By Soo Yi Yun
‘Alf’ (which stands for Alien Life Form), as he was fondly known to his colleagues and students, enjoys reading, singing and watercolour painting. His wealth of knowledge about the quirkiest things has enlightened people around him, and his resilient compassion has illuminated some of our students’ weary nights. His last day as the night porter at Oriel was 24/02/2018.
I started working at Oriel College as a night porter in 2004, but I knew Oriel and Oxford before then. From 1982, I sang as a deputising singer for alto, tenor, and bass at the Exeter, Oriel, Jesus, and Lady Margaret Hall chapel choirs in Oxford. At the same time, I was also working at Castell & Sons off Broad Street, a shop which sells all the essentials for freshers, so I knew some of the university traditions.
College bop nights always make me feel nostalgic because the students play music from my era – Michael Jackson, for instance. My funniest time here was with the Oriel Chapel Choir when my friends and I went on a choir tour to Lichfield. We were playing with the toys found in the church hall during the service, particularly in between the songs in the stalls. One of us would try to raise the toy — just about high enough for the singers at the opposite stall to see the head of the doll — and the rest of us would try our hardest to not laugh aloud!
My favourite spot in College is the library. Did you know that it was me who came up with the “Don’t take the lion’s share of space” reminder on your library desk? If you look at the illustration closely you’ll see that the lion is reading up on a saber-tooth tiger from a book on prehistoric animals — that is why the lion is staring so intently at the page! As for my favourite Oriel tradition, it would have to be the choir at Christmas formal.
I will miss the old familial aspect of Oriel. I will also miss putting Beary to sleep every night in the JCR during my shifts. You would always know it was me who had done this if you saw one of Beary’s hands over his head, lying on the couch to enjoy a restful sleep after being kept up by students for an entire day. All this time, I have had three spare Oriel ties for people to borrow when they needed to attend a formal dinner but forgot their ties. So, on my last day, I will leave them behind — and one of them will be worn by Beary.
My advice to students would be this: never conflate people in white coats with empirical knowledge. On a different note, I hope students will remember that when they are out with their friends for drinks, the best time to stop drinking is before you have to carry your mate home. Friends look out for each other and need to be strong enough to stop their friends from going further than they can. That is how you build trust in friendships.