Posted in Oxford Odditites

When There’s An Actual Magical Building Down That Back Alley…

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For those of you who are familiar with Oxford, you may recognise this photo as the alley at the back of the Clarendon Shopping Centre.

For those of you whop aren’t familiar with Oxford, let’s just say that it’s an alley I’ve walked past just about every day for at least seven years. There’s dozens of alleys just like it in every town and city in England and very probably around the world; nicely built at one point, but long-since forgotten about while the front facade gets updated every decade or so.

It’s totally ordinary and unremarkable, I always thought.

You’d think by now – this being Oxford and all – I would know better!

Because the other evening I was walking past it – running late as always and keeping a dear friend waiting for dinner – when I suddenly noticed something…

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Why is there a stained glass window sandwiched there between the fire escape and the bike shed? I mean, I’m sure that there’s no wrong place to put a stained glass window and all, but it wouldn’t have been my first choice, I’ll tell you that!

And wait… Is… Is that…?

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Yes, that is indeed an angel looking back over its shoulder at us like it’s in The Office, apparently 1000% done with the sea serpent. Look at them! You can absolutely hear the exasperation in the angel’s voice, can’t you?
Sidney, I say, Sidney will you stop flashing your fangs around? No really, they’re completely unnecessary, old thing. The poor artist’s already struggling to get your whole body in frame what with all the coils, do you think you could just… not?

I mean, why not have an angel and a sea serpent in your windows, right?

Makes complete sense, that does.20190222_180317

Naturally, I had to investigate a little further…

Sure enough, over top of the skip (because of course it was over the skip!) there was another stained glass window! It’s a little unclear, I know, what with being so high up, but I think that’s St George, mercifully without his dragon up there:

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Yep, there he is! Valiant steed at the ready and everything!

Now, I know what you might be thinking: Cameron, why are we looking at this building? And fortunately, I do have an explanation which in turn explains so much about Oxford!

Because it has been my personal belief for some time now that there is a magical department hanging around somewhere in Oxford, even if I could never quite figure out where it might be. The Bodleian was too obvious, and besides, have you ever actually met an Oxford librarian? They are specially trained to take out a potential book-scribbler at a thousand paces! You even think about crumpling the pages and they will have your hide, never mind trying to do any magic around their books! Any of the museums are out for similar reasons, although one does also have to factor in the various Outreach activities to get kids into History they have going on: there’ll be no doing of magic while the PVA glue and glitter is right out, it doesn’t bear thinking about!

20190222_180429.jpgAnd at last! I have found it! It’s perfect! Right next door to a gardening and DIY shop too, which I’m sure will come very in handy for iron nails and oak wood and things. They probably have an extra room at the back with the cauldrons in…

After a bit more searching, I finally found the front door, and look! Definitive proof if I do say so myself!

I mean, if you were designing the head quarters of the Magical Faculty of Oxford University, what else would you stick over the door? Naturally it would be an owl!

Alright, so the sign next to the door says it’s the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, but that is just what you would say, isn’t it? What other crowd would be more at ease with magical undergraduates, huh? They’ll all have their cover stories at the ready; when they say that their DPhil topic is the correlation in accounts of dragons and witches in the 15th century, you’re not to know that either of these things really exist, are you?

I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is to have finally found confirmation of the Magic Faculty after all this time! And to have simply stumbled across it too! Mind you, isn’t that always the way it happens in the stories?

Coming to you next time with further wonders, miracles and mysteries of Oxford…

New to this blog? Check out some of my other series down here:

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Posted in Oxford Odditites

A New Series Is Coming…

Greetings Friends!

This is just a quick little note to say that there is a new series coming to this blog! Like all the others, it’s probably going to be a little bit intermittent, but there’ll be plenty of variety regardless!

The series is called ‘Odditites of Oxford’ – or ‘Oxford Oddities’ for short – and will be celebrating all the weird and wonderful quirks to be found when roaming around these strange streets.

