I feel like this could be a variation on the game ‘grandma went to the shop (and bought…apples, bananas, cous cous, Demerara sugar, envelope sealing wax, funghi, gorgonzola, horse chestnuts, iguanas, jellied eels, kumquats, limoncello, mustard seeds, narwhal observation guides, okra, parsley, quick quotes quill replacement nibs, racing pigeons, semolina, taramasalta, UV lights, venison, wellington boots, xylophone beaters, yurt repair manual, Zeus Himself). Cinderella went to the ball and she… ate? drank? kissed? sang? wore? Please note I’m not stereotyping Cinderella = female = what she wore is priority. Some of the most interesting ball outfits I saw last night were guys who’d clearly put a lot of time and effort (more than me though that wouldn’t be hard) into configuring their appearance. And it would be quite fun to end up with something like ‘Cinderella went to the ball and she wore an alpaca wool headdress, bangles from Zambia, a chicken feather bower, dirty stockings, eyeshadow made of moondust, fishnet gloves, golden suspenders’ etc etc. I would continue, it is a great way to pass the time but it would be more fun to continue the game, with other people I reckon so leave your suggestions in the comments J
Anyway, so I went to a ball last night and I make the comparison with Cinderella because I worked for half of it in a Cinderella-esque manner putting up with disrespectful ‘banter’ from my servees and the fairly harsh hours of 12am-6am. Of course, this was not enforced and I volunteered myself as a student worker in exchange for a ticket at the reduced price of £20. To give some further context, there are many balls at Oxford each year with a range of scales, themes and prices. I attended Queen’s College Ball (‘The Forbidden Palace’ was the theme) for which I believe tickets cost £120. This is upper-middle I think for Oxford college balls with the most expensive coming in at about £195…I think. I didn’t actually look at attending any balls originally as I knew that Magdalen will have its Commemoration Ball (which is held every three years) in my third year which will be in the top price bracket so I thought I’d save my ball experiences for that as that would be a shame to miss! However, an email went round a few weeks ago saying that there was still a demand for student workers at Queen’s Ball for a significantly reduced price ticket for the first half of the evening. I reckoned that even if I couldn’t indulge in the cocktails, cava and Pimms on tap the essentially unlimited food and overall atmosphere would be well worth the £20 and six hours work after that!
It was magical as you might imagine- the older Oxford colleges are simply ideal as idyllic locations for balls. I don’t really plan on doing a review of the ball because I didn’t have a particularly comprehensive experience as I did not attend the majority of it as a guest but if you would like to know more in detail about the content of the ball then head to http://oxford.tab.co.uk/ one of the Oxford student newspapers that review all of the balls. The first thing I realised when I started my shift at midnight was actually how much I enjoy working. I haven’t worked (as in employment/service/practical tasks) all term as we aren’t allowed a job when at Oxford. Just to point out, this originally horrified me and I thought that this was grossly unfair however I soon realised why this was the case. Your course takes up a LOT of time as it is and obviously not to enjoy a social life and getting involved with extracurricular activities would be to miss out a significant part of being at university and if you had a job, never mind the additional stress of holding it down, you simply could not enjoy all of these things. I am not sure if it is technically allowed (perhaps I’ll find out after publishing this!) but I am employed in the vacations (‘it’s not a holiday, but a change of scenery; you vacate your rooms but not your minds’) and I know a number of other people who are too. If you do have any questions or concerns about this then please do get in touch! Anyhow, it was good to be busy like that again. I felt industrious like the bee in Marvell’s Garden. (Please note, I am not amazingly literarily informed, I just remember Marvell’s poems because he uses iambic tetrameter of which I am a fan. Again, for further details, do ask). Admittedly after not long I did feel like I had hit quite a low point in my life when I realised I had been serving tequila shots for three hours straight shivering in the pouring rain but heigh-ho (and a nonny and a…). It is fair to say that even if half of it was washed out with rain water, my clothes were so soaked in alcohol that were they breathalysed they would have failed all the tests going.
As you might have expected I heard some cracking lines (‘No, seriously, pre-tequila shot, what do you really think of the conflict in Turkey?’) and I received a considerable number of offers and requests to involve myself with the drinking which I successfully circumnavigated. It also transpired that a ‘strong G&T’ means three parts gin to one part tonic which did slightly surprise me, and I am fairly confident to assume would have surprised the drinker’s liver. At 3am I moved to serving Proseco/similar and I counted at the end of it I’d popped open and poured out over 50 bottles of fizziness! I certainly helped fill the descriptions of ‘free-flowing’ booze that were advertised in this role as despite the sunrise creeping up on us, cheating us out of a night’s sleep, it was pretty dark and I was getting the sticky stuff everywhere because I could barely see where one glass ended and the next begun. Next time I’ll bring a headtorch <insert joke about me being from the North and having miner heritage followed by sobering comment reminding of the fact that Maggie T closed all the mines down>. The satisfying sound kept me going despite the marginally sickening public school cries of ‘Cor, they’ve got CHAMPERS!’ and ‘Ey! The breakfast of champions!’ etc… Another entertaining moment featured a rousing rendition of happy birthday (to me) after someone asked what the occasion was (they had obviously forgotten they were at a ball at this point and didn’t hear me say that I was actually only joking). Anyway, I survived. I must say I was slightly unimpressed, along with the rest of the student workers at 5am when we were set to dissemble a load of trestle tables, still in the pouring rain. Most of us were freezing and heavy lifting had never been mentioned in any of the job descriptions or briefs but oh well!
All this did remind me though, and I will probably have to make myself read this again (likely through tears) in about a week’s time, that the grades of the exams aren’t the be all and end all of everything. Being able to get on with things with a positive outlook and just trying to get on with people as well as just being prepared to get stuck into whatever task is put in front of you will stand you in good stead and hopefully I reminded myself that even with the slightly impending sense of terror associated with the knowledge that the results of our exams will soon be here, there are some things that I can do just fine which will be useful in ‘the real world’. And by this I’m not just referring to pouring 50 bottles of champagne in 90 minutes, serving gin and tonics into plastic cups which are being blown away in a gale and arranging tequila shots by the hundred before the glasses fill up with rain water but just at least trying to get on with things. I guess in some ways after all the heavy academic stuff the manual, practical, visibly productive tasks feel much lighter, more tangible, you know where you’re at! And often you get paid too.
Soo… what am I trying to say, what is my thesis statement? Well basically there isn’t really anything in particular. That’s what I got up to last night and in the past 28 hours I have had just two hours sleep! And I just wanted to give a little picture of some of the more extravagant side of the Oxford social life you may have heard about but also point of that even as an Oxford, or indeed just a university, student, I don’t think that academic work is everything. Being able to work in a team, get on with people and do practical jobs is so valuable as well! So if you were perhaps wondering if it were possible to maintain practical stuffs and intellectual stuffs then hopefully this says ‘yes’?
Anyway, a word I use far too often, I hope you enjoyed my blabbering and if not please contact my PA (who by the way does not exist, so good luck).