Thursday, 13 November 2008

The dear old provost of my dear old college

A recent thread on Mrs Pouncer's Counsel caused me to recall my Oxford days, when my college - let us veil its identity by calling it Christnose - was presided over genially by a provost of the old school (or more to the point, the old wine-cellar). Let us veil his identity by calling him Lord Fnord.

Anyway, Christnose had a reputation (before more recent, academically-inclined killjoy management decided it wanted 'results') of having more gaudies (college feast nights) than any other house in either of the two universities. Some time after midnight on one of these evenings Lord Fnord emerged from the Hall and wove his way gently towards the Provost's Lodgings, past the library. A thunderstorm was in progress, and as he passed the library a bolt of lightning struck one of the carved stone eagles which decorated the roof. It detached itself from the fabric of the building and plummeted into the lawn.

Fnord stared at it for a while, then concluded he'd better tell someone. Turning around with difficulty, he wobbled all the way to the porter's lodge and tapped on the glass to attract the night porter's attention.

"Good evening your grace."
"Th'librarary eagle. 'Sh flown off the roof. Whoosh!"
"Yes of course it has, sir. Shall I get someone to take you back to your lodgings?"
"Nonononono - y'don't undershtand. Eagle. On liberarary roof. 'Sh f***ing flown orff."

The conversation apparently went in circles for some time before His Lordship gave up and went off to sleep face down in a flower bed. He was vindicated on the morrow, however.


scarlet-blue said...

Did he have a tache... the provest? Sorry, what is a provest? Is it like a caretaker? Sorry provost... nearly did it again didn't I?
Things were always falling off my school roof - dustbins, religious education teachers... Roy Hattersley...[there was an incident]...

Gadjo Dilo said...

The story sounds wonderfully Evelyn Waugh, or Tom Sharpe, I'm not sure which! Gives me a feeble excuse to mention the bravest man I ever knew, my maths teacher, who also went to Christnose. His name was Mr Cockitt. And he decided to be a secondary skool maths teacher. Brave.

No Good Boyo said...

Of both universities? What, more riotous than Lampeter? I'm amazed.

I believe L'affaire Fnord became the basis for the excellent film "Night of the Eagle":

Wordver: vibirmi - Venetian dialect imperative, directed by lady of the house to her washing machine.

inkspot said...

You just can't get the quality these days. With the infantilization of British education your contemporary provost doesn't know how to drink.

Turing string: fozoidg. Feeble, in any language; a Turing string is meant to be difficult for a machine, easy for a human. Honestly. Change and degradation all around I see.

Mrs Pouncer said...

Change and DECAY IN all around I see.
Can't stop. Off to London.

Can Bass 1 said...

Are you sure that wasn't Cambridge, old boy? (Our memories do such funny things as we get older. For years I kept telling people I'd gone to King's! What fun!)

Kevin Musgrove said...

At least we know it wasn't St. Barabas, Moss Side. If we'd had a stone eagle it would have gone the way of the roof lead long before the first piss-up of the term.

Gyppo Byard said...

Scarlet - No, the provost was clean-shaven. And a provost is like a headmaster, but without the canings (except in certain specialised cases). In my day, becoming a provost was a sort of 'thanks for all the research' semi-retirement job for nice old buffers. These days, they tend to be well-connected, dynamic fundraisers (ack).

Gadjo - Christnose was definitely more 'Porterhouse Blue' than 'Brideshead Revisited'. And clearly I either haven't disguised its identity very well (or I accidentally revealed its true identity in a previous posting on your blog) if you can identify other people who went there.

Boyo - Oxford Polytechnic was more riotous than Lampeter. Always judge a university by the quality of the local wine merchants.

Mr Inkspot - Quite. A fact that I and some of my old college chums were bemoaning recently. We keep getting sent glossy brochures full of breathless excitement about Norrington Table (the Oxford inter-collegiate results league) placings and the number of scholarly articles published by the fellows. That's not the college we went to. In the late Victorian period, the college facing us across the road had an extra prayer in chapel which ran "From the gentlemen in the Back Quad at Christnose, Good Lord deliver us." The Back Quadsmen were famous for such riotous behaviour as dancing naked on the altar in chapel after particularly good dinners. And doubtless their shades would have gazed on disapprovingly at the comparative docility of my generation of Back Quaddies.

Mrs Pouncer - We wish to know about London. Soon.

Can Bass 1 - Completely sure! We had quads, not courts, and my hood is lined with red silk (this is an academic dress reference, for all those with dirty minds). I was however, a choral scholar - Dec Ten 1 in my case. We should get together and sing Tallis's "Loquebantur variis clavis" some time (old cathedral joke).

Mr Musgrove - I once attended and academic conference in Manchester at which we were warned not to leave the campus after dark. That rather put me off the place, for some odd reason.

Pearl said...

Good God, Django, I'm leaving comments everywhere and not making the least bit of sense.

It's 4:38 in the morning here, I've just gotten back from a party, I'm typing like I've had some sort of EPISODE and feeling like I could go on and on, which, I think, is a WONDERFUL feeling, don't you?


You're funny. I'm glad I've come across your site.

Carry on.


Gyppo Byard said...

Miss Pearl - it is a rare honour to have your fragrant presence grace my humble blog, even if you are tired and chemically invonvienced after a night of celebratory hedonism and stumbling in while lost. Do drop by again some time!

Gadjo Dilo said...

Gyppo, is wasn't a case of identifying other people who went there but simply of changing one syllable (though it was probably much more cleverly encoded than that and I've gone and got everything horribly wrong again).

Gyppo Byard said...

Sorry Gadjo - it was indeed slightly more subtle than that. I was not at Brasenose, though I took had with an amiably eccentric fellow there. Nor yet at Christ Church...

Gadjo Dilo said...

Oh, ok, then I'm stumped!

inkspot said...

Yes, Mrs P, you're right. Of course. Picky picky picky. But my version scans just as well.

Monsieur Byard, I know just what you mean about old colleges. Mine was dim, in a drunken hearty way; now it's just dim in a dim way. Which, come to think of it, was your point. Mind you, either way they're not getting my money; my time there was too uninteresting.

FFS, do something about your Turing strings. Thalind. I mean to say.