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I once said somewhere on this blog (anyone who can find where and let me know in the comments gets a brownie point!) that living in Oxford is the closest you can come to living in a fantasy world, while still technically being a part of this reality. Nothing here makes sense and that’s a huge part of its charm.

So I’ve decided that this needs celebrating! Stand by for some random details that have been tucked away for the most intrepid of explorers, some quirks that are absolutely straight out of some book or other, and some interesting stories to match…

New to this blog? Check out some of my other series down here:

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Posted in Ghosts & Gowns, Short Stories

The Ghost in the Machine

It was said in the old days that evil spirits couldn’t walk the earth on Christmas Eve. I suppose that the coming of Jesus was such a holy time that no evil could stand it. Regardless, this gave rise to the tradition that Christmas Eve night was the time to tell your friends and family your very scariest ghost stories, and still go to bed safe in the knowledge that all the terrifying ghosts and ghouls you’d been talking about couldn’t get you this night.

Continue reading “The Ghost in the Machine”

Posted in Ghosts & Gowns, Short Stories

The Hero of the Hour, Part 2

Happy Halloween Everybody! In celebration of this spookiest day of the year, I thought it would be fun to publish the conclusion of The Hero of The Hour a whole day early! Don’t worry – there’ll be a post on Wednesday as usual, but I just couldn’t resist a chance to let our favourite ghost be the star of the day!

This story is the second of two parts; it will not make any sense without reading Part 1…

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Richards wasn’t sure if he was proud or insulted that the night-porter, Stephen-no-really-sir-call-me-Steve, appeared not in the least shocked to find the Master of the College striding back and forth in the chapel while lecturing on college history (with brief tangents in the general ecclesiastical trends and their efforts on socio-economic norms) to three bound and gagged young men.

“Interesting night for you, was it, Professor?”

Richards tried not to be too obviously embarrassed at being caught in such … unusual circumstances. He was suddenly aware that even by the standards of Devon College this was not a Normal Start to the Day.

Fortunately, the Stiff Upper Lip asserted itself, as it always ought to in Trying Situations.

“Ah, good morning Stephen! And how do you fare this dawn?”

Stephen-no-honestly-sir-please-call-me-Steve was still staring at Richards’ captive audience, but he was grinning as he responded that the dawn was especially picturesque today and that Richards would be pleased to know that the weather forecast was due to be fine and dry throughout the day.

“I’m sorry, Professor, but I really feel like we need to get back to the – ah – the visitors you seem to be entertaining?”

The poor man was giving every sign of a man who was not at all sure that he wanted the explanation, but the resignation in his tone was displaying fully their mutual knowledge that he was going to be asked for such an explanation very soon. He looked no happier when Richards provided the explanation, although they shared an instinctive feeling that it was Undoubtedly Best to attempt to get the matter cleared up before the senior fellows were up and about.

“I know, Stephen, that these may be the feelings of an old man, but I understand that the police-force is getting younger every year. There’s really no call to subject them to the Bursar before it is absolutely necessary. Some faith in humanity is doubtless an important aspect in young officers of the law?”

Stephen’s wife had been in the police force in the past, Richards’ recalled, and he hoped that this valuable experience would aid him in crafting whatever semblance of the night’s events would be socially acceptable…

*

The saying goes that the best-laid plans go often awry and sadly so it proved this morning.

It had begun smoothly enough; the Chaplain had been summoned and, when menacing Richards with an Outburst of Gratitude, was swiftly diverted onto providing the three would-be vandals with tea, biscuits and Encouraging Words. No harm’s been done after all, Horace, and I’m sure that these young men have simply lost the True Path. They just need someone to believe in them! I’ll just sit with them and have a nice chat…

Richards swiftly got out of sight as the police arrived, no reason to cause more awkward questions. Last time he saw the Chaplain, he’d pulled out the pamphlets. You almost had to feel sorry for the boys – this night was doubtless one they would long regret.

