oxbridge

Up Close & Personal: Junior Bursar

The right hand man of Senior Bursar – who collects the money – Junior Bursar is the slightly sinister other half of the Bursary who has the happy job of spending the money. As the Fellow with the responsibility of overseeing the teams of College Servants, Junior Bursar always has a beady eye trained on the Porters’ Lodge, and on Head Porter in particular. Very little escapes his attention and  he takes especial delight in uncovering even the slightest wisp of misbehaviour.

Junior Bursar first came to Old College as a narrow-kneed undergraduate, with nothing but a keen mathematical mind and a ferocious appetite for academic excellence. His devotions to both Old College and his studies bought him entry to The Fellowship soon after completing his PhD, and proprietorship of the purse strings swiftly followed. Such an alacritous ascent may seem surprising in an institution such as Old College, but it is rumoured that Junior Bursar has ancestral underpinnings stretching right back to the very foundations of College itself – and Old College loves nothing more than its own illustrious heritage.

Junior Bursar is a slight man of advancing years, who exudes machiavellian malice from every pore. He seems to warm a little towards Deputy Head Porter, however he takes a stance of bemused spite towards her unlikely association with The Dean. Junior Bursar has long held an active dislike of Head Porter, which can be almost callous at times – although there are complex machinations behind this malevolence that make his attitude at least partly justified.

It’s not all bad news where our bothersome bean-counter is concerned, though. Junior Bursar is rather keen on a party and he steadfastly refuses to engage with The Committee For The Prevention Of Drunken Behaviour. One very much gets the impression that there is something of a mischievous side to Junior Bursar that he has become very adept at concealing.

Comparisons between Old College’s notorious Fellow and the real Junior Bursar are somewhat unfair. The real chap is certainly not of nefarious character, but every tale needs its villain and a Bursar seemed reasonable, somehow. I was rather fond of Junior Bursar and he was one of the few at College who was sad to see me leave; although what he makes of this literary aftermath I wouldn’t like to hazard assumption. One would hope that he is not too enraged. During my brief time as the worst Deputy Head Porter of all time, Junior Bursar was indeed kind to me and was graciously tolerant of my blind ignorance of College life. Although it is fair to say that he could be an awkward bugger at times, he at least had a never-ending supply of interesting errands and projects to keep me occupied. I do know that he has read a handful of the earliest blog posts and they did indeed arouse a smile from him on occasion. I am pretty chuffed about that.

 

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.

Hierarchy

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.

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.

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Here I am, doing some actual Portering.

Bedders

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

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.

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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…

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First Lady Of The Keys – preorder NOW!

First Lady Of The Keys – Available Now To Pre-Order!

It was bound to happen sooner or later and now, ladies and gentlemen, the time is upon us – time for some shameless and unabashed promotion of the new PorterGirl novel – First Lady Of The Keys.

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‘Porters are not the carriers of bags, they are the keepers of keys!’

As one of the most ancient and esteemed establishments of the academic elite, Old College is in for something of a shock when it appoints its very first female Deputy Head Porter.

She struggles to get to grips with this eccentric world, far removed from everyday life. PorterGirl, the proverbial square peg in the round hole, begins to wonder quite what she is doing here.

PorterGirl – First Lady Of The Keys is a touching, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, glimpse into a world that is usually reserved for the upper echelons of society.

Whether she is chasing after naked students, drinking copious amounts of tea or getting embroiled in quaint, polite murders, Deputy Head Porter is never far from adventure.

You can pre-order your very own copy from Amazon:

UK EDITION – click HERE

US EDITION – click HERE

So.. erm… yeah – buy my book. And such.