sex

No Sex Please, We’re British

The world of PorterGirl is famous for its stiff upper lip but there is a distinct lack of stiffness of a more salubrious nature and one would be forgiven for thinking that everyone at Old College is dead from the waist down. That’s not to say that there aren’t amorous stirrings among the academic elite and their contemporaries, so let us take a moment to learn a little more about the Lotharios of The City’s most notorious seat of learning…

Head Porter

An unlikely romantic lead, certainly, but our own dear Head Porter occasionally finds himself the object of the affections of tourists and visitors to Old College. In First Lady of the Keys we learn that he has an estranged daughter from a previous failed marriage, the details of which remain a mystery. In the forthcoming adventure, Sinister Dexter, Head Porter explores the potential of his improbable appeal to the opposite sex, landing him in perilous circumstances with some very unsavoury characters.

Professor Horatio Fox

The dashing American is the twinkly-eyed charmer who catches the eye of Deputy Head Porter the moment he sets foot in Old College. His wit is almost as sharp as his suit and his fedora and irrepressible sense of adventure make him irresistible to our bowler-hatted heroine. Although no physical manifestation of desire is ever realised, it’s clear he is quite taken with her also and Deputy Head Porter finally reveals the extent of her devotion by asking him to call her by her actual name. Such a flagrant diversion from convention says more than the removal of clothing ever can.

The Dean

When one thinks of The Dean, flirtations are not the first thing that springs to mind. However, in The Vanishing Lord, he declares himself the undisputed Best Looking Chap In College – a fact that remains undisputed, but perhaps because dispute with The Dean is generally believed to be bad for the health of all concerned. He embarked upon a fake affair with Deputy Head Porter and there is also a question mark over one night spent drinking in his rooms with her. She was too drunk to remember the details and he is too much of a gentleman to elaborate, but there is suggestion that perhaps an ill-advised liaison took place. The chances are, we will never know for sure – and perhaps that is for the best.

Hugh from The Unlikely Law Association

Hugh is the mild-mannered rake in The Vanishing Lord, what he lacks in brains he more than makes up for in charm. Although Deputy Head Porter has no untoward intentions towards him, she is very admiring of several of his physical attributes – including a very sturdy set of thighs that are occasionally revealed by small blue running shorts, and a fine pair of forearms that particularly catch her eye. His golden good looks do not go unnoticed by other members of College, with both Head Porter and The Dean expressing thinly-veiled jealousy of the dim-witted Adonis.

Porter

You would think that a greying, grumpy old man with an obstreperous moustache would be the last person to embark upon passionate endeavours, but to the great surprise of everyone he is the most successful of the Old College Romeos. A blossoming romance with Detective Sergeant Kirby emerged during the case of the missing painting in The Vanishing Lord and shows no signs of abating. No doubt The Dean disapproves of this fraternisation, but Head Porter and Deputy Head Porter are quietly pleased for their curmudgeony colleague.

Humphrey Babthorp

The original Old College Porter, whose handwritten diary is discovered by Deputy Head Porter in The Vanishing Lord. It seems that in 1448, Old College was a veritable hotbed of romantic interludes and Humphrey describes in some detail the illicit romps he enjoyed in the kitchens with a very obliging maid. Deputy Head Porter will never look at bacon in quite the same way again.

And there’s more…

Third PorterGirl novel Sinister Dexter brings further opportunities for repressed hanky-panky and with it some new academic playboys…

Hershel

The wayward student from First Lady of the Keys returns for the new term with a heart swollen with desire for his fellow student, the prim and proper Penelope. He finds an eager confidante in Deputy Head Porter, who does her best to smooth the path of true love. The mood is somewhat dampened by a spate of unusual deaths, but I doubt that will stand in the way of a red-blooded young man with one thing on his mind.

Professor Palmer

A new academic year brings a new arrival – the internationally renowned economist and notorious ladies’ man Professor Palmer. Tall, suave and self-assured, the Professor has his eye set firmly on The Dean’s job… and anything vaguely female with a pulse. Even the unassailable Head of Housekeeping finds herself weakening at the knees, but will he add Deputy Head Porter to his ever-growing list of conquests?

Detective Chief Inspector Thompson

Not a Lothario, exactly, rather an unimpressed observer. With even members of his own staff under the influence of Cupid’s arrow, he is horrified that the mounting body count at both Old College and fierce rivals Hawkins is secondary to the complex personal scenarios of the academic elite. Which, as a University man himself, really shouldn’t come as so much of a surprise.

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Medieval Rumpy-Pumpy

PorterGirl gets its first ever sex scene!

Don’t worry, we aren’t about to witness Head Porter wearing nothing but his sock suspenders, getting up to mischief with a wayward Bedder. The staff of Old College are notoriously uptight when it comes to matters below the waist. But original Old College keeper of keys, Humphrey Babthorp, proves by way of his secret diary that Porters were not always quite so averse to a little bit of how’s-your-father, in this excerpt from up-coming PorterGirl novel, The Vanishing Lord

(Mum, don’t read this. I’ll only have to explain it to you later anyway.)

