It happened last Tuesday.
I had just exhaustively and painstakingly marked my three final-year dissertations.*
I had returned them to the office and was gliding back to my rooms, contemplating a peaceful evening ahead with my companion and our cat, Shiny, leafing through the poisoner’s handbook together – when a dainty foot shot out of the A. Lovage Hi-Tech Laboratory door.
The unthinkable happened, dear Reader.
As I did so, I felt a tiny but determined hand in the small of my back shove me forwards towards the coal cellar door – usually under lock and key (keys firmly strapped to Cordelia’s belt) – but now, I observed, wide open.
The doors slammed to behind me, dear Reader. A chain clanked. A padlock clicked shut. In the distance I heard a tiny, cicada-like titter, followed by the low thrum of a Ferrari 250 GTO disappearing into the night.
Dear Reader, I recalled the Lamb family motto (‘Be Bloody, Bold and Resolute’). Even in the dark, sans wifi, I did not despair.
No. I remembered that I had on my person a small memento mori of a recent research trip to the British Museum.
It has taken me from last Tuesday to the present day, dear Reader, to dig my way out of the coal cellar and into my rooms, from where I address you now.
I have just turned on my computer, expecting to find a flurry of emails from the Dean instructing the university community not to give way to despair in my absence.
But all I see before me is a single email from the Vice-Chancellor. It reads:
I must iron my frock, dear Reader.
* ‘You have entirely misunderstood my lecture’, I wrote on the first dissertation. ‘Punctuation!!!’, I wrote on the second. And on the last, I simply drew a large X through pp. 3, 7-9, and the soi-disant conclusion (pp.15-20). Sometimes, dear Reader, there is no need to agonize.