The School of Anatomy is located in a mouldering four-storey early Victorian building. In 1899, an architect is commissioned to redesign the building to meet the demands of twentieth century medicine. He knows nothing of the latter. He’s a moderniser who turns things upside down in pursuit of progress. With the advent of electric lifts, he sees a chance to exploit the use of the top floor of the building as a new dissection studio (sic).
A state of the art electric lift transports the cadavers from the refrigerated cellars to the sparkling new dissection room. By 1959 the lift is dying, a condition that both infuriates and amuses two young Welsh porters, university English graduates and best friends, Rodri and Idris, who are responsible for moving the cadavers to their place of dissection.
What’s the Prof doing about the lift? Rodri asks.
Prof Owen? He tries, but he’s all bluster, Idris replies. The Vice Chancellor’s not interested in stiffs.
You’d think the head of Anatomy would have more cut and thrust about him, Rodri laughs.
Both friends always accompanied the cadavers on their journeys in the lift. That time has passed because it’s common for the lift to be stranded between floors as undergraduates chant, Oh dear what can the matter be, we’ve got stiffs stuck half way up the arse of Anatomy.
Now, the friends take it in turns to accompany cadavers in the lift, leaving the other to climb the stairs and manually wind the lift to the top floor. It’s not an ideal solution. The Professor instructs the porters to abandon the lift and carry the stretchered bodies up and down the four flights of stairs.
Each working day, abusive and sarcastic students push past Rodri and Idris who spend hours grunting up and down the staircases, carrying bodies hidden under grey blankets.
This can’t go on, Idris moans. Bloody students always taking the piss. This job was supposed to be temporary while we worked on our writing partnership.
We need direct action, Rodri replies.
On the top floor landing, the friends wait until the stairs are full of hurrying students. Idris and Rodri tilt the stretcher and a particularly corpulent cadaver toboggans down the staircases, tumbling, bumping and crashing like a dodgem car from floor to floor as students shout and scream, jumping out of the way as the cadaver’s limbs slap on the iron balusters and stone treads while his ghastly white face appears to grin as it hits ornate iron newel posts.
That should do it, Rodri says.
The incident is reported in the press. The Vice Chancellor persuades the Chief Constable not to press charges. Rodri and Idris are summoned to a senate disciplinary committee. They don’t attend, having sold the film rights to their screenplay, ‘Carry On Cadaver’ to Rank Film.
Professor Owen resigns, suffering from clinical depression and a phobia of lifts.
Sadly, the film is never made; an injunction prevents the anatomy of the university being revealed.
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© Phil Cosker 2020
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.