Friday, May 29, 2009


When Christiane Riedinger arrived at Somerville College she heard everyone talking about Pogo. “He scared a rich donor today” or “I haven’t seen him, he must be hiding today.” Never meeting this strange Pogo, she eventually concluded that he must be the college ghost. Being that many buildings and traditions at Oxford are hundreds of years old, ghost tales abound (See here for example).

Actually, Pogo is the college cat – a beautiful all-black cat – suggestive of a ghost, perhaps, but a bit cuter. He was adopted many years ago by the principal of the college, Dame Fiona Caldicott, and he is more than just the mascot of the college, he borders on an obsession. There seems to be constant chatter about his whereabouts and his recent activities.

Admittedly, Pogo is a bit of a personality problem. Being a cat, he seems plenty happy to ignore all the people around him. Most of the time, he is remarkably uninterested in the hundreds of students going this way or that. Now and then he does seem to enjoy being pet, as most cats do. But when he tires of being nice, he turns quickly and brings out the claws to express his displeasure. Despite his occasional hostilities, he is a treasured icon of Somerville these days. [ There are, however, some (perhaps apocryphal) stories about how he likes to jump out of trees and land on the heads of important persons when they happen to be visiting the college. ]

A few weeks ago, Pogo got into a bit of a brawl with another cat and he ended up needing some stitches. He was hurt badly enough that he had to stay “home” at the principal’s residence for a week or so. You could practically feel the worry going around the college as everyone waited anxiously for him to heal. On the day he returned, there was a huge buzz going around “Pogo’s back!”.

In about 15 months, our principal will be retiring. She is a good principal, and we will be very sad to lose her. Hopefully her replacement will be equally good. More importantly, hopefully her replacement will bring a cat. Or maybe, just maybe, we can work out a joint custody arrangement with Dame Fi.

Thanks to Isabel Schlinzig for providing the nice photo above. I tried many times to get a good photo of Pogo, but did not manage to do so.

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