Honesty is the best policy
In my Berkeley office – the one always used for the person giving the Sather lectures – there is a small photo-gallery of past Sather lecturers, five of them. They are actually quite a reassuring crew and considerably less scary than the wall-full of men in suits that I saw when I visited the office 18 months ago. Individually charming, I am sure, but a bit fearsome en masse. (A cull has obviously taken place . . .)
All the same there is a question of quite how one imagines oneself fitting in. So far, I have merely brought to the office a large piece of signage in the shape of an arrow, with the logo “BEARD”, balanced on the desk and pointing at my predecessors. It indicates, to me at least, my own would-be infiltration of this magnificent crew (Professors Bagnall, Feeney, Foley, Millar and Sedley). My private joke.
The acquisition of said arrow is in fact its own story, with a nice moral.
A month or so ago I was in Oxford for a dinner, at LMH. The college was having building work done, and as I wandered pre-prandially, with a mate, around the college outskirts, I spotted several signs with the name of the building company in large letters: BEARD.. as in Beard Construction of Swindon and Oxford.
My first instinct was simply to nick one.
I had had considerable success in this department over the years – my prize trophy being a multi- lingual European version of “Do not use the loo while the train is standing in the station”, artfully detached with a pair of tweeers from a French train.
But various things put me off.
The first was a combination of fear and .. well .. pride. I honestly thought I was past climbing up lamp-posts to purloin public notices, and anyway I didn’t much fancy getting caught by the boys in blue.
The second was realism. The most graspable of these notices was up a convenient lamppost. But I wasn’t sure that I could actually shin up it and get the thing. And I was not in the mood for a failed attempt. So I wistfully left well alone.
Back in Cambridge I shared the wistfulness with my assistant.
Little did I know, but she took the obvious course of action. Preparing a wee farewell gathering, she rang up Beard Construction… who happily sent to this old codger not only a handful of signs, but a BEARD helmet, a BEARD florescent jacket and a BEARD mug, with the logo: “friendly, efficient, committed”.
So I shall now be advertising this excellent firm (no relation so far as I know) all over town, with far moremercahndise than if I had opted for the shinning route – and I shall be reflecting that Honesty was (in this case) the Best Policy.