Richards tried very hard not to sigh from his perch on the chapel roof, when the Trunbridge and Farthingbury Fellows strolled nonchalantly into the quad, took one look at the uniformed officers leading Richards’ erstwhile new acquaintances out of the chapel, and all-but flew back into their shared office. He supposed it was too much to ask that the alarm might remain silent until it was all over?

Richards had the highest respect for the intellectual pursuits and talents of his colleagues, but sadly he was also well-aware of their ‘general life-skills’ as one of the summer helpers had called them. Sarah, the Bursar’s PA, would often say (in his hearing no less – she knew perfectly well that he had hidden from the Chaplain inside that cleaning cupboard!) that Richards was too hard on the Fellows. Their behaviour this morning proved his case beyond dispute.

“Sirs, I’m sorry to bother you with this, especially since there’s no question of this going to trial – the men have all admitted to breaking-and-entering. But they all agree that they were held prisoner by a ghost?”

The Detective-Sergeant was clearly eager to get the last of the questions over and done with. Stephen-no-sir-I-promise-you-everyone-calls-me-Steve had volunteered to assert that he had stumbled across the men on his rounds and had subdued them more by luck than skill (Richards’ had been impressed by the man’s humility, if not his honesty). The evidence had been plain, the culprits caught, there was surely little remaining, and yet…

“What?!” Three of the gathered academics cried, jumping like schoolboys caught with illicit cookies.

Richards groaned and buried his face in his hands, as the Bursar took it upon himself to gallantly make everything worse.

“What nonsense! The college has no ghosts on its staff!” At this point, the Bursar’s brain clearly attempted to regain control of his mouth for a brief shining instant. “Not that ghosts are real of course. Because they are not. Clearly the ravings of sleep-deprivation, I should say, poor chaps.” Before sadly his habitual inability to cease and desist while ahead broke through. “And even if ghosts were real, I make a point of not employing them in the college under any circumstances!”

Richards sighed and made a note to ask Sarah if she could find the Bursar a nice unaudited ledger, or some small change to count. Something to settle the poor man’s nerves after the ordeal of having to speak to people he could not bluster into submission…

“Yes sir,” and too his credit, the Sergeant’s face barely even twitched. If being faced with a flustered Bursar first-thing in the morning couldn’t shake the man, Richards really had no wish to envision what comprised his usual duty. “Sir, do you think we might be able to speak to the Master of the College before we leave?”

There was a long, horrified pause.

“No!” “Totally impossible!” “Utterly out of the question, terribly sorry-“

Dependably, the Bursar continued to Provide Assistance. “And not because the man’s a ghost of course! Because he isn’t!”

“He’s in meeting!” The Clevebury Fellow jumped in.

“He’s at a conference,” The Meterston Lecturer spoke at the same time.

“He’s not been feeling very well lately!” Everyone fell silent to look disparagingly at the Trunbridge Fellow; it seemed that imagination was not the poor chap’s strong point.

It was hardly surprising that the police were starting to look suspicious. Richards was thankful that acting was not a key requirement across academia; he would, on this showing, be left with an empty college…

The Bursar tried to salvage everything.

“But he is, with any shadow of a doubt, alive, wherever he is! You can rest assured on that count.”

Richards wondered if Margaret had a way to send anonymous tokens of gratitude to the police force of Oxford? Something to compensate them for dealing with his fellows like this. Not one single officer laughed and no one was arrested for insanity. He wasn’t sure if this said something of the generosity of their hearts or the poor impression of academics generally? Either way, he was going to have to Speak To his fellows Most Strongly about The Importance of Interacting with Society Properly. This was obviously well-overdue.

Just as the gathering had reached its peak of utter preposterousness, a cry came from the back like the rallying-call of a beleaguered army when rescued by angels.

“Margaret! You’re here!”

