A Conversation with an Oxford Porter

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Yesterday, I had to move rooms to avoid an electrical maintenance problem in the building. They left a note in the room saying “Sorry for the inconvenience” – anything but! I was extremely relieved because my new lodgings were closer to the main buildings of the college. Rather than having to walk to the very outskirts of the campus to able to brush my teeth after breakfast, I had the comfort of automatic doors, a working lift (to use if I were to feel particularly full after a meal) and a corridor which smelt a little nicer.

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However, when I first arrived in my old room, I was intrigued to find one cuff link placed above my pin board like this:Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I thought it was a mini microscope or telescope! Turned out to be a cuff link with a cost of arms. I just assumed it was Worcester College coat of arms.

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I wanted to keep it as a little trinket or token of my stay, but i felt too guilty not handing it in. Turns out it’s from Magdalen, which means someone was staying in the room with a student from another college? Hmm… Interesting.

Anyway, I had to return my old key to the college porter obviously.

Porter: Hello, there! What’s your name?

Me: YeYe…

P: Ah, that’s rather funny; it’s as if it should be read backwards!

Me: Yes, it’s a bit funny. Really it’s a little girl’s name. It means “leaf leaf” in Chinese.

P: Oh really? To me it sort of sounds like a name for a panda, if you don’t mind me saying!

This made me smile.
I later told him that I was, coincidentally, a panda for Halloween this year. To which he replied:

Ah! Well, you’d make a smashing panda. Would you like a cuppa tea? Why don’t you take a seat [points to spinny chair behind porter lodge desk]?

Was this allowed? I had no idea! Nevertheless, I accepted a cup of peppermint tea and began a lovely conversation with the porter.Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I asked him rather trivial questions, ones along the lines of:

What is the most outrageous thing you have seen during your time as a porter?

He told me students of the college have these “traditions” or “things you just gotta do” when you study here:

  • Run across the main quad naked. Obviously walking on the grass is prohibited.
  • Swim in the lake.
  • Have sex in the lower library.
  • He admits that he has never witnessed the last ‘deed’ in his experience, but that the first two happen all the time. With a gaping mouth, I asked him what one would do if they spotted this happening one night.

    Well the thing is, what can you do? Some porters run after them, which is crazy. I mean what are you gonna do when you catch them? What can you grab onto?!

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    I enjoyed sitting behind the desk. It held a great amount of history; I felt it did anyway. I thought of the famous names who had brushed past this part of the college, who were probably not much older than me. The key cabinet was like a Mary Poppins bag: I swear the metal sheets holding the keys would fold out forever and ever. I said, wouldn’t it be an absolute disaster if the the entire cabinet fell down? What would you do?

    The antique keys for the outer gates were huge! But apparently as you go back each century, the keys from that era would be even larger. So this is apparently peanuts compared to 13th century ones.Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

    I was swivelling underneath what appeared to be the pigeon-holes of professors, graduates, other senior members and staff. I don’t quite know what to make of the loaf of bread in one of them…Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

    When got to about 08:30pm, I had to say goodbye otherwise I’d sleep on the swivelling chair. My first interview day had already exhausted me! He was very lovely, hoping for the best outcome of my application:

    Well, I hope you come to Worcester. Not that I should become attached to applicants! But I do hope things go well!


    Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos – Pre-interview relaxing/reflecting session with Michael Jackson, my notes and a pillow.

    Yesterday I did more than endure my first interview, I explored a bit of the city, met a friend for lunch, etc. There was also a ‘tea gathering’ for the applicants of the subject I was applying to do. This was a great opportunity to ask as many questions as possible, which I did in earnest. I couldn’t stand listening to the silence! (As you can imagine, the atmosphere is likely to be a little uncomfortable.) My questions naturally revolved around the music life at the college.Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
    When I heard myself speak, I could see in my peripheral vision what felt like a thousand human heads (about 14 in reality) turning suddenly to face me. Seriously scary. I’m very glad I attended the gathering because I was able to meet some lovely people!
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    Ashmolean Museum
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    Also, it is beyond freezing in this place. I have a substantial amount of free time at the moment but have enclosed myself in my bed away from the bitter cold. This photo by Christ Church pretty much sums it up. I look like a plank of wood.
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    I might head over soon to the JCR to meet some other people…

    Oh, I prithee be my college? I am already in love.


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