head Porter, you know? I had such hopes and dreams for myself, you know? I had a career, I had everything! And now I’m here. Shuffling keys and… and eating things. Sir – there is only one thing for it. You have to make me Head Porter!”

The Dean’s immediate reaction was not quite what Deputy Head Porter had been hoping for. He burst into deep, echoing laughter and slapped his thigh vigorously. Deputy Head Porter was a little put out, but unrepentant.

“I just think I am capable of more than being Head Porter’s whipping boy”

“Whipping girl” corrected The Dean.

“Whatever.”

“How much do you love me?”

“What?” Deputy Head Porter was suddenly shaken into something approaching sobriety.

“You said I had marvellous trousers and you loved me. How much?”

“Oh! Loads.”

“I love you loads too. You know what, Deputy Head Porter? You should be the Dean of College!” And he deftly scooped up his mortarboard from the desk and presented it, albeit rather shakily, to a stunned Deputy Head Porter.

For reasons best known to those choose to combine whiskey and crème de menthe, items of clothing were exchanged and new positions implemented. The Dean interpreted his new role as Deputy Head Porter as doing the exact opposite of what he was instructed. At first, Deputy Head Porter found this amusing. Eventually, when it came to the passing of the bottle, it became rather irritating.

As the newly-appointed Dean of College, Deputy Head Porter immediately ordered the execution of almost everyone. The actual Dean delighted in this and, bowler hat wedged uncomfortably on his head, agreed to carry out every assignation by his own fair hand.

Sometime soon after, The Dean and Deputy Head Porter found their way to the armchair and the settee respectively. It had been a long night and starlight had given way to the very beginnings of dusk. Unconsciousness was the only logical conclusion, but not before a solemn pact was sworn never to speak of these revelations again. Particularly to other members of The Committee For The Prevention Of Drunken Behaviour.

An Uninvited Guest

This post was first published in November 2013, but was taken down in March 2014 following some rather sensationalist headlines, which some of you may remember. Although I rather enjoyed my brief moment of ‘fame’ as a ‘leather-clad’ former Deputy Head Porter, the University were not happy at all about the salacious stories of sex and drugs in College appearing in the press. Personally, I do not think that this post is offensive in the slightest and the upset over extra small condoms was most unwarranted. But make up your own minds.

I am so fed up with having my meals interrupted. If eating is such an important part of College life, why do crises always happen at mealtimes?

Today, it is the Full English that will lie sadly uneaten on its plate. Junior Bursar, the constant factor in my mealtime disruption, is bearing down on me, incident book in hand.

“A student in Old Court was caught smoking in his room in the early hours of this morning,” Junior Bursar smells of fried eggs and black pudding. “The substance he was suspected of smoking is cannabis!”

Well, I suppose that smoking cannabis is actually against the law. More importantly, it seems, it is also against College policy. The problem with College policy being law is that it only operates during office hours (this is something that strikes me as in need of reform). When the offence was committed, College Justice was safely tucked up in bed. In the cold light of day, the scene is cold but justice must be seen to be done. Head Porter and I are to conduct a search of the student’s bedroom.

Now, any sensible person caught smoking cannabis in the wee small hours has plenty of time to dispose of the evidence before The Fellowship roll up. Even an insensible person would probably have smoked their stash by now, anyway. Still, I am rolling up my sleeves and putting on latex gloves stolen from the first aid box.

Mercifully, Head Porter agrees to search the bedroom / bathroom area, leaving me to search the living / study area. Although I have been up to my elbows in far more hideous scenes than this, somehow sorting through a teenager’s boxers and toiletries is unthinkable.

I focus on the task in hand. My search technique is methodical and thorough. I am naturally nosey and have always loved sorting through the mundane personal effects of others. In past times is has made me feel so much better about myself. As I sifted through the grubby personal effects of suspected drug dealers on their filthy bare floors, I would feel so lucky that life had not led me down that path. This gives me almost the same feeling, but in such a different way.

The student in question (a 19 year old white male with the obligatory floppy blond fringe, retreating jaw line and over-fed mid-drift) is studying politics. He writes neatly, but ineffectually. He banks with Coutts. He is ashamed of his sexual conquests. How to I know all this? I’ve read his essays. I’ve seen his cheque book. I have found his secret stash of used condoms and their wrappers! I shudder to think what he will eventually grow into. The over-pampered educated classes of our society are a real worry.

So obviously, I find no cannabis. What I do find is even more shocking (to Junior Bursar). Another item banned by College legislation.

It is badly hidden under a discarded coat. The main giveaway is the tell-tale squeak of the wheel. I discard the coat to reveal the expected hamster cage. I realise that the hamster is suspected of no offence, so therefore I really shouldn’t search his house. Then again, It’s only a bloody hamster so why not?

The hamster is not concealing a consignment of drugs. However, it is still an illegal immigrant in itself. Seeing an opportunity, I usher out Junior Bursar with the promise of dealing with this incident. The student is clearly a good friend of Mary Jane, judging by the stack of king size silver Rizla I find in his room. Then again, kids will be kids and the student is obviously a posh boy away from home for the first time. Easily sorted.