Richards watched as the police, the fellows and the staff all turned in perfect synchrony, like a field of sunflowers, towards their saviour, sent as if by prayer to redeem them from the pit of their own making. Richards was momentarily afraid that the Fernbury Fellow was about to propose marriage he looked so relieved to see salvation approaching in a woolly jumper and sensible mackintosh.

*

That Margaret did not turn on her sensible heel, duck past Stephen-even-my-wife-calls-me-Steve as he tried to usher her towards the disaster that was Devon’s fellows Interacting with Society faster, and walk straight back out of Devon College heading for the safety of home was yet another sign that she was a Treasure the likes of which whole wars had once been fought over.

She smiled politely at the officers in greeting, requested their patience for a few moments longer, soothed the fellows back to some semblance of sense and coherency before shooing them off to their breakfast, and even diverted the Bursar’s attention from causing further disaster by casually mentioning that the strong-room doubtless needed to be checked for signs of a forced entry.

One officer – younger than the rest and still overly keen – tried to explain that the porters had gone with the police already to check but had cowered under the sharp glare he had received over behind the Bursar’s back. Even his colleagues had shot him reproving looks at his near-scuppering of any scheme to send the overwrought man away with some busy-work.

At last, however the crowd had been disbursed with the calm authority of an empress in her own court and Margaret was free to favour the police with a benevolent smile.

“Now how may I help you, gentlemen? My understanding is that the matter is all but cleared up, is that not correct?”

“No, Ma’am, that’s correct,” the sergeant mumbled after being pushed forward by the others, “we only wanted to speak with the Master of the College, ma’am, before heading out.”

“Ah,” Margaret’s smile was so kindly that even Richards blushed and shuffled his feet. “I see now. Well, I’m terribly sorry, gentlemen but Professor Richards is away on a research trip this week, but I shall brief him on all that has occurred and I expect that you will receive a note of thanks in the next few days.”

Richards wondered idly if he was going to see this note he was writing before it was sent…

*

The sound of fluttering tweeds signalled the return of the Bursar as the last police car drove away.

“Margaret, you were wonderful!” Steady on, thought Richards, don’t go overboard there, Bursar, you can’t go around stealing my secretary just like that! He needn’t have worried though; the Bursar could always be relied upon to sink his own fleet. “I solemnly apologise for all those times I changed my papers for the Governing Body meetings the night before to make you re-do the photocopying.”

There was a considered pause, in which Richards silently promised himself that when Margaret killed the Bursar in the main quad, he would not stand for the man coming back to share his afterlife. No, not even if Sarah threatened to cry at him.

However Margaret only smiled fondly, as though the Bursar were a ridiculous but cherished nephew and patted his forearm gently.

“Yes well, Bursar, just so long as you try to refrain from such nonsense in the future.”

As the Bursar bustled off again, Margaret turned and, presumably with the magic powers she swore she didn’t have, looked directly at the invisible Richards. She said nothing and nothing needed to be said. Richards floated meekly to her side and shimmered back into view.

“I see that you have already accomplished impossible feats before breakfast, Professor.”

“Yes, Margaret.”

She smiled at him then, warm and fond and even (a little) respectful. “Well done, Professor.”

“Thank you, Margaret.”

They went into the office together. The day had only just started, after all.

Missed Part 1 of Hero of the Hour? Need to catch up? Follow the link here.

Posted in Ghosts & Gowns, Short Stories

The Hero of the Hour, Part 1

Author’s Note: I feel that for this story I should be extra clear that I know absolutely nothing about police procedure or breaking-and-entering, save for what I’ve read and seen in fiction. In case the ghost wandering around the story didn’t tip you off, this series has no basis whatsoever in fact, and isn’t based on any kind of real events!

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In the entirely confident opinion of Professor Horace Richards, one never really appreciated the true length of night-time until one had absolutely no ability to sleep through it. It was just the sort of thing, in his view, which doubtless caused so many members of the Spectral Community (should it exist, although Richards was leaning heavily in favour of this likelihood in the light of his own Situation) to resort to Childish Pranks and Irresponsible Nonsense.

