Tuesday, July 1, 2003

So, it’s not a Hogwart’s letter by owl …

… but I did receive my college admission pack from Cambridge this week.

If there was any doubt I was stepping into an ancient, occasionally anachronistic institution, it’s been allayed by some of the more useful information provided.

There is a fair bit of jargon to conquer. A formal dinner is a “Hall”. To “matriculate” is to join the college – and requires signing the college register at a formal dinner:

“Please note that the appropriate dress for this event … is evening dress and gown. You will need both these many times during the year.

Evening Dress: … "black tie". Or your own formal National Dress.”

It becomes apparent that “gown” means “academic”, and not “ball”:

You need an academic graduate gown for the Matriculation Dinner, the weekly Grad Hall dinner and a number of other events during your stay. The correct gown is a black Cambridge gown: a BA gown if you are under 25, an MA gown if you are 25 years old or more. Undergraduate gowns are noticeably shorter and you should not wear one. Sources of new and used Gowns include Ede and Ravenscroft [who?] … Also the Porters at Trinity Hall often know of gowns for sale.”

Righto, then. I get to wear a Masters gown just coz I’m old. And I either have to pack a tux or National Dress.

(Where is my Steve Irwin outfit?)

On bicycles:

“A bike is almost essential for getting about. Each bicycle must have the College number assigned to its owner painted on the frame. Numbers are issued by the Porters. Bicycles are forbidden in College except in the racks provided … If you wait a couple of weeks, there is an auction of unclaimed bikes on the first Sunday of Full Term, run by the police ...”

Cars are also regulated:

“If you are under 25 years old you need permission to keep a car from the Graduate Tutor and the University Motor Proctor. … There is very limited parking at Wychfield and … [you] need permission from the Wychfield Residential Manager and Head Porter.”

I am also getting the impression that it’s the Porters who have the inside running on everything. (“Psst … where can I get a gown/bicycle number/parking permit?”). They do everything, it seems other than carry your luggage. (“Do not be confused by literal meanings, grasshopper.”)

There are also numerous warnings about the weather: mild summer, winter with extreme wind chill. It is also noted that:

“An umbrella is very useful.”

I imagine that counts as English understatement.

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