The porter had suddenly turned chatty. Perhaps he was bored. More likely he was taking a measure of the new fellow.
‘So why St Andrews? If you don’t mind me asking. Must seem very dull here compared to Oxford.’
‘Oh, that’s fine by me’ I said ‘too many tourists in Oxford. Hard to get any work done.’
‘Plenty of tourists here as well,’ the porter corrected me, ‘at least in the summer.’
That was true, but the difference for me was hard to explain without self-incrimination or unhelpful vagueness. You could weed those numbers tourist numbers down a little, given the circumstances, but those same efforts employed in Oxford hardly made a dent. More certain methods were not my style.
‘Yes,’ I said finally, ‘but I am no fan of golf, so the tourists can have the links, and stay out of my way.’
The porter smiled. He thought that was a perfectly sensible plan.
(more fragments from the Oxford Noir series. This time, the equally obscure and forgetable Nails for St Andrew’s Cross).
The documents spilled out onto the table like the dusty entrails of some juridical shark. This archival immortality preserved the acts of violence and legal manipulations of a dozen noble gentry. He leaned over the ancient indictment:
…felonice interfecerunt et murdraverunt…
The thought occurred to him that one were careless enough to be caught, this was a nice way to become part of the fabric of history. But he had been very careful, and it saddened him to think of students not yet born, cursing the nameless perpetrator of some insignificant murder, unrecorded in the archives. The feeling quickly faded. (Oxford Noir: Close Roll, Open Corpse)
Turning to the notes at the back he found this detail.
“Why Dante and Virgil, who have been circling always to the left, suddenly move off to the right remains a mystery; this will happen one other time in the inferno”
Perhaps, he thought, the passage to the left was blocked. Or—and this thought cheered him greatly—Virgil decided to stop for tea, and the cafe was on their right. (more fragments from Oxford Noir)
The inscription was more a stated preference than a condition of entry. In Oxford one got the visitors one deserved, not the visitors one hoped for. (further fragments from Oxford Noir)
“The librarian savoured the ephemeral calm. This year, like every other, the undergrads would be back after Easter break. The thought occurred that either the Warden was lying when he said he changed the locks again, or the undergraduates had a tunnel into College from outside the walls and the Porters just hadn’t found it yet.” (further fragments from Oxford Noir)
“I’m not sure how the second part of the cliché works in Oxford, but when they close a door, they take the literal approach.” (The Lost ‘Oxford Noir’: Fragments Recovered from the Shredder)
What looks like an etch-a-sketch screen is actually my home town, in all its austere winter glory, as seen from very high-up. I feel like I’m looking at a schematic of my memory, considering how easily these shapes relate to innumerable bits of knowledge.
And as a note on scale, the grid pattern is based on the Dominion Land Survey system, so the small rectangular blocks, the smallest divisions in the picture, are quarter sections split north-south. A complete section, is roughly 1.6 km a side. Counting off the quarter sections along the bottom of the city, as it runs along Hwy #1, it measures about 8 km across. But I’m no good at math so who knows.