Not that Richards could really comment. Why, only last week he had spent a Highly Enjoyable Time carefully moving all of the furniture in the SCR exactly one inch to the left. The number of bruised shins and scattered papers had kept him entertained for hours, along with the general concern of the Fellowship that they were collectively losing their grip on the reality as they had known it. Fortunately the Steward had found the experience just as entertaining as Richards, and though she had attempted to scold him, she had kindly not breathed a word of the matter to Margaret, who may have Had her Suspicions but had therefore been able to prove nothing!

Although Richards had thankfully not been banned from the libraries of the city, provided that he replace anything he used to its correct location, he had also taken up a habit of nightly Constitutional Walks, very healthy and whatnot for a conscientious Person of Alternative Health. It allowed him to really Come to Grips with the city which had been his home for over fifty years and yet was so often a mystery to him. It presented an opportunity to join, if only in a silent and intangible way, with the life and vitality of a population which was both so strange and so similar to that of the days of Horace Richards’ own student-years.

He had not cared for the Tone of the Bursar’s laughter when he had exposited on the Benefits of Regular Exercise for Spectral Persons to the Fellows over luncheon, but Margaret had assured him afterwards that the Bursar was likely suffering from envy at Richards’ dedication to the Appropriate Use of Free Time and New-Found Opportunities.

*

This evening, Richards was taking his Constitutional Exercise closer to home than usual. It had been a hectic week and he was glad to be on more familiar ground, not exploring new secrets in the dark. Devon College had been home for so long, at one time or another in his life, and the stones all but spoke to him as he floated around, of students and colleagues old and new, of balls and drinks and dinners, of fights and arguments and debates.

He was so caught up in the whisperings of the walls, Richards almost didn’t notice the opened window, until a stray breeze floated through it and ruffled his… whatever it was he was made of. Richards wasn’t thinking about it, and he certainly wasn’t going to let the FitzMatthew Medical Fellow take a look into the matter either!

He looked a bit closer. The window had certainly been forced open, now that one was looking. Richards was a Man of the World after all; he knew what a break-in looked like. Well! Now here was something different and exciting! After all, as the Master of the College and a Good Citizen, Richards would have to track down the Miscreants and See Justice Served!

He put his shoulders back and breathed deeply. Onwards to Glory!

*

After a short search, Richards came upon a small group of young men Advancing Purposefully through the shadows towards the Chapel. Aha! Richards took up the pursuit, silent and invisible – One couldn’t be Too Careful at his Time of Life after all!

As he drew nearer, he was able to make out the whispered conversation taking place.

“- know where the strong room is?”

“Well, no, not-“

“Exactly! But I’ve seen the Chaplain here, he’s got all this ‘Faith in Humanity’ stuff going on. He’ll never have the good stuff locked up. There’ll be something worth taking – and what the hell? Did anyone else feel that?”

“Feel what, Mike?”

“Like an icicle dripped on your spine?”

The silence Mike’s statement was met with suggested that his companions had not felt the icy blast of Richards’ cold rage, but that was of no matter so long as the focus of the rage was on the receiving end. How dare this- this- this brigand go around insulting the Reverend Lawrence Hargreaves?  Richards himself may have considered the Chaplain to be a touch … well, trusting would have been a moderate phrase if not untrue. But that certainly did not mean that other people were permitted to cast aspersions upon the Chaplain like this!

That settled it. As if the indignity of having one’s college ransacked were not enough, one thought of how Lawrence’s faith in humanity and the sanctity of his chapel being both broken in one thoughtless act was too much for Richards to take. Just because one’s heart had stopped did not mean that it was made of stone, after all! These young men would not be the ones to build the poor Chaplain back up again, to comfort him when his optimism was challenged, to (Richards shivered for a moment) share in cups of tea and provide Emotional Support. That lot would fall to Richards after all, as Master of the College he could not in Good Conscience shirk his duty.

