Wednesday, June 16, 2004

May week, the best thing about June

Okay, I’m calling half time and taking a breather.

The birth of summer and the death of exams produces a hectic social round in Cambridge called “May Week”, occurring – naturally enough – in June.

May Week kicks off with the Garden Parties of Suicide Sunday: typically hosted by clubs and societies and featuring copious quantities of alcohol and finger food. These first of these starts at 10 am and they run staggered through the day, allowing people to get utterly slaughtered.

Hence, “suicide Sunday”.

Drinking or Boat (ie rowing) Club garden parties often have a dress code, so it’s not uncommon to see a lot of fairly rah-rah looking young Englishmen staggering about in fawn pants, club tie and blue blazers. (Or tie, blazer, shorts and sandals.)

As Sunday was closing night for “Golden Ass”, I kept it fairly restrained with two glasses of Pimms at the Amateur Dramatic Club garden party in the Bursar’s Garden at Corpus Christi (a bewildering maze of ‘courts’ – I stumbled across a full-period-costume rehearsal of “The Merchant of Venice” before I found drinks, and discovered half its cast had been in “Albert’s Bridge” with me).

Rather legendarily, our leading man arrived for the final night’s call 40 minutes late and still inebriated, but was word-perfect throughout the production.

Even if the producer did have to fish him out of the shrubbery before he went on.

It was a great closing night, and I felt I gave my best performances in each of my variety of small parts. However, for the second night running a “wardrobe malfunction” resulted in my taffeta dress bursting a shoulder strap and the audience receiving a flash of man-nipple.

The cast went to dinner afterwards (mmm … bento) and the cast party ran until 6.45 am Monday morning (full cooked breakfast served shortly after dawn), by which time some of the cast had been swimming in the Jesus Green pool.

After the daring pool-raid one friend of the production re-entered the cast party at the director’s flat by the window. A moderately impressive act, given she lives on the first floor (ie the one above ground level).

A refreshing one-hour nap later and I was pitching up with Mr Producer to telephone fund-raising training at college from 10 – 4, prior to our being callers in our college’s alumni appeal later this week.

After that I had time to go home, get into suit and tie and cycle to Wolfson to help judge a debating final for their intensive management-skills course and attend formal hall and make polite dinner conversation until around 10 in the evening.

(I was coherent enough on the clash between creating new vertical structures of international law and horizontally coordinating existing national systems for an academic working on issues in European police integration to demand my email and provide me with his card.)

I collapsed around 10.30, while braver soles participated in the “punt jam” on the river to watch the Trinity College May Ball fireworks.

Yesterday was another day of 10 – 4 training, a Marlowe Society Garden Party (Pimms, scones and jam, strawberries and cream served on the Pembroke Library Lawn) and then the St John’s College May Ball.

At over 100 pounds for an impossible-to-get-anyway non-dining ticket I was expecting a good time – and got it in spades. Along with Trinity College, St John’s is usually one of the “big two” balls and apparently makes the Newsweek top-ten world parties fairly often. Not hard to see why.

As ticket holders you queue at least an hour to get in, ID is checked, as is the UV stamp on your printed ticket. Once security-braceleted you enter the “reception area” (champagne and strawberries) through the amazing St John’s chapel. Beyond that?

Fireworks, a fun-fair and night punting on the riverbanks. A main event tent and three or four other music, cabaret and dance venues. A masseuse I never bothered queuing for. Basically unlimited food and drink. Punts full of ice, vodka drinks and Jamaican beer. The fairy-tale confection of John’s architecture lit up purple and white.

Highlights included old-fashioned “boat swings” at the fair, a Charleston lesson (there was a 1920s theme) and attending part of the Scissor Sisters set at the main event tent: not quite my thing, but they had an amazing stage presence, and it was worth it to see a rocking crowd entirely in black tie and evening gowns. (As was the student security staff, distinguishable only by a coloured sash across their dress-shirt, which amused the musos no end.)

Left a bit after 5, simply not having the stamina to make it through to the 6 am "survivors" group photo.

I could write a lot more, but I have to rest up for the Trinity Hall event this evening (not a ball per se, more a four-venue music extravaganza, but still enjoying a reputation as one of the May Week events) and the Darwin Ball (a graduate college) on Friday. Not certain who’s playing at Trinity Hall, precise details of bands and acts are usually kept under wraps. (That the Scissor Sisters were playing was something you only discovered upon being issued with your ball program.)

I start phone-campaign work Thursday, law marks are out Friday morning, and I leave on my travels on the 29th.

No wonder I feel busy.

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