A Very Oxford Week

3may10

PCBC Pimm’s Party (photo: Fashion Biscuits)

First week of Trinity term kicked off with the Pembroke College Boat Club Pimm’s Party, which fulfilled all of my ‘preppy University experience’ wishes. Back in my undergrad days at Sydney Uni, I used to wear this cute knock-off Ralph Lauren blazer around campus, which was pretentious enough to land me in the banner photo of the university website, but also meant that I fielded incredulous, “Why are you wearing your school blazer?” inquiries at least twice a day. But at Pembroke, the students donned their boat blazers and cuffed chinos with gay abandon. Of the pictures below, 1 is from the event, and 2 are Ralph Lauren ads. Can you guess which is which?

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Ok, so the middle pic is actually from last year’s event. But you get the gist – lots of pastel trousers, illusorily broad shoulders and insouciance.

Pimm’s isn’t such a big thing in Australia; at Uni my friends and I co-opted it to the extent of filling plastic water bottles with it to take to annual garden parties on Cockatoo Island (which were truly classy affairs; the entry ticket was a lime-green t-shirt emblazoned with the witty slogan, “Maybe you’ll get a cock-or-two!” ugh) or for the odd weekend BBQ. But the Brits seem to have really taken the “It’s Pimm’s O’Clock!” advertising to heart…it truly is the taste of summer.

Like the gin-based version of Colonel Sanders fried chicken, this lip-smacking drink is made from a secret mix of herbs and liqueurs. According to Wiki, the original recipe remains a closely-guarded secret, known only to 6 of Pimm’s top people called ‘The Secret Six’ (which would make the worst Enid Blyton storyline ever). Anyway, it’s another British tradition that I’m happy to embrace.

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Magdalen tower (photos: John Nguyen, Daily Mail)

Friday was May Day, which is a particularly special occasion for my college. Following a tradition that dates back to 1509, on this one morning each year the Magdalen choir sings the Hymnus Eucharisticus from the top of the tower. Large crowds flood the street and Magdalen bridge, controlled by a security presence that ensures that students don’t jump off the Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell.

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(I get that they don’t want a repeat of previous years’ injuries, but I suspect people would take the warnings more seriously if the font weren’t some weird off-brand Comic Sans.)

I woke up at 5.15 that morning, and flung open my curtains to see a beautiful crisp sky…and bands of still-drunk undergrads trundling up the street straight from the clubs, hoeing into their chips and gravy. Impressively, they were still in black tie. None of the postgrads pulled all-nighters, except for those who were hunkered down in the library. Ah the wisdom/lameness that a few extra years brings…

Listening to the choir from the cloisters lawn inside college was a pretty magical experience, heightened by the pre-breakfast bubbly and smug satisfaction of being shielded from the hectic crowds and grubby club-goers.

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Finally, taking prep to an all-new high this week was our first Croquet Cuppers match against St. Catz college. I’d only ever really associated croquet with Alice in Wonderland and cutesy Pinterest-y weddings, so I was surprised by the lack of flamingo mallets and pastel candy buffet. Also by how technical the game is! There’s a lot of strategy to getting a good roquet (= a strike off another ball, pronounced the way that the peppery lettuce never should be but always is by poncey restaurants) and avoiding being roqueted by the other team. It’s such a fun game to play; perfect for someone like me who is too lazy to walk a golf course, too weak to bowl, and too easily disgusted by the light-up clowns they insist upon having at putt-putt golf.

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