 

12th December 1448

Never didst I think that I would owe so much to the wayward wick of a candlestick maker! Whenst I first did first findeth him in mine bed with mine bedswerver of a lady Lettice – o! Did mine heart break. But sincetimes as the good Maud Carneby from the kitchens led me astray upon the chopping table I tell thee that forsooth I have not been happier. Only this morrow whenst I did visit the kitchens to check upon the catches and latches, I did findeth her in the all-together, sprawled like a prime cut of brisket upon the sideboard with legs a-pointing to the east and west and a clear invitation to make a journey down south. There was much of a-giggling and a-squirming as I took close council with her lady-bacon and her plentiful dumplings did shudder allways in the tumult. They are more than a handful for any man, I tellst thee, but I have two hands and a determined disposition which served me well in such circumstances. Maud is of the demanding type of womenfolk that likes her meat well roasted so I did no more than to place her on my spit like a suckling boar and roast away across the tabletop until her squeals and shouting made sound as such would waketh the dead. Why, it would not surprise me if poor Ralph Eels hisself was woken from the afterlife by her calamitous roarings. I did not stop with the roasting until she was basted good and proper – inside and out! I never did see to the catches and latches and I didst find mineself in need of creative falsehoods when Gunby didst ask me about them. The good Lord doest not look kindly on those that forswear with their tongues but there is truth in the matter that my tongue was put to good use and I didst give other things a seeing to, if not the catches and latches…

 

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Finnegans Wake: Book 2.2

This is an absolute bugger of a chapter, I don’t mind telling you. We are faced with the usual soundscape of narrative that we have come to expect, but it is further complicated by equally baffling margin and footnotes by three different narrators and also some fairly complicated-sounding mathematics. The maths might be straightforward, to be fair, but the combination of Joyce’s style and my abject failure to grasp anything numerate prevents me from being anything other than baffled. Nevertheless, I shall do my best.

The narrative appears to be laid out like an exercise or study book, with the main body of text supported by notes:

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I believe the margin notes to be made by Shem and Shaun, who are here known predominantly as Kev and Dolph. I can’t tell whose notes are whose but the righthand ones seem to be taking things much more seriously than the lefthand. The footnotes appearing at the bottom of the page are written by a girl, possibly called Isa, who is a sister or close relative of the two boys. If any of these notes actually relate to the main text, I’m buggered if I can see how.

It seems to follow on from the last chapter and the children have come in from playing and are soon to have tea. In the meantime they are studying a range of subjects including history, science, astronomy, grammar, geography and geometry (more about that later). At the same time they are discussing their father – Here Comes Everybody – running the pub and the drunks he serves. There is some feeling that his regulars are turning against him following the rumours of what happened in the park. There are references to Alice In Wonderland, and dreams and sleep are also talked about, particularly relating to Anna Livia Plurabelle:

‘For as Anna was at the beginning lives again yet and will return after great deap sleap rerising…’

Eggs and the now-legendary Biddy the hen are a popular topic also.

The boys are focused on the importance of finding truth and answers (both in their studies here and life in general) whilst Isa muses about love and young men. There is an epic footnote (which could almost be a chapter in itself) which begins with her proclaiming a love of words and literature, but quickly becomes a surprisingly frank account of her sexual fantasies and an angry, graphic demand for her virginity to be taken in quite a specific way. I find this disturbing not only because the age of Isa is ambiguous, but towards the end of the rant, we are very much given the impression that the man to which she is making the demand is none other than her father, HCE.

At various points, pub worker Kate Strong (Tip!) pops up to defend HCE and also castigate the twelve customers who seem to be perpetually drinking in the bar. Ships and sailors are once again touched upon (at one point we seem to be simultaneously on both a ship and a pub crawl) and there are references to the earlier parts of the story involving the park and ALP’s letter.

Eventually, Shaun and Isa take to berating Shem over his lack of intellectual prowess. Shaun decides to teach him something, urging him to get out his compasses. I think then Shaun begins the lesson, which goes on for ages and is written in derivatives of English, French and Latin. I recognise mathematical terms but really I have no idea what is going on here at all. The upshot of all this is that Shem finally draws a diagram, which Shaun and Isa deem to be a picture of ALP’s lady parts.

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Yep. Clearly a fou-fou.

I get their point, but one would have to have a particular type of mind to arrive at that as a conclusion. Anyway. There follows much talk about the qualities of the feminine intimates and the diagram is admired enthusiastically. It is suggested that it represents ALP herself; her character and history – and maybe women in general. The boys conclude that in the end, sex and love come to nothing and that the sin is worse than the sinner.

Shem gets angry that he has been tricked into drawing a vagina and strikes Shaun, who responds by taking nearly two pages to compliment him on his punch. They then all drink a pint of Jamesons and praise Biddy’s hair. All three return to their homework where they have to write an inordinate amount of essays, which have the kind of outlandish titles you might expect. The chapter ends with them writing a ‘Night Letter’ to their parents and the patrons of the pub. What they are trying to say, I wouldn’t like to presume but it comes across as a sort of threat.

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Thoughts

This is a horrific delight of Joycean contradiction, with some of the most beautiful and humorous prose in the book so far. There are numerous sections of Wonderland-esque imagery which are truly stunning. However, the darker side of this chapter cannot be ignored and Isa’s epic footnote in particular is somewhat disturbing. Let’s give Joyce the benefit of the doubt and assume that the youngsters are in their mid to late teens, in which case discussions about sex would be expected (although not quite so graphically among siblings, in my experience. But that’s just me). Isa’s carnal desires are incredibly violent for a young woman and her intention for her father to take her virginity in such a manner is uncomfortable reading.

The placing of these salacious revelations I believe is significant; the footnote is of epic proportions and in very small writing, which may put off many readers from investigating it properly. It is almost as if Joyce is indulging in a kind of confessional that he is partially trying to hide. The religious figures in the book are often portrayed as being deviants and some of the previous references to the possible rape are a little unpalatable to a modern reader. I am no psychologist but this chapter left me with the impression that Joyce harboured some very dark desires that for some reason he felt compelled to share.

Favourite Lines

‘Neither a soul to be saved nor a body to be kicked.’

Beautifully tragic.

‘… who wants to cheat the chocker’s got to learn to chew the cud.’

Conversation is to be encouraged.

‘There is comfortism in the knowledge that often hate on first hearing comes of love by second sight.’

For those who don’t believe in love at first sight, perhaps.