The Chaplain had been nothing but kind to Richards since his death, and indeed had been nothing but universally caring towards any human or animal who so much as paused when in his eyesight and someone needed to step up and defend the man in return!

Richards watched as the lead figure bent, picking the lock with what, even to Richards’ amateur-eye, seemed to be expert ease. Richards was at least glad that experienced hands were trying to ransack his college. He wasn’t sure he could stand it if his college were being besieged by amateurs on a lucky break…

“Didn’t they have those candlesticks? In silver?”

Richards suppressed a snort and he followed them inside the vestry, and tried not to knock over the racks of vestments and other oddments the Chaplain insisted were necessary. The Bursar should be so lucky; solid silver candlesticks indeed…

“I dunno ‘bout no candlesticks, but I definitely saw a golden glass once.”

“A golden glass? Really?

No, Richards thought to himself, as his eye twitched in annoyance. Not really. He tried to think of what they might be referencing, coming up only with –

“Chalice.”

Everyone froze, Richards silently berating himself for losing his composure and speaking up at last, and the burglars presumably in response to a voice apparently coming from nowhere.

Richards had no sympathy.

“Stan, was that you?”

“No. Hey, what’s a chalice, Bob?”

“I dunno, do I?”

Still irate and invisible, Richards decided that covert operations were for people with pulses and blithely talked over whatever Mike thought he was going to say next.

“That, gentlemen, is painfully obvious to us all. Golden glass indeed. I recognise that there is little use in the modern world for the term ‘chalice’ outside of religious circles, but I would hope that when one resorts to the sale of other people’s property, one would have the gumption to know what that property was called,” as the beam of one torch flashed past him, Richards allowed his face to become visible in the weak light, disembodied and floating. “Would you not agree, gentlemen?”

One of the men – Stanley, Richards thought – squeaked. The other torches came up, frantically searching the wall behind Richards, but he had hidden himself again. They may not be able to see anything, but they clearly had better instincts than knowledge of ecclesiastic equipment, since they still huddled together and backed out into the main chapel space.

Richards followed, stretching out to find some small and easily replaced items to float around them. Now, it isn’t easy to make The New Edition of Psalms and Hymns look threatening and Richards had a feeling that he was not going to get sufficient credit for this later. No one appreciated his genius…

Attempting to be Vaguely Dramatic (Richards hadn’t really put much thought or practice into a really frightening haunting and now he regretted that oversight, what sort of Spectral Being was he?) Richards allowed himself to come once again into focus in the soft multi-coloured moonlight streaming through the stained glass.

Bob, or rather Robert, who now that Richards could see him properly illuminated, was clearly the youngest of the group, quite suddenly burst into tears.

“Me Ma al’ays tol’ me there’d be no good from robbin’ a church! Mike, I tol’ you this was a bad idea! Now there’s an angel of the Lor’!”

Richards had a sudden moment in which he was blindingly grateful that none of the Fellows had heard such a speech. The theologians would never stop laughing. Then he huffed.

“Really now, young man! A church indeed! Why, this is manifestly a chapel! Have you no notion of the Important Ecclesiastical Difference between them?”

Robert just shrugged, sniffed and wiped his eyes on his sleeve, looking very young indeed. Margaret, Richards promised himself there and then, could never be allowed to discover that he had made a young boy cry. She had Ways and Means to make him suffer. Eternally. He tried to look less threatening, hoping to give the boy heart and look less like a vengeful celestial being.

It must have been more effective than he imagined because one of the men, possibly Mike as the leader had clearly reached the end of his rope and grabbed the lectern. He swung it wildly, still a feat because that thing weighed a ton, and Richards certainly hadn’t thought to try and lift it, bringing it around to smash into Richards’ ribs.

