I could only glimpse the process of selecting a successor to the Vice Principlal from outside but my impressions were corroborated later by one of the candidates. The mandatory tour of the buildings, introduction to selected students and key members of staff, occupied surprisingly little time. Candidates waited in the ante-room with their portfolios. Interviews started at eleven and dragged on to nearly three oclock . It was promised a decision would be made before drinks at six. Candidates were put through their paces, each devising new anodyne phrases of the universal significance of this Venerable Institution , fluffing up their own international achievements and drawing the attention of the panel to the proximity to the Continent.
By four no decision was reached but there was no reason, it was declared why drinks shouldn't be enjoyed by the panel and various colleagues who had gatecrashed the proceedings. The candidates dragged their portfolios to a room off reception and were advised to wait pending a decision.
The generosity of catering and the free flow of alcohol made the decision even harder to achieve. Barely concealed animosity surfaced in a pushing contest between two departmental heads over the status of the advertised job. One distinguished artist was under the table gleefully nibbling the knees of any celebrant unwise enough to be seated. The Chairman of the Governors was showing an embarrassing interest in the woman representing the Student Union.
More bottles of wine emerged from behind a screen in the vestibule. I checked my mail at the end of the day and glimpsed the waiting candidates who had been largely forgotten. Two it seems had taken the fast train back to London. My conversation with the one candidate I knew was impossibkle over the clamour of singing , shouting and the outbreak of scuffles. I was told that the appointment had been delayed as late as eight in the evening. At this point the Caretaker came into the Interview Room, flashed the lights on and off, "Right you lot..Out you go.." and the remaining fifteen panel members and associates convened to the pub up the road.