The Bursars Strike Back

This post comes from my original blog, when I was still working at the College and anonymously documenting my adventures. It was swiftly deleted and never appeared on this blog, but has recently resurfaced during a clear-out of old files. The prose is a little clunkier than it might be these days, but I thought I would share it with you anyway…

It is Tuesday morning and the sun is shining. The unnecessarily cold and miserable spring has finally given way to an optimistic-looking semblance of early summer, which has cheered things up no end. I have just had a week’s leave and, although not desperately happy to be back at work, I am feeling rested and relaxed, not to mention a few pounds heavier. All is as it should be when the phone on my desk rings. It is an internal call.

“Good morning, Porters’ Lodge”

“Deputy Head Porter. Senior Bursar here. Would you come to my rooms immediately?” The tone in Senior Bursar’s voice tells me he is not a happy man. Not at all.

“Certainly, Sir” I reply, but the phone has already been put down.

Hmmm. Some how, I can’t see this ending brilliantly, but I can’t for the life of me think why. What could possibly have happened? I haven’t got time to think it over, I decide the best thing to do is to get there as quickly as possible. It shows willing, at least.

I pause to catch my breath at the door to Senior Bursar’s rooms. I make a vague attempt to smooth my hair… and knock, knock.

“Come in!” The dulcet tones of Senior Bursar come from beyond the door.

I walk uneasily into the room, to see Senior Bursar is joined by Junior Bursar and the friendly, quiet woman from Human Resources.

“Do take a pew,” Senior Bursar indicates a vacant spot on the sofa in front of him. This is not good.

Then, I see it. To my horror, I realise that the table between the two sofas is covered in print outs of computer screen shots. Of my anonymous online blog.


To cruelly add terror on top of the already pretty horrendous horror, I see that some excerpts are highlighted. They’ve had a bloody good read of it, then. Oh bugger, bloody bloody bugger. Suddenly, I can only think in expletives.

A strange calm comes over me as I practically stagger onto the sofa. Can they really be that cross with me? Oh god, of course they can. They are going to be absolutely furious, aren’t they? I don’t know why I am so calm. Maybe I’m having a stroke or something.

Senior Bursar speaks, but he is muffled to my ears. It is like hearing through water. This is a common side-effect of suddenly being thrown into intensely stressful or fearful situations. Tunnel vision is another, but that doesn’t seem to have kicked in yet. My hands and feet feel a bit numb.

Senior Bursar is proffering to me a selected print out. I take it and examine it, briefly toying with the idea of protesting innocence. Obviously, that would make matters far, far worse. I nod mutely before finally forcing out a word:


And then, “Yes.”

And finally, last and by many ways least – “Okay.” Pathetic.

I can see, from the many highlighted sections, that any pleas of ignorance would be met with evidence carefully extracted from my works. Parts where there could be no doubt that I had written it. I don’t think I can bear having edited highlights read to me by the very people I have portrayed. In another time, another place, I think I would have loved that, actually. Right here, right now, I am not enjoying it one bit. Neither, evidently, is Senior Bursar. Junior Bursar is giving off curious signals, however. It looks like he is smiling a little bit, but he could just be enjoying my obvious discomfort.

“Some of the characters here are very easily identifiable,” Senior Bursar tells me.

Well, they bloody well are now. The look on his face assures me he has spotted himself within the pages and he is not especially pleased with my depiction. I level out for a second now, I rack my brains but I struggle to think of anything particularly uncomplimentary in my portrayal of him. I must be missing a point.

Panic spreads through my brain as I wonder how many of The Fellowship have seen this. Will they feel the same fury as Senior Bursar? My mind is racing now – who did I write about?! What did I write?!

Then, the biggest penny in the world drops in a sudden epiphany of clarity and despair. He knows. He knows I ate his biscuits. Now, he knows.

I am in so much trouble.

“Yes, a lot of this is very familiar,” continues Senior Bursar “I distinctly remember of some these events myself. However, there is a particular passage which has annoyed – no – enraged, would you say, Junior Bursar?”

“Oh yes, he was enraged, certainly,” Junior Bursar happily confirms

“He was very annoyed – is this bit where you talk about Head Porter…”

“Oh yes,” Junior Bursar joins in, and rather too gleefully for my liking, “What was it? I like the bit where you said something about ‘he looked at me like I’d eaten his children’, or something?”

