My sherry party for the new tutees was a triumph, dear Reader.

It went like this.

My tutees sat on the hard bench visitors’ sofa, casting nervous glances at their iphones.

I handed them each a welcoming finger of sherry, and asked them to introduce themselves.

They were known, it transpired, as G-Man, the Rockster, Sweet Bobby-Sue, the Mighty Mo-Mo, and Ez.

‘Welcome, dear Gary, Brian, Roberta-Suzette, Maureen, and, of course, Ethel from Maryland’,* I said. ‘Perhaps you can now tell us all why you decided to study Runeology’.

After some time of listening to them advance their hackneyed notions about learning from our ancestors, admiring Tolkien, and teaching themselves code-breaking, ventriloquism, Esperanto, and Runeology at an early age as a way of escaping the trauma of long family holidays, I sighed.

‘No’, I said. ‘You’re all wrong.’

There was a pause.

Just at this moment, however, I noticed another student, whose frail grasshopper-like form was so squeezed between Ethel and the sofa arm that I had mistaken her for one of the crumpled chenille cushions that gives my office its air of homely gravitas.

cushion copy
An easy mistake to make.







‘And you, my dear?’ I asked. ‘Why do you want to study Runeology?’

At this, the frail thing unfurled itself, blinked at me, and said,

‘My name is Asafetida, and I’m doing Runeology so that I can get on the telly’.

Dear Reader, my heart leapt.

A fellow entrepreneurial spirit in the wasteland of runeological futility!

Of course, I did not react.

I merely offered them my tray of field mushroom amuse-bouches à la Lucille. I made sure to press the last two upon Ethel, and then shook my head sadly at Asafetida, as if commiserating about the fact that there were none for her.


* Ethel did indeed prove to have an intense stare and a habit of fingering all the amuse-bouches before making her final selection, but she has now been transferred.


5 thoughts on “The Big Question

  1. My bouche was not at all amused when I read of your outrageous attempt to implicate me in your machinations in the Runeology Department. Ethel has had a narrow escape. Unless, ghastly thought, you mean that she has been transferred to A&E. I can only be thankful that Miss MacPherson had you excluded from Chemistry lessons.

    1. You always did have a vivid imagination, dear Lucille! Ethel has been transferred to Professor Mise’s rudimentary mathematics for complete beginners module, where I am sure she will thrive. Furthermore I have no recollection of Miss MacP, exclusion, bunsen burners left on overnight, or the school being razed to the ground.

      1. Maryland will be breathing a collective sigh of relief. I might even enrol myself in Prof. Mise’s rudimentary mathematics module if she is willing to take on long distance, mature learners. I got lost somewhere around sine and cosine despite my dear father’s attempts to explain with diagrams of ladders against walls.

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