It occurred to me as I journeyed down Forrest Road and into Loughborough, that I probably should have called ahead. I was far from sure how I would get myself and a fairly large removal van onto campus.
Yes I definitely should have told them I was coming. I turned up Fairmount Drive just round the corner from Danny Wallace's old house and there I found the van at the agreed meeting place. Campus was up ahead of us behind some houses. So first thing first I had to go and work out how to get on to campus.
I wondered up the road and down Spinny Hill Drive and there I saw an road entrance, so I wondered through. This was my first real look at campus, the place that was to be home from now on. It being August the place was quiet. I passed an immaculate playing field. The Paddock Soccer field Hmmmm I thought my first view of Loughborough University is a sports field. Somehow that seems appropriate. I wondered round the corner not really sure what to do. I was only sort partially aware of where my new home was, I knew it was in something called car park 5 but apart from that I was literally lost. As I wondered on I saw a sign. It was for car park 4. Perhaps this was near. Although as I walked the lack of a key was worrying me. It was Friday so someone should be at work, I suppose I need someone who does buildings, I reasoned. Then I saw it. A big sign indicating that I was next to 'The Facilities Management Workshop and Store' I guessed these were the people who were the equivalent of the Estates Department at Southampton University.
As I walked around the side of the building I noticed a small door marked 'Maintenance Department and Helpdesk'. Helpdesk! I rejoiced. Surely these were people who would help me, surely they were the professionals when it came to this sort of thing. I knew two things about them they had a desk and they helped and that was good enough for me. I strode through the door and came into a courtyard. Helpfully there was another sign pointing me to the helpdesk. I walked through another door and into a small office. Bloody hell, there was not just one desk there but four, they really were professionals! Behind each desk was a woman. I addressed myself to the nearest.
“Hi I'm the new....your...um chaplain and I'm going to be living in the house...er....for chaplains and er...I have this van and well I sort of need a key and....er....well.”
She was clearly impressed with how clear and precise I was being. She pointed me to the keyroom. Oh, so there was a key room. Clearly this would be my eventual destination. That and Nirvana. I was directed across the yard which was full of large equipment. There was every conceivable type of building vehicle from earth movers to tractors. Bob the Builder would have been almost sexually aroused. Scoop and Muck would have been. The equivalent facility at Southampton was tiny in comparison, clearly I had just arrived on the biggest campus in the UK. I walked cautiously across what turned out to be a massive facility. I was a mortal let loose in the land of the Higher Education facility gods. And in one corner I found what looked like a small conservatory. It was a small conservatory and it bore the legend 'Key Room'.
I pushed open the door and stepped inside. It was empty and the shutters were down.
I waited. Then I got bored. So I knocked. After all I had a large van waiting. The shutter suddenly shot up.
“Hello” said one of the two men behind it.
“Hi I need some keys.”
“Well we've got key's to the whole University here. What do you need keys for.”
“Well I'm the new chaplain.”
“Ah!” he says clearly interested “What's your name?”
“Yel- Simon.” I replied
“Isn't there another Simon down there in chaplaincy?” he asked
“Yes that's right. One of the others is called that.”
“Oh that's going to be complicated, two Simon's working the same department.”
“What's your name?” I say, moving the conversation on.
“And you.” I asked the other
'My goodness two men in conservatory with the same name and all the keys to the entire university, what kind of a crazy place is this?' I wondered almost out loud.
“Do you have any idea how I can get the keys to my house issued.” I asked
“Well we do keys for contractors. I suppose you should ask the person dealing with your house.”
“He's on holiday”
“What about his boss?”
“Dunno” This was clearly a problem.
“Have you got any identification?” he suggested
“A driving licence in the name of Rev Simon Stevens – as in a minister of religion?” I asked hopefully.
“You better take a copy of that Paul.” says Paul.
Which he does and then returns and hands me a massive bunch of keys.
“Um which one is the front door.”
“Ah easy” says Paul, and produces a little plan of my house on which is drawn all the locks and next to each eas a four digit number. Wow, they certainly were organised I looked down at my keys on each one was a four digit number. I just needed to work out which was the front door then. I looked back to the diagram. There were three locks on the front door. OK so I needed to remember three numbers then. Right so they were security conscious. So I asked:
“Is there an alarm?”
“Yep” says Paul
“What's the code?”
“It's off!” says the other Paul.
“Right well thanks Paul...and Paul. I better be going. I'll pop back for a coffee sometime.”
“Ah well he's catholic and I'm an atheist.” says Paul.
I headed to the door. I paused.
“Do you happen to know exactly where car park 5 is?”