Senior Bursar adjusts his glasses on his strong, perfect nose, and proceeds to read demonstratively from a highlighted segment

“…Head Porter looks at me with the coldest, darkest look I have seen in a long time. I have looked into the eyes of murders, rapists and child abusers. But never have I felt the aggression and coldness I feel when I return the gaze of Head Porter… Now, I know you don’t actually call him a child abuser…”

“Oh come on,” I find my voice, but it is small and a little defeated. “You can’t think… look, I was drawing on experiences from my past and putting it in the context of this… it is a bit of a theme throughout the blog…”

“Okay, I realise that, but what you have written could be seen as very offensive. Head Porter was very upset by it and came to see us. Who else in the Porters’ Lodge knows about your blog?”

“No one,” I reply, which is true to the best of my knowledge.

“Have you any idea how he found out? Head Porter wouldn’t tell us.” So someone else must know. Someone must have tipped him off. But who?

I shake my head. I really don’t have any idea.

“This… this whole thing was just meant as a private thing, for my family and close friends, so I could share my experiences with them,”

Senior Bursar relents, a little.

“We realise that this is a parody, and is written predominantly for humour, but it has caused a great deal of upset for Head Porter. You now have a problem. We have a lot of changes coming up for the Lodge and a lot of work already ongoing. You have to able to work together. Deputy Head Porter, you need to sort this out.”

Oh yeah, right. I need to be able to work with a man who grasses me up to the Bursars the first chance he gets? This is someone who I need to punch in the face, not work with. And he clearly doesn’t want to work with me, either. He could have confronted me about what I had written, but he chose to inflict the most damage possible by opening up my literary adventures to two of the unwitting stars of the show. Still, I am the one in the wrong here, so pointing this out right now would not be the wisest manoeuvre.

There follows a conversation, of sorts, in which I realise I am not participating nearly enough. I try as best I can to explain my genuine affection for Old College, which is the very reason I write about it, but I feel it falls on deaf ears.

Senior Bursar concludes, “You need to consider the wisdom of continuing with your project in such a public forum, Deputy Head Porter”.

“I will remove it all as soon as possible,” I reply. At least they don’t actually demand I take the blog down. But I am pretty sure they will have another ‘conversation’ with me if I don’t. Well that’s that, then. Hang on, have I been sacked? I didn’t hear them say I had been sacked.

“Sort this out with Head Porter and that will be the end of it,” says Senior Bursar. I can’t believe it. Although, how the buggery I deal with Head Porter over this is anyone’s guess. I am sure I will think of something. I usually do.

“Well, that’s it, thank you,” Junior Bursar says, still sort of smiling. I get up to leave, but I don’t want to leave it like that. I don’t feel I have justified myself, quite.

“Look, I know it’s irrelevant,” I explain, my heart simultaneously in my mouth and on my sleeve (if that is even possible) “It was meant… it was written affectionately. I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t feel… strongly inspired…”

Senior Bursar looks decidedly unimpressed and unmoved. “Thank you, Deputy Head Porter.”

I walk back to the Lodge on legs of jelly. I feel a little hysterical, I think, as I keep giggling to myself. They’ve only bloody read it! Come on, didn’t some part of you want that – from the very first sentence? Apart from anything, it would make a brilliant blog post, wouldn’t it? Oh the irony…

Then, red-hot pangs of blind panic – He knows I ate the biscuits! Oh no, the things I said about The Dean… a moment of clarity, here. In reality, The Dean is a very down-to-earth chap with a fairly dry sense of humour. Actually, I think he revels in his reputation as a strong character of Old College and plays up to it a bit. He might see the funny side. Might. Probably won’t. Oh no! I said Dr J was fat! He won’t like that…

And then, the realisation that Head Porter will know exactly where I have been, and why. This is going to be a challenging afternoon, and no mistake. He will get his apology, as requested by The Bursars. But not right this minute. I need to think. There is far more to this than meets the eye. Got to think. Think!

I remember this incident well and at the time couldn’t believe that they hadn’t sacked me. I also struggled to understand why Head Porter had knifed me in the back in such a cowardly manner… but when I eventually found out who put him on to the blog, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised…

Sinister Dexter : The Chief Inspector Gains The Upper Hand

For you, my dear readers, a little snippet from the upcoming installment of PorterGirl – Sinister Dexter, where we welcome back a favourite from The Vanishing Lord, Detective Chief Inspector Thompson…

It never does to keep The Dean waiting, but I do take a moment to wash the cream and jam from my hands and face before leaving the Lodge. If he thinks we’ve been having cake without him, there could be trouble. The condition of my waistcoat is perturbing, but there is little I can do about that right now. I imagine I shall have to order a new one. Still. I doubt The Dean will notice such a thing.