Junior Bursar returns to his office and Head Porter returns to the Lodge. I wait in the room for the arrival of the student. He arrives back soon after the departures of my superiors. He doesn’t seem that alarmed to see me. While we were conducting the search, he was being read his rights by the Senor Tutor. He is just praying that the College don’t call his parents.

As he walks through the door I am sitting at his easy chair near the desk. I introduce myself. He asks if we found any drugs in his room. Like he needed to ask. I tell him that we didn’t. I tell him what we did find. The look on his face is priceless. Then I tell him about the hamster.

“What’s his name?” I ask “What’s the hamster’s name?”

“His name is Murray” the student replies, already on the back foot.

“Murray? Nice name for a hamster” If I had an over-sized cigar I would have taken a drag. “You know pets are banned, right?”

“umm, well, I don’t really know…”

“Well they are. If you don’t want Murray passed into the custody of The Master’s cat I suggest you find somewhere outside of College to smoke your weed.” I take a breath and look into his eyes. Cocky little bastard. “I’m serious. If I hear your name in College again I’m feeding Murray to the fucking cat. Stay out of the Porters’ way.”

With that, I stride from the easy chair and out the room, never letting my gaze leave that of the student. I know it, he knows it. For both of the incidents of copulation he has engaged in since the start of term, he has used extra small condoms. Killing Murray is one thing, destroying his opportunity of sexual gratification for his entire student life is quite another. I feel confident he will pose no further problems.

Senior Tutor’s Secret Hobby?

Porter was right, as usual. Things seem to be back to normal. Head Porter looks at me with little hurt eyes but I pay no attention. I hope he is not expecting an apology.

This afternoon, I have yet another meeting to attend to. Something to do with maintenance works during the Easter break. Realising I have left my notes in my car, I decide to make my route to The Desiderius Room by way of the car park.

As I make my way to my (badly) parked vehicle, I spy The Dean’s car. The driver’s door is open. As I draw nearer, I see The Dean lunging out of the driver’s seat in the most ungainly fashion. I also notice that The Dean is swearing profusely.

“Deputy Head Porter! Deputy Head Porter! Don’t…go…anywhere!” he squeals. Good Lord, I think, my pace quickening towards him the man is having some kind of seizure!

“Hold on, Sir!” I reply, running to his aid. The Dean leaps from his car and stops me in my tracks.

“Good. I’m glad you’re here,” I’m glad you’re not having a seizure. “My dashboard is showing a fault, I am trying to see if I have a brake light out.” Interesting method of checking a brake light. I thought reversing up to the nearest wall was the usual method, but this man has a PhD so I decide not to question his logic.

“Very good, Sir,” I say, very happy that my day just got easier. “You get back in the car and I will check the lights.”

The Dean hops back in his car and I position myself at the rear of his vehicle.

“It’s the driver’s side brake light, Sir!” I call to him when the little red light refuses to illuminate.

“What? Which one?”

“Driver’s side, Sir!” The Dean hops back out of the car and joins me at the inauspicious location of the back of his car.

“Which one?” he asks again. This is proving more difficult than I first thought. I place my hand over the left hand brake light.

“This one is working,” I explain carefully, before moving my hand to the right side. “This one is not.”

“Bugger bugger bugger,” The Dean curses, albeit far more politely than earlier. “So damned inconvenient! Bugger, bugger!”

“Bugger indeed, Sir.”

“Right! That will be all, Deputy Head Porter”

“Very good, Sir.”

With that, The Dean angrily returns to his vehicle. As I am collecting my notes from my car, he spins his car round and drives ferociously towards the exit. I can’t help but think The Dean is brilliant when he is annoyed. Which is often.

Still chuckling to myself, I continue to The Desiderius Room, notes in hand. As I cross the bridge, the whoops and cries of (very) amateur punters enjoying the river bounce off the walls of The Master’s Lodge and into the crisp spring air. I really must find the time to get out on the river.

The meeting today is being chaired by Junior Bursar and Senior Tutor. There is tea and coffee, but no biscuits. This is probably a good thing, following the fiasco of Senior Bursar’s Biscuits. The meeting is routine enough, until Head Of Maintenance starts talking about the new WiFi installation in the older part of College. Senior Tutor puts down his tea.

“How far does the WiFi extend beyond the actual building?” he asks. Before Head Of Maintenance can reply, Junior Bursar turns to Senior Tutor with an uncharacteristic glint of mischief in his eye.

“About six feet!” He exclaims “Why? Do you want to sit in the car park and download porn?”

There is a split second of shocked silence before Junior Bursar erupts into guttural laughter, shortly followed by my own involuntary giggling. Senior Tutor just looks at Junior Bursar in amusement and disbelief. The likelihood of Senior Tutor downloading pornography in the car park of Old College is negligible. Either way, I’m not one to judge.

As I make my way back towards the Porters’ Lodge, I question the challenge of my own professionalism when Junior Bursar sees fit to make jokes about porn in a formal meeting. I cannot wait to see the look on Head Porter’s face when I tell him about this.