Worcester Garden Party (credit: Simon Mendelsohn), Summer VIIIs (credit: Cesar Manivet)
Of the 3 terms (Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity – I know, I know, they sound more like the names of 3 Dickensian orphans), Trinity was by far the most intense for me. 7 tutorials in 3 weeks (each requiring a critical essay, intelligent discussion and therefore bringing a fresh set of heart palpitations), a month of rowing training leading up to the week-long Summer VIIIs regatta, and the looming threat of exams in 9th and 10th week. As my final term in Oxford, I also felt the pressure to sign up for every event, lest I leave a single ‘Oxford experience’ stone unturned. It’s a great point of smugness that I didn’t hunker down in bookish misery until the end…so determined was I to experience this place in all its spring- and summertime glory. Seasonal delights include:
Magdalen Players (credit: Clarie Holubowskyj)
The Magdalen undergrad’s performance of ‘A Flea in Her Ear’ was held in the President’s garden. It’s definitely something special to see a performance where the stage wings are topiarised and your view is partially obscured by irises.
Games can range from a leisurely putter around New Building lawns, to more intense inter-college Cuppers matches. The latter are also supposed to be social, but by the 3rd round we were pitted against a band of hyper-competitive twats from St Hugh’s. They insisted on playing 1 of the 2 legs at their college despite its sub-par sward, so that we didn’t have a “home turf advantage”, and sent the following email to our team captain before the Magdalen leg:
Hi [team captain],
I just need to ask you a question as there has been some disputes during our previous games. Would you and your team agree on providing a same quality mallet for our team compared to the one that your team will be using?
It would be great if you can let us know if you are not willing to do so, so that we bring our mallet from college.
The game itself was equally hilarious. Each time our opponents made a good shot (which they would spend ages setting up; pressing their faces to the lawn and squinting at the surface, measuring angles, strategising in conspiratorial whispers and plucking stray leaves from the lawn lest it somehow interfered with their play…) they would burst into gleeful self-congratulatory shouts of: “That was delicious!”, “Top shot!” “Magnificent — simply cracking, you beautiful genius!”. When they thought we were trying to throw the game by taking too long (which I swear wasn’t strategy, just incompetence) it almost came to fisticuffs.
Garden Exchanges and Parties
These involve a lot of Pimm’s and elderflower cordial (I don’t exactly know what an elderflower is but I like to imagine it’s the matriarch in a tri-generation of elderflower, chrsanthemum and baby’s breath), sidestepping swans and, as my German friends would say, “doing small-talk”. Green thumbs-up to Worcester which boasts a lake, princely purple rain (wisteria) and an exotic array of trees (including Wollemi pines acquired by telephone bid at a Sydney auction, and banana trees which were wrapped up given the far-from-tropical climes).
This term was peppered with a guest dinner, annual MCR banquet, Law Feast as well as the usual formal halls. Never have I eaten so many asparagus spears in all my life. With so many black tie occasions I also became a certified outfit repeater, in this blue Karen Millen number which was not-so-gratifyingly marketed as a “dress for the more mature lady”.
There was also a slew of exchange dinners, which are a great way to see other colleges and meet interesting people, but also marked some of the worst conversations of my life. I think the low point was being subjected to a 2 hour disquisition on the peaks and troughs of my fellow diner’s sex drive and body fat percentage over the last 10 years, his mother’s menopause, and an analysis of why I’m single, preceded by the statement, “You’re not that terrible looking. I’m sure it won’t be that difficult to find someone.” Flipside is that I was treated to some truly fascinating character studies. And asparagus-based meals.