Stepping out from the Porters’ Lodge, a chill wind nips at my ears. The only downside of the bowler hat is that it does little to protect the ears from the elements. I am given to thinking that perhaps a deerstalker might be better this time of year and would certainly be appropriate for investigating all the mysterious things that happen around here. Mind you, I doubt that the miserly purse strings of The Bursar would stretch to additional hats, considering his cost-cutting measures where essentials such as tea are concerned. And that’s another thing. Although I am grateful for the embezzled brew purloined by Hershel, the police really do drink substantially second-rate tea compared to that of the fine selection provided by Head of Catering. It’s given me wind. I can’t imagine it can be the cake. Cake can’t be blamed for anything.

The smallest of shudders tickles my spine, but it isn’t the cold. A familiar creeping oiliness puts my teeth on edge and I look around me. There he is, swaggering towards me with his rakish pearly grin and the icy blue eyes that never quite look you in the face.

“Professor Palmer, what an unexpected pleasure,” I say through gritted teeth. The Dean seems sure he has the means for revenge upon the vile creature so I had best maintain a pretence for now.

“Yes, Deputy Head Porter, I’m sure it must be! What are you doing out here all alone?”

“I’m on my way to see The Dean,” I reply, forcing a smile.

“Oh, The Dean, really?” Professor Palmer positions himself so close to me that I have to tip my head in order to avoid talking to his chest. “While you’re up there I don’t suppose you could measure up for curtains, could you? I’m thinking of going for a Regency theme, actually. You won’t recognise the place, Deputy Head Porter, it will be beautiful – very inviting and comfortable for discerning ladies such as yourself.”

“I like The Dean’s rooms quite as they are,” I reply, quickly tiring of diplomacy. “They serve very well for the business of being The Dean. They are not generally used for entertaining ladies, discerning or otherwise.”

“They will be when I get in there,” snorts Professor Palmer. “Besides, you seem to spend quite a bit of your time up there. I do hope this is something that will continue during my tenure? Keeping on the good side of The Dean of College can be very beneficial, as I’m sure you already know.”

“The Dean doesn’t really have a good side,” I point out. “I find it best to ignore his sides and simply maintain a safe distance.”

“You’re not wrong there, the man is stark staring bonkers! All this nonsense about Russian spies. You would think he had more important things to worry about.”
“What do you know about Russian spies?” I ask, narrowing an eye meaningfully.

“Enough to surmise that they are unlikely to be paying Old College much attention,” Professor Palmer smirks. “It’s no wonder The Master wants to find a replacement. The man’s a liability.”

“A liability maybe, but at least he has a proper degree.”

I wish I had been brave enough to say this but I cannot lay claim to such a riposte. It seems we have been joined by the stealth-like Detective Chief Inspector Thompson and he appears in no mood for Professor Palmer.

“Do you mind!” shrieks Professor Palmer. “I am a member of The Fellowship and you are merely a policeman. How rude!”

“I don’t mind at all,” replies the Chief Inspector, dry as a bone. “Being a policeman has all sorts of interesting benefits – being rude to people is one of them. I’ll thank you to run along, now, I want to speak to Deputy Head Porter.”

“You can quite clearly see that I am already speaking to Deputy Head Porter,” huffs the Professor. “Not that such social norms usually stop you, as I recall.”

“The young lady in The Albatross? Police business, Palmer. As is this, because, as you so cleverly pointed out, I am a policeman.”

“A likely story!” Professor Palmer squares up to the detective, who looks rather pleased about the matter. “Tell me, Chief Inspector, is it because you can’t find any female company of your own that you insist upon stealing mine?”

“It certainly says something about your company that I find them so very easy to steal,” DCI Thompson gives the Professor possibly the smuggest look I have ever seen in my life. And I have seen some pretty smug looks, let me tell you. “Come on Deputy Head Porter, walk with me.”

DCI Thompson strides past, his sturdy shoulder clipping the Professor’s as he does so. I trot along obediently behind, doing my best to keep up and giggling girlishly at the prospect of being ‘stolen’. But the Chief Inspector has little time for giggling. We head over the Bridge and into the cloisters of Old Court and find ourselves alone. I wait politely as DCI Thompson silently looks around the empty courtyard, taking in the stoic grandeur. The light of the day is beginning to fade but the frosted flagstones still find themselves able to twinkle in the dusk. Although the air is cold, there is a warmth of sorts in the courtyard that is difficult to explain. Old College doesn’t hold with the laws of nature, so perhaps it just isn’t in the mood for winter this evening.

