Definitions

Porterhouse Blue

Porterhouse Blue

Porterhouse Blue is a novel written by Tom Sharpe, first published in 1974. A satirical look at Cambridge life and the struggle between tradition and reform, it tells the story of Skullion, the Head Porter of a fictional Cambridge college, Porterhouse. There is a sequel, Grantchester Grind, but Porterhouse Blue is complete in itself. The name is probably inspired by Peterhouse, though the described location fits better with the Old School site opposite Clare College and Trinity Hall. A 'blue' is an award of the university colours, typically for sporting prowess.

There was a Channel 4 TV series in 1987 based on the novel, adapted by Malcolm Bradbury.

Plot summary

For the first time in five hundred years, the master of Porterhouse fails to name his successor before dying. He succumbs to a Porterhouse Blue - a stroke brought about by the over indulgence in the college's legendary cuisine. Sir Godber Evans is appointed as his successor. Sir Godber, having been egged on by his zealous wife, Lady Mary, announces sweeping changes to the centuries of college tradition, much to the concern of Skullion and the Fellows, who plan a counter attack to the proposed contraceptive machines, women students, and a canteen.

Meanwhile, the only research graduate student in the college, Lionel Zipser, visits the hard of hearing Chaplain and explains his fixation for Mrs Biggs, his middle-aged big breasted bedder, through a megaphone, which is heard by anyone and everyone within distance. While not happening to overhear this, Mrs. Biggs senses something is up on her own due to Zipser's awkward behaviour around her every time she comes to clean his room and especially when she teases him sexually (the climax of which is when she asks him to help her take off her bright red pvc raincoat from behind, which prompts him to reach over with his hands to her front side - and - at least in the #TV mini-series - slightly over her big breasts).

While Sir Godber congratulates himself on having the traditionalists over a barrel, investigative journalist Cornelius Carrington is brought in on the pretext of helping both parties, while secretly having his own agenda.

Meanwhile, having been advised to pick up a foreign student, so as to avoid his predatory lust to Mrs. Biggs that could end up badly, Zipser visits an array of public houses in search of a condom and later wakes from his stupor in possession of two gross of condoms. He tries many ways to get rid of them and eventually inflates them with gas from the gas fire in his room and floats them up the chimney, not realising that some get stuck in the chimney and the rest float down into the college quadrangle. Fearing for the good name of college, Skullion spends the night bursting the inflated condoms.

At this point it turns out it is Mrs Biggs who is the predator, as she sneaks up to Zipser's room in the middle of the night and wakes him up. By the time he realizes she's in his room in the middle of the night, to his great shock she undresses without saying much and promptly enters his bed against his protests, and lies on top of him. Unfortunately, while undressing she lit the gas fire which takes a short while to ignite the inflated condoms stuck in the chimney, causing an explosion that demolishes the Ball Tower and kills Zipser and Mrs Biggs in the moment of passion.

When Skullion refuses to open the main gates of college to let the fire engines in and continues to burst the inflated condoms, he is fired. He plans to take his revenge by making a shocking reveal-all appearance on Carrington's live television show and partially succeeds. After the new master refuses Skullion's pleas to let him keep his job, Skullion offers shares a former master left him. Sir Godber flatly refuses, and has a fatal accident. Skullion, not being entirely responsible, quickly leaves. Two senior academics find the dying Sir Godber who whispers them one word...Skullion, they agree that, in accordance with college tradition, Skullion has been named the new Master of Porterhouse.

When Skullion is visited by the college officials with the good news, he thinks they have found out his involvement with Sir Godber's death and whilst they are telling him about his great fortune, he has a debilitating Porterhouse Blue himself. Nonetheless, he is installed as the Master and the college find that the shares he'd offered to Sir Godber are worth more than the cost of rebuilding the Ball Tower, so Porterhouse's traditions are firmly re-established.

ISBN

Porterhouse College

Porterhouse College is the fictional University of Cambridge college in Porterhouse Blue. Masters of the College include Sir Godber Evans, a former Labour government Minister, Skullion, the College's Head Porter, and Lord Jeremy Pimpole. Senior Fellows of the College include the Dean, the Senior Tutor, the Praelector, the Chaplain and the Bursar. For centuries, Porterhouse College has been renowned for its cuisine, the arrogance of its Fellows, the prowess of its rowers and the low level of its academic achievements.

There is a college in Cambridge called Peterhouse, though the described location fits better with the Old School site opposite Clare College and Trinity Hall College.

The name is a pun on the style of college name used by Peterhouse and the former Michaelhouse, college porters and porterhouse steaks.

Characters

The central characters are Skullion, the Head Porter; Lionel Zipser, a research student; Sir Godber Evans, the Master; Lady Mary, the Master's wife; the Dean; and Mrs Biggs, Zipser's "bedder" (room cleaner).

Adaptations

TV mini-series

In 1987, Porterhouse Blue was adapted for television by Malcolm Bradbury for Channel 4 in four episodes. It starred David Jason as Skullion, Ian Richardson as Sir Godber Evans, Charles Gray as Sir Cathcart D'Eath, and John Sessions as Zipser. Also appearing were Griff Rhys Jones as Cornelius Carrington, Paula Jacobs as Mrs. Biggs, Paul Rogers as the Dean, John Woodnutt as the Senior Tutor, Lockwood West as the Chaplain, and Harold Innocent as the Bursar.

The title song "Dives in Omnia" (cod-Latin for "Wealth in all things") was sung by a cappella group The Flying Pickets. The series won an International Emmy and two BAFTA Awards (including David Jason's for Best Actor).

The television adaptation has been released on DVD and VHS.

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Sacrist's Gate near Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire and Apethorpe Hall in Northamptonshire were used as locations in the series.

Audio books

There have also been two audio book versions;

  • 1992 Porterhouse Blue, read by David Jason, published by HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-104635-7
  • 1993 Porterhouse Blue: Complete & Unabridged (Word for Word Audio Books)', read by Griff Rhys Jones, published by BBC Audio and Chivers. ISBN 0-7451-2817-3

See also

References

External links

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