Calm down, dear Reader. Adorable though someone, somewhere,
mistakenly undoubtedly believes you to be, you are not the cupcake in question.
No: I merely repeat the involuntary exclamation that escaped my lips as I made careful adjustments to my delicious, home-baked fairy cakes, admiring them as they sat invitingly on a multi-level silver platter cake dish at the Away Day cupcake stall, nestling alongside my companion’s macaroons.
Adjustments made, dear Reader, I peeled off my gloves and tossed them in the chemical waste bin.
Let the Away Day commence, I thought.
The Dean, Professor Chris Anthemum, and I stood at our posts, as Director of Boating, Director of Ballooning, and Director of Archery, respectively.
Meanwhile, the assorted rabble gathered, ready for any excuse to get out of marking.
‘Right’, said the Dean. ‘The theme for this year is Keeping Your Head in a Crisis. We shall start with Modern Languages.’
At this the entire staff of Modern Languages stopped saying ‘rhubarb’* to each other and nodded their heads solemnly.
‘Russian Unit’, said the Dean. ‘You are all to get into that balloon over there, under Prof Anthemum’s supervision.’
There was a pause while two people and a small dog detached themselves from the crowd and stood by Chris.
‘German, Italian and Spanish Units’, said the Dean. ‘I’ll be in charge of you in the pedalos. French unit – to the Archery stands with you! Dr Ada will sort you out.’
And so the day began.
It was only because the sun was in our eyes that we failed to see that one of the targets with a blacked-out human silhouette on it was in fact the only Chevalier des Palmes Académiques (bronze doré) ever to have been produced by the Humanities Beacon, whom I had sent ten minutes before to the targets to collect arrows. Alas, dear Reader: he was an intellectual giant, but a physical weakling, still wrestling with a particularly recalcitrant little arrow as I barked the order ‘Remove arrows from quiver and shoot at will’.
And although the sun still shone brightly in our eyes, dear Reader, as I directed the remaining 21 members of the French Unit to shoot upwards in a north-north easterly direction as a mark of our deepest respect, we could, nevertheless, just about make out the sight of a balloon making its stately way over the lake, followed by a loud ‘pop’, a hissing sound, a little yap and sound of a doggy paddling, a splash, and bubbling sounds coming from the pedalos as they sank deep beneath the University reedbeds.
Later that day the Dean, Professor Anthemum and I stood by the cupcake stand, watching as the French Unit staff devoured the cupcakes to assuage their grief.
‘Well’, said the Dean. ‘I’d been wondering what to do about Modern Languages.’
Chris frowned, as if remembering a significant but still unelaborated plot point.
‘I haven’t forgotten that business with the research budget’, she hissed.
‘Macaroon, my dear?’, I said.
* rhubarbe / ruibarbo / rabarbaro / rahbarber / ревень