“I can see why you stay here, Deputy Head Porter,” says the detective. “The place certainly has its charms.”

“It does rather get to you after a while,” I reply. “Also I really like the hat.”

“Is that why you left the police? Because they did away with proper hats?”

DCI Thompson is referring to a recent amendment to the uniform adopted by several forces, where the traditional hats of officers have been replaced by baseball caps. An absolute travesty, in my opinion, but something that occurred after my departure.

“Something like that, Sir.”

“I looked into your background, Deputy Head Porter. By all accounts your career seemed to be going rather well. What made you up sticks to The City and join Old College?”

Well. This is uncomfortable. 

“It’s a long story, Sir.”

“Just what is your story, Deputy Head Porter?” the Chief Inspector asks. “There’s something about you that doesn’t quite… fit.”

My story? Now there’s a question. Really, I could write a book. But here and now are neither the time nor the place. I’m expected by The Dean and discussing my personal life with a senior detective isn’t high on my list of priorities. I decide to distract the Chief Inspector with information regarding the investigation.

“I’ve been speaking to some of the students, Sir,” I say. “It seems that The Dean was right – there is an occult connection between the deceased. How relevant that is, I couldn’t say – although I’m sure you know more about it than I do.”

“I would hope that I do, Deputy Head Porter, I am the lead officer in the case after all!” the DCI laughs as he removes his pocket notebook from his jacket. “Nonetheless, thank you, this is certainly useful.”

“How are things going, in the investigation?” I ask, watching as DCI Thompson makes notes in his little book.

“Oh, I think I’ve gained the upper hand,” he replies. “I always do. Sooner or later.”

I can believe it.

The detective snaps shut the notebook and returns it to the jacket, turning to me with a concentrated frown. I’m sure he intends to ask me something awkward, but is thrown off course by the sudden eruption of the chorus of Sweet Home Alabama from his trouser pocket. I suspect that this is his personal – rather than work – phone and he scrabbles to answer it. I take the opportunity to escape to the relative safety of The Dean’s rooms while I can, making vague pointing gestures to indicate my departure. The Chief Inspector displays utter disinterest, throwing a cursory wave over his shoulder as I scuttle off along the cloister.

New Year. New Book

Welcome, friends – and enemies, what the heck – to the brand, spanking new year of Two Thousand and Eighteen! So far it is looking suspiciously like the last one, but a little bit wetter. No matter. It is that peculiar and mindlessly optimistic time of year when anything is possible and tantalising futures await, despite the fact that we have spent the last fortnight on the verge of alcoholism and none of our clothes fit any more. Except those fleecy penguin pyjamas with the stretchy waistband… (guess who’s been living in penguin pyjamas for a week…)

Anyway. You may be wondering why I am wearing only a bowler hat and College tie. There are two very good reasons for this. Number one – as I said, none of my clothes fit me at the moment. Number two – following an intensive period with no human contact and surviving exclusively on leftover sausage rolls and Ferrero Rocher, I have completed the latest in my Old College series, PorterGirl – Sinister Dexter. There is nothing that makes me feel quite like being in the nude than finishing a novel. Or more than three glasses of wine. But anyway.

I have been working on several things since PorterGirl – The Vanishing Lord came out in June 2017 so it was nice to get properly stuck in to the Old College world once more, the characters waiting patiently for me like old friends, as if I had never been away. Of course, we see the return of Head Porter – now leading a mysterious double life; The Dean, who is convinced that the Russian Secret Service are trying to take his job and our own, dear Deputy Head Porter, whose biggest concern is that the Lodge is down to the last three teabags and no one has seen hide nor hair of a biscuit in a week. The intrepid detectives return and we get to know a little bit more about the dashing Detective Chief Inspector Thompson, whilst The Fellowship welcome two new faces to their ranks – but just whose side are they on? There are dead bodies, a missing girl, interrupted breakfasts and sinister intentions from all sides. Welcome back to Old College!

First Lady Of The Keys – Amazon UK     Amazon US

The Vanishing Lord – Amazon UK     Amazon US


Further updates on the new book to follow, but in the meantime why not enjoy this rather marvellous portrait of my good self, by exceptionally talented artist Ted Giffin? Be sure to investigate his musical endeavours, too, the man is simply brilliant.

Toodle pip!