After treating me to a serenade by The Other Guys, Freddie Fforde made me a home-cooked meal on Valentine’s Day. However, I have not fallen for the ‘tall, dashingly handsome and frightfully well-spoken’ President of our Students’ Association, to borrow a phrase from The Scotsman’s Hugh Reilly. This is just an average day in the life of Mr Fforde, and I am the reporter sent along to document it.
Freddie strode through the Union car park at 8.30am, shaking hands with porters on his journey to the office. He walked me around the building and explained to me the redevelopment of the Union that will be taking place over the next two years. By September 2013, the whole façade of the Union will have changed radically; gone will be the car park and the depressing ‘70s architecture, replaced with sleek glass and new facilities for students, including a coffee shop facing out onto St Mary’s Place. The £12 million project will also include a wine bar and a pub within the Union Bar.
It was clear that he is emotionally invested in the success of the Union. Never before have I seen someone talk so earnestly about the virtues of razing a car park. “It gives us room to create a new entrance,” he explained with a furrowed brow, stopping to pick up some litter outside BESS. I was beginning to think that Freddie was disturbingly perfect by this point. I considered administering the replicant test from the movie Blade Runner, a procedure used to wheedle out robots masquerading as people, to make sure that he was actually human.
He was also eager to tell me about the “good working relationship” he had with the University. “We can share ideas and tell each other what we like and don’t like quite honestly. It’s the most constructive approach, which means that I can get more done for the students.” I fought the increasing urge to perform the replicant test.
I had to leave Freddie to a private meeting, but rejoined him in Little Italy to watch the Other Guys surprise the winner of a charity campaign run by the Union. As the a capella group’s angelic voices filled the restaurant, Freddie sent me off to take a photo of the occasion to send to my News Editor. Trying to work his iPhone, I could not help wondering how important image was to Freddie’s presidency. The whole day had felt like a massive effort to present the best side of the Union to me, and now I believed that I was being used to feed that same image back to the student community.
Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. As Freddie pointed out over our lunch, the University has been under fire for elitism. “I really want to change people’s perception of St Andrews, in that sense. That’s why I am running the Edinburgh Marathon with other volunteers – we are going to raise money for a bursary fund. I think it’s important that people see that the students want people from different backgrounds to come here.” At least Freddie’s charm offensive is backed up by actual leg work.
Late afternoon rolled around and the dapper President began to look tired. It was understandable – he only got home from work at 12.30am the night before. “It’s hard to know when to stop,” he sighed, “especially when you think to yourself, “I have 8,000 student to serve, who have needs around the clock.”” Freddie will be well-prepared for the race in Edinburgh, as his job seems like a marathon in itself.