David Purdie’s Columns
The Dean’s Diary:
The long-suffering Dean of St Andrews College in Edinburgh has to deal with an extraordinary array of eccentrc Dons and Research Fellows. His attempts to control them are faithfully reported in The Dean’s Diary, which originally appeared in the political website, www.thinkscotland.org (Think Culture Section)
The Dean, illustrated by the distinguished artist Bob Dewar, will appear in a forthcoming book to be published by Luath Press in Edinburgh.
Dean’s Office: St Andrews College
King Geo. IV Bridge
Edinburgh EH1 4PT
The College is superintended by myself as Dean, assisted by the Bursar, the Prebendary and the Bedellus, all of whom sit on the ‘Estaitis’, an ancient Scots word for Council, dating back to our Foundation in 1562.
College is mercifully quiet at present, thanks to the Summer break when most of the eccentrics who teach or research here are away on leave or disrupting Conferences. That is, except those weirdest of our physicists, they of the AGL (the Anti-Gravity Lab). They have refused to leave, telling me yet again that they’re on the verge of a breakthrough… if they’d break through into a Parallel Universe I’d be frankly delighted, given the mayhem here last week.
What happened, it seems, is that some idiot accidentally disarmed the lead shielding around the extremely powerful 15 Tesla Magnetic Field they use. The Field, suddenly released from the building, was now operating outside in King George IV Bridge which runs past the College. Confusingly, the Bridge is actually a major Edinburgh street.
Anyway, before they tumbled to what was happening, the gigantic invisible Field, fifteen times the strength of the Earth’s own magnetic Field, ensnared an approaching Number 42 Stockbridge bus. I happened to be looking out from my Study windows when I saw to my astonishment the bus suddenly execute a swerving left turn, crash through the front door of the College and charge into the atrium. There it demolished the Mammoth skeleton before heading determinedly in the direction of the AGL. Thank God it was a single-decker…
The highly magnetised bus passed through the canteen where it was joined by hundreds of flying knives, forks, blenders etc., also equally magnetised. Looking now like a giant porcupine, the thing finally came to rest in the women’s restroom, scattering the occupants, while powerfully attracting those wearing metallic underwear or surgical appliances.
Before the Field could be switched off, it had also attracted or rather tractored into our Entrance, a garbage truck, several automobiles and the ATM machine (with contents) from the Bank across the street.
I had to explain all this to an extremely grumpy President of the College who was staring at a bill from Lothian Buses for a new vehicle, while the Bank considers whether the abduction of its ATM – and £25,000 in notes – constitutes armed robbery. The President regarded the Anti-Gravity Group at Andrew’s with the deepest suspicion since the Anti-Matter explosion last year which blew out half the windows in the West End. However, as the Group are by far our largest Grant Holders, i.e. revenue-earners, I’m sure he’ll get over it.
For newcomers to the Diary, I had better explain that St Andrew’s College is often described as the ‘Northern All Souls’ because, like that splendid Oxford College, we have no undergraduates. We have only the academic staff plus Postgraduates and Research Fellows from home and abroad, to the number of about 60. I’m actually never sure of the exact number since they pop in and out of existence in a relativistic and indeed quantum mechanical way.
Right, that’s all for today. I have now to attend a meeting with the Chinese Legation here – who are apparently incensed at an article in the British Journal of Sport Archaeology by our historian Dr David Wilkie, Ph.D. According to the Chinese, their game of Chui Wan, (‘Hit ball – with Stick’- in Mandarin) is the progenitor of Golf and dates from the Ming Dynasty, long before Golf appeared at St Andrews – or anywhere else…
According to Wilkie, however, it’s the other way round. The game, says he, was actually brought to the Middle Kingdom from Scotland in 1421 by a Chinese junk squadron commanded by Admiral Zheng He. Apparently he, or rather He, came ashore at North Berwick, interrupted a competition and made off to his Flagship with a clutch of balls, clubs and other golfing impedimenta, pursued into the surf by the furious locals.
The fact that the 10th hole at the ancient North Berwick Golf Club is actually called ‘Eastward Ho’ seems pretty conclusive – but we’ll see….