Monday, July 4, 2005

After Jesus: my sister among the survivors (more photos here) ... Posted by Picasa

May Balls

With its usual flair for idiosyncrasy, May Week in Cambridge – the Bacchanalian interval between final exams and graduation ceremonies – takes place in June each year. It commences on “Suicide Sunday”, two days before the St John’s College ball, which always falls on a Tuesday. May week wraps up around the Friday of that week with the First and Third Trinity Boat Club May Ball.

So John’s and Trinity tend to be the mega-balls, tickets are sold only in pairs and tend to be pricey. That said, the events tend to drown in champagne, fireworks and high-profile headline acts. They are also in a position to attract considerable corporate sponsorship. They’re also among the more exclusive balls: you have to apply for tickets through a member of the college. Most balls it’s enough to be a member of the University to apply.

I went to John’s last year, and had a great time, but decided to try and take my sister to a big-ish and a small-ish ball rather than one mega-event.

So, we went to Jesus on Monday (theme: “Xanadu”, as in Coleridge, not ABBA) and Darwin (“Moulin Rouge”) on the Friday, and ducked down to London for some theatre Wednesday night.

Jesus was a great night: they have an enormous set of grounds, which allowed for an ample number of food and drink stalls and activities and dancing tents. As one friend put it, it was a good fun-to-queuing time ratio. The best activity of the night? Dodgem cars (or, over here, “bumper cars”). Oooh yeah. You ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen people in black tie and ball gowns packed into kiddie-size dodgems. (“Would people please ensure that all of their dress is inside the car,” pleaded the ride announcer.) We also jumped ourselves breathless on the jumping castle.

“How do five year olds do it?” I asked collapsing after what seemed too short a time.

“Well, for a start, they don’t drink alcohol,” answered a friend.

Not that there was that much drinking. There was plenty to drink, but I didn’t see anyone passed out, throwing up or getting aggressive. At five in the morning in the Ceilidh (“kaylie” or Celtic dancing) tent did get a little too much into their high-powered spinning, sending my sister diving out of their way as they took out one collapsible chair and the girl wound up doubled over the back of a second.

Darwin is a smaller venue, and sells a much smaller number of tickets. They have a lovely set of gardens, including an island, backing onto the Cam. Despite early rain (which made queuing for admission a joy), the atmosphere inside was festive and uncrowded – the only long line being for crepes.

This time I got into the Ceilidh, and Salsa and stick dancing classes – as well as some night punting.
For both balls I made the morning-after survivors photo at dawn, and then trooped home in the company of fellow Trinity Hallers. I need to go check on ordering them, actually …

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