Monday, 7 June 2010
The Bagley End Correction
Rex Farnham was one of the few male note-takers at the Department for Students with Special Support Needs at Upminster University at Snorkhampton. He had been at the University for twenty years as a temporary administrator and a note-taker during term-times. It paid him enough to live on and to have a holiday at least once a year. He entered the Bagley building crossed the foyer, passed the broad staircase that seemed almost like that on a 1930s liner and peered through the spyhole in the door into lecture theatre Bag.0.07. Seeing it empty, he entered, placed his bag on a seat at the front near the door and made himself ready. Two eager students entered talking about the Bagley building and Rex smiled.
"It's got to be the weirdest building on campus," one student remarked.
"I mean, it's like half the building just disappeared and then there's a bluebell wood! Like, what's that all about, yeah?" her friend remarked.
Rex turned in his seat and smiled broadly.
"You're rational engineers," he said, "So it's unlikely you believe in..." he paused.
What would you call them? Faeries? Elementals?
"In what?" the first student asked him.
"Faeries, elementals, nature spirits... faeries I suppose," Rex answered.
The students glanced at each other and Rex caught the look of disbelief. As if in defence he remarked,
"I know how that sounds, believe you me, but let me see you'll know Professor Simpkin won't you? Well, ask him if he believes in faeries. Maybe don't do that unless he's sitting down. It hurts less when you faint.
The university thought the bluebell wood could be used to build the Bagley Building. Named after Professor Wilson Bagley who founded Upminster's Physics Department and got it running. They sent in the bulldozers and the builders and at first the builders couldn't bring themselves to bulldoze the wood. It was too pretty to do it, they said. It made them feel like uncouth barbarians and they just couldn't. So a team went in to cut up the trees and tear up all the bluebells. They struggled, but it was done and it did look very sad when it was done. The same day they'd finished, the bulldozers went in and dug up the place to lay foundations.
The next day, it was as if nothing had happened. The trees were still there and the bluebells untouched. Well everyone thought that was weird, but nobody thought of faeries because like you two, nobody believes in them. So they went in more aggressively and took down the trees and the bluebells and dug up the ground again and continued putting in foundations with big lights all through the night. The builders worked in shifts continuously and this time the building got put up. But it didn't last. The day after the building was completed, only just under budget, the bluebell wood was back, just the same as it had been before only this time, it was a bit bigger. You see the Bagley Building was supposed to be a lot longer than this. It was originally planned to go along most of Lady Augusta Road. What's left is barely a third of the original building.
The whole of the end of the building wasn't there. The building went only so far and then the bluebell wood was there. Just there as if that part of the building had never existed. Dr Peter Grimston, whose wife was into myth and folklore asked for two iron girders to be taken into the heart of the wood in the form of a cross and placed there. His wife strongly advised them not to do it. It would be seen as a declaration of war and they were not the forgiving kind, she told them. When they asked her who 'they' were, she sighed and answered, the fair folk, the fair ones or to give them their usual name, the faeries. I'm not kidding, " Rex said shaking his head at the memory of it,
"The entire Physics department laughed and told her categorically that faeries did not exist. When she asked them exasperatedly what had happened to the Bagley End they patronised her and said that there was a perfectly scientific answer to the problem and it was most likely to do with quantum mechanics. As a Humanities Graduate she was unlikely to understand, they said. Well they don't say that now. They cough, splutter and change the subject now," Rex chuckled.
"So they left it then?" the second student asked.
"Sadly not. You'd think rational grown ups would have learned to let it alone wouldn't you? But they didn't. They got up more money and had another go, bulldozing the wood and the bluebells and putting iron crosses all along the bottom of the foundations. This time the entire building went up as it was designed. The following day, the building was still there. The Faculty prepared to move in, but before they could, the whole of the Bagley End collapsed and turned to dust that blew away over the rest of the campus. This time, the bluebell wood returned, but this time it crossed the road at the E.L. Griggs building - Architecture and Industrial Design, and much of that building went too. Fortunately it was the middle of the summer so many of the staff were away, but several professors were turned into starlings and flew off never to be seen again. One senior professor was turned into a magpie and can be seen to this day nesting with another magpie near the library. At least, I'm sure it's him, the way that bird looks at you, I'm sure it is him. This time, the university was too horrified at what had happened and re-directed the road and altered the E.L. Griggs building. But they dare not touch the Bagley End for fear of what might happen next. That's why the building is bigger at the other end from the bluebell wood and why at the Bagley End of campus the building stops and all that you see is a bluebell wood," Rex told them.
The door to the lecture theatre was flung open and Doctor Kosygin one of the newer Physics lecturers entered, nodding briefly to Rex and greeting the two women students. He was followed by several more students who trailed up the steps to the back of the lecture theatre. The lecture baffled Rex as usual, but nobody mentioned faeries. When he'd finished the three lectures at Bagley End he came out of the Road and crossed to the Wolfsbane Building (Chemistry) and paused on the corner to glance at the bluebell wood before entering the Wolfsbane to look for the cafe.