There was a moment of truly horrified silence from the men when the lectern passed right through Richards. This probably wasn’t going to help Young Robert and his fear of damnation, now that Richards really considered the matter…

Mike’s grip on the lectern slackened and Richards reached out with a frantic burst of adrenalin (or the spectral equivalent, he still wasn’t going to ask the Medicine Fellow about that) and caught the antique before it could smash into the medieval tiles.

“Careful now, young man, that’s not easy to repair if you break it, you know.”

“What?”

Richards shook his head, “That lectern, young man, was presented to the college in 1783 by the widow of Sir Paul Mildews, a most distinguished professor and a valued member of the college in his day. Very pious man, or so I hear, not that I knew him personally of course… Regardless! I will not have you desecrating his memory by breaking it in such a careless manner, you hear?”

The men were still standing in stunned silence, but Richards had a feeling this wouldn’t last for long. He sighed.

“And now what am I to do with you all, hmm?” Young Michael opened his mouth as if to answer, but shut it with a snap at Richard’s irate eyebrow. “I was not opening the floor to suggestions, young Vandal. Do you know what I shall suffer if the Bursar discovers this? He will flap, gentlemen. He will flap around until he’s made a security system so sound that none who work for the college will be able to get in.”

Speaking of security though…

The night porters were fine men with admirable dedication to the college, however they were well-known to nap through the darkest hours, not that Richards did not understand and envy them for this. Richards was uncomfortable with the notion of leaving the three men in the chapel unattended while he went to alert the duty-porter of the need for help. There was no telling what they could get up to! But what was Richards to do with them?

Horace Richards was not a family man, and he may have spent the last few years of his natural life negotiating with men and women as powerful, mature and argumentative as himself but he has started off teaching crowds of what he had been continually assured were bright young minds (in flagrant contradiction of the available evidence, if you asked him.)

The result was that when Richards gestured imperiously at a row of pews and barked, “Now sit!” there was an instant and obedient response. Richards fixed them with a gimlet-eyed gaze before moving his hands to grip the lapels of his jacket in what any of Richards’ past students would have identified as his lecturing pose.

Unseen by the men, Richards reached for the curtain ropes even as he steamrollered on into a Distracting Yet Stern Lecture. Someone ought to explain to these men the travesty that they were about to subject the college and its heritage to, after all. He had until dawn and there was no reason to allow this chance to educate the masses (or even a small portion of them) to go to waste after all!

“Now then, gentlemen,” he clapped his hands – he was actually looking forward to this, he hadn’t given a proper lecture in years, “this chapel which you were intent on plundering like so many Viking raiders, though originally founded in the 1450s, was extensively remodelled into the form you see today during the mid-nineteenth century under the instruction of Sir William Hinchfield. Now this replaced an earlier remodelling occurring in the early eighteenth century, and largely seems to have been motivated by fashion, although it is also possible that the college wished to make a statement regarding…“

By the time Young Michael and his companions thought to try and run, the curtain ropes had wound themselves around all available limbs and torsos and needed only to pull tight to keep them immobilised. Richards didn’t even pause in his account of the events leading to the installation of new glass in the South Window.

“- in accordance with his wishes the design was based around the surviving glass from Pre-Reformation French Late-Gothic fashion. Not, in my opinion, really in keeping with the style of the rest of the chapel, but very fine in its craftsmanship nevertheless. Kindly cease and desist from struggling like that, Young Robert; if you injure yourself while in my custody I’m quite sure that I shall never hear the end of it from the Chaplain. Now you will note, I hope, since the sun is helpfully rising in the right direction, the inclusion of the lemon tree in the far-left corner there? By the mules’ – ahem – rear-portion? Yes? Do pay attention Young Stanley, you are Learning Something of Interest here. Now, this inclusion has been speculated to be allusion to –“

*

I’m trying something a bit different this week, with a two part story. Let me know if you like the extra plot and intrigue? If there’s enough enthusiasm I’ll try and do more of them.

New to the Ghosts & Gowns series? Catch up on all the fun here.