first lady

PorterGirl: First Lady Of The Keys


Ladies, gentleman and wee beasties – excellent news! PorterGirl: First Lady Of The Keys is now available for your enjoyment in paperback, as well as ebook format (click above!) Whilst you take a moment to gather yourselves following this thrilling revelation, I shall tell you about a post I have had sitting in my drafts folder for quite sometime. It has the working title of ‘Forgetting The Truth’ and is a very honest missive about what really happened during my brief (yet eventful) time as Deputy Head Porter at one of Cambridge’s foremost Colleges. I am not sure that I ever intend to publish it, but I feel it had to be written nonetheless.

I have always maintained that I would not personally name that illustrious institution (although its identity has been widely revealed on other platforms – the College’s own Wikipedia page, for starters), nor would I betray the finer details of life inside those ancient walls. This is all sounds dreadfully magnanimous and worthy, but is proving something of a stumbling block now that I come to handling the dreaded promotion of the book. I have turned down a couple of TV interviews now, as the focus of both was to fall firmly in the camp of revealing all about the real Old College. Needless to say, the publisher is none too pleased.

Having fallen foul of the press once or twice before (the notorious Putin interview still makes me wince), I am naturally somewhat averse to speaking on the record with scurrilous scribblers and media types. Whilst my prose might make passable reading, in real life I am scatty, verbose and often unintentionally offensive – my internal editor applies almost exclusively to the written word, leaving my conversational manner colourful to say the least.

There is, perhaps, a ruse that might keep everyone happy. I thought that I might develop a sanitised version of my real College days, carefully practiced and light on scandal, to share with the hacks – enough to sound half interesting but not enough to be spun into something potentially lawsuit-inducing. If (and it’s a big ‘if’) I am to share the truth of the matter with the world, I would much prefer it to be by my own pen and with my own intentions made clear. In other words, I will probably be talking a lot of bollocks in the coming weeks and months. (The first person to say ‘no change there, then’ is going right over my knee for a bloody good spanking).

And as for the actual truth? I tell you what – I shall write it all down somewhere suitably sibylline, to be discovered soon after my no doubt dramatic death.

You see? I’m really getting the hang of this writer lark.

(Also buy my book)

Up Close & Personal: Head Porter

With his bowler hat perched resolutely and College tie worn askew beneath a collar so crisp you could cut glass with it, Head Porter is perhaps the most instantly recognisable figure in Old College. He likes to think that he rules the Porters’ Lodge with a rod of iron, but he is largely ignored by his indifferent staff. Deputy Head Porter’s arrival was the result of a devious plot of his own devising, his motives for which are indistinct at first. It quickly becomes apparent that this somewhat peevish gentleman has far more power within College than is good and proper, although without the intellect to wield it, this could prove to be his undoing.


Head Porter plays his cards very close to his chest in both his professional and personal life. Indeed, one might even think that the chap had no personal life at all, were it not for the unexpected arrival of a unknown young woman. However, men like Head Porter don’t just pop up out of the ground, and his disagreeable demeanour could perhaps find its origins in his formative years.

The young Head Porter was something of an inconvenience to his staunchly conservative  parents when he arrived, ten days late, on the bathroom floor of their humble but neat cottage in an all-but-forgotten village in Yorkshire. A perpetual disappointment to his merchant seaman father, there was little warmth either from his emotionally bankrupt mother, a woman cowed into cold sorrow by many unhappy years of marriage. This made for a lonely and somewhat confused child, who although not stupid was diffident towards education.


As soon as he was able, Head Porter left his bleak beginnings behind and headed out in search of bright lights and fortune. He got as far as a working men’s club in Ely, where he found employment and lodgings. Working his way from glass collector and pot washer and growing into a strapping young man to boot, Head Porter eventually found himself not only the proprietor of this unpretentious establishment but also unexpectedly eligible. Astonished and delighted at the sudden feminine attention, Head Porter decided it prudent to strike while he had the chance, and immediately married the flame-haired young tea lady from the bowls club. What happened next remains something of a mystery, although we know it did not end well. Old College bringing him into its illustrious bosom could be the best and worst of things to happen to him.

Head Porter is an unassumingly complex character, who is both a staunch pillar of authority and also something of a comedy sidekick. His relationship with Deputy Head Porter is multifarious and becomes more tangled with time, although the moments in which they do bond are sincere. When the need to work as a team becomes mortally important, they are both relieved to put aside the sniping in favour of saving their skins.


Paul Butterworth

The character of Head Porter has certainly evolved over time and now his dialogue and behaviour just pop up on the page without too much input from my good self. This is in no small part due to my great friend and talented actor and writer Paul Butterworth, who has helped me bring our favourite fusspot so brilliantly to life. I particularly like how his frequent attempts to deflect adventures and shenanigans are often swiftly followed by an enthusiastic and often inappropriate involvement, usually to the great annoyance of The Dean. Although I am fond of slaughtering my best-loved characters, our dear Head Porter is likely to be around for some while yet.




Up Close & Personal: Senior Bursar

The other half of the notorious Bursary department, Senior Bursar is something of an anomaly among The Fellowship at Old College. Although impeccably educated by way of Eton and The Other Place, Senior Bursar does not languish in academic titlery, being neither a Doctor nor Professor. Whereas Junior Bursar scaled scholarly heights from the humble beginnings of a local comprehensive, Senior Bursar mingled with the elite when he was still in short trousers.

That is not to say that his prestigious beginnings supplement his intellect – far from it. Armed with a double first in economics, the young Senior Bursar was itching to leave books behind and embark ferociously on making something of himself in the real world. Like any self-respecting young gentleman seeking his fortune, he headed to London with his sights firmly set on taking the Stock Market by storm. He spent most of the 80s in pinstripes and wine bars, steadily amassing a respectable fortune. Never one given to the vulgarity of excess, Senior Bursar eventually decided to make one final trade – that of the frenetic rollercoaster of city life for domestic bliss, in the shape of a charming ex-model-turned-philanthropist and two young sons swiftly after.

Now a family man, Senior Bursar sought employment that would offer both a vehicle for his great experience and intellectual prowess, and also allow him the freedom to be a husband and father. Inevitably, Old College found him and the rest is history.

A tall, powerful man, customarily swathed in tweeds of varying intensity, his cut-glass accent and booming voice quickly silenced any mutterings about his academic integrity. He has a particular penchant for biscuits and without doubt his pre-drinks reception drinks receptions are the absolute last word in refined debauchery. However, Senior Bursar seems to have less salubrious connections within the shadowy under-circles of Old College – which make him potentially a very dangerous man indeed.

The real Senior Bursar is a chap for whom I have tremendous respect. The quintessential English gentleman, he had a rare demeanour that balanced the sort of restrained gravitas one might expect, with a passionate intensity that occasionally erupted into quite unnerving outbursts. He would always apologise immediately and profusely for these often colourful disclosures, particularly to any nearby ladies who may have been caught in the backdraft. Undeniably brilliant, he held all around him to his own exacting high standards, but with a sense of fairness and decency that invariably left one with the intention of upping one’s game considerably. A remarkable fellow, without doubt.




Welcome to Old College… you’ll never leave…