Excellent news, or at least, excellent prospects. I may have gainful employment at Belshade College, Oxford. They have interviewed me for a position as a visiting lecturer and, as I appear to have been the only applicant, the placement would appear to be mine. With the revision of Acts of the Servant almost at an end and no clear indication from the publisher if I am to be commissioned to revise the second volume – which is in any case an altogether simpler and less time consuming task – I have lately found pecuniary matters a little distressing, so this appointment is most timely. The position is only for three days of the week, Tuesday to Thursday, and comes with lodgings at Belshade Hall, about which more in a moment, so even should I be commissioned to revise Works of the Master it will be no great strain on my time.

Epsilon Belshade, photographed in 1864Belshade is one of Oxford’s, ahem, less established colleges, dating only to the 1850s when it was founded by the Glass manufacturer Epsilon Belshade and his brother-in-law Lodovico Settembrini, a one-time prelate in the Roman Catholic Church who rose to become Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library prior to a somewhat spectacular fall from grace involving proven theft of condemned texts and unproven allegations of sexual vices, neither of which appears to have concerned Epsilon Belshade who appointed Settembrini as the first principal of the college. Belshade, or rather his manufactory, is, of course, most famous for the development in 1867 of spectral glass through which one can observe the behaviour of magnetic and other energy fields, including the human aura.

Lodovico Settembrini, first principal at Belshade CollegeThe college’s prospectus is a little unusual, though given my speciality in medieval Scottish literature I am in no position to object! If accepted, I shall be dividing my time between the Faculty of Language and Histrionics and the Faculty of Irrational Inquiry. Course titles are, provisionally, Rough Magic: Scottish poetry of the middle ages – Oh Heaven! – and The Golden Bough: The Wildwood in Jungian psychology – Oh Hell! Other courses, I was assured, were in development as one would be hard pressed to fill an academic year with either of those.

The interview with Principal Audley Stonebreaker went very well and I am in high hopes.

Naturally, given my cheerful mood the cats suspect something is amiss and are ignoring me steadfastly. Mrs Pumphrey, my neighbour, will care for them the three days of the week I am away. She has done so before on occasion and both she and the cats seem quite happy with the arrangement. Mr Pumphrey, a collector of Chippendale furniture, will be less pleased. I only wish Mrs Pumphrey would not refer to Tusker and Boris as “my girls” when it is I who pay their vet’s bills.

Belshade HallAs my taxi was leaving Belshade’s I had the driver stop and I snapped the photo you see above. The hall is on the very edge of Oxford and overlooks the wastes of Ot Moor, being quite exposed to its north and east and rather drear. My room – and I remind you I am the only applicant for the post – is second from the left in the attic: I only hope it is not too draughty as I will not even have the comfort of a tot of whisky for Belshade is a dry college, that is to say, no alcohol of any kind is allowed on the premises; even fallen apples in the orchard are removed before they can ferment. Moreover, the nearest public house is the Abandoned Arm in the village of Beckley some three miles away.

Ah, well. It is, I remind myself, only three days of the week.


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