Even though our vice-chancellor was initially unable to recall his name, he was “only too delighted” to learn from our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that yet another member of our university team had achieved success.
This time, however, the achievement was recorded in an often-neglected part of the campus. For although Derek Trough, the catering manager of David Willetts College, has earned the respect of students and staff alike for such signature dishes as Tandoori Hake with Morello Cherries, he had not previously gained wider recognition.
But all that has changed with the news that Mr Trough has been awarded a “four-star world-class” rating in the recently concluded Recipe Excellence Framework.
Mr Trough told our reporter that he was particularly pleased with his new rating as he was only too well aware that his failure to produce recipes of sufficiently high standard in the past had aroused concerns that he might be relegated to “washing-up only” status.
What, wondered Ponting, had been the key to his REF success?
Mr Trough explained that his award had been based upon a peer group panel’s assessment of four submitted pieces of work.
And what, asked Ponting, were these pieces of work?
“They were,” Mr Trough explained, “basically, four small jars of strawberry jam.”
“More or less the same strawberry jam in each jar?” Ponting queried.
“That’s right,” Mr Trough said. “Anyone who knows anything about the REF will confirm that you have to spread yourself as thinly as possible in order to maximise effect. If you make a reasonable pot of jam, then you need to put it into as many jars as possible with slightly different names: strawberry jam, strawberry preserve, strawberry confiture and Mrs Trough’s Oxford vintage strawberry jam. That sort of thing.”
Was there any sense, wondered Ponting, that concentrating on jam might in some way be seen as playing safe?
Mr Trough brusquely dismissed any such suggestion. “It’s true”, he admitted, “that in the old days there was a certain amount of cordon-bleu-sky thinking. But the great thing about the REF is that it soon cut out all that sort of intellectual pretension. Nowadays all of us who enter the REF know that the only route to Jam Tomorrow is through Jam Today.”
One our most precariously positioned academics, Mr Ted Odgers of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies, has leaped to the defence of Nicholas Goddard, professor of analytical science at the University of Manchester, who was pilloried in the popular press last week following the discovery that he had been appearing in sex films under the pseudonym “Old Nick”.
Mr Odgers told The Poppletonian that he believed that Professor Goddard might well have been influenced in his choice of second career by his regular exposure to the pornographic size of his vice-chancellor’s emolument and the bodice-ripping dimensions of her expenses claims.