22 June 2011

I'm Having Such a Good Time, I'm Having a Ball

This year, St Jocks' turned cinq cents and as part of the celebrations, the annual May Ball was bigger and better than ever and, importantly for me, provided more tickets than usual for alumni, although apparently, I was still pretty lucky to win a double ticket in the ballot. While I was a student I went to our college's Ball every year — yes, there are other balls to try but the college next door's is the only one that comes close and their tickets were too hard to obtain. It was the same every year (technically, the themes changed from year to year but this had minimal effect on the overall experience) but it was fantastic every year and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

After a five year break, it was fantastic to come back and celebrate St Jocks' from MDXI to MMI. Actually, although the Ball was bigger, it wasn't all that different from most of the others I attended. There was a huge range of different food and drink on offer. I consumed, in approximate chronological order: strawberries and Champagne, pick and mix sweets, a burger, a raspberry martini, a Curiosity Cola, some very fine cheese, a Pimm's-like Summer Cup, a blueberry cupcake, candy floss, a Yorkshire pudding (no room for beef), fish and chips, some treacle tart, a G and T, a bacon bap and some coffee. In small portions, of course, so I didn't fill myself up. Also on offer were: Bloody Margarets (in honour of the foundress), curries, hog roast, ice cream, a fruit mountain, pancakes and plenty more. The best thing is that the food and drink rarely runs out (unlike at lesser balls) and because the variety is so great, the queues are never too long.

Lotus Leap in "India"

The theme this year was the college's history, focusing on six notable alumni (a social reformer, a poet, a former PM, a polar explorer, the Indian PM and a science fiction writer) and the aforementioned foundress. They aren't necessarily the most famous alumni, although several of them have rooms named after them in college, but were clearly chosen in part to provide themes to the different sections of the Ball, each hosted in a separate court. One court, for example, became India, with a giant, gold elephant, a painting of the Taj Mahal, curry and Cobra beer, and a chill-out tent, as well as the stage for the main music acts. Another section, in honour of the polar explorer, held fake snow, penguins, frozen vodka and ice cream.

The Gents in action

As I said before, though, the themes are always somewhat incidental as there is such a huge range of different things to do, from live music (including the rapper Big Boi who, according to the ents committee member standing behind me in a queue, who had met him, "isn't very big; he's only five eight. He's quite fat though,"; folk, jazz, D&B, and various bands doing covers, as well as the college's choir who performed a cappella versions of various pop songs at five am), to stand-up comedy, dodgems, a casino, a caricature artist, magicians, dancing, massages, and so on. Unless there is a music act you particularly like (this year there wasn't), you can just wander from court to court eating, drinking and enjoying the show.

The spectacular May Ball fireworks

And of course, the fireworks are always excellent. They seemed bigger, better and longer than usual this year but this might just be because I've had to put up with mediocre fireworks for the past five years. The Backs are the perfect setting for a spectacular show.

The weather behaved perfectly -- not a drop from yesterday afternoon until I left my B&B this lunchtime -- but I didn't miss being freezing and knackered at three am before the sun started to come up. With aching feet and only a shawl for warmth, you start to think, "maybe I should just go to bed." But we resisted, gambled away our chips in the casino, had some caffeine (in my case, poured most of the weak, milky but still scalding coffee over my hand), and were rewarded with a bacon sarnie and a great cover of Hey Ya by the Ella Funks before it was time for the aforementioned five am a cappella fun.

And then, at sometime after six-thirty, we sauntered away to catch a few hours of sleep, via a certain bridge for one last leap before sleep. I'm exhausted now but it was great to go back.

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