Why the Pre-Lash is Here to Stay

As Bristol threatens to fine freshers for drinking in their rooms, Ailsa Cameron explains why the pre-lash can sit tight.

Bristol freshers party pre-drinking pre-lash

It’s a few hours that can take infinite forms. The planned pre-lash, the spontaneous pres, the pre-party, the drinking stale wine out of a mug on the floor.

Over the years the binge-before-the-boogie has evolved into a staple of the nightlife scene at universities across the world. And, despite Bristol’s plans to drive up bar profits by fining students who indulge in pre-drinks, and its insistence that drinking culture is out of control, it really won’t be going anywhere.

The two main reasons for the popularity of the pre-drinks are simple, obvious and self-explanatory: it’s cheap, and it’s the world’s best social lubricant.

In a city where the price of a double at the O2 is likely to dump you in a week-long famine, a £10 bottle of petrol-style vodka that’ll last you a few nights is a bare essential. And at a university where a solid 90% of students are self-loathing Oxbridge rejects, something’s gotta lighten the mood. A pint of economy rum, an extra-sugary mixer and a side of monotonous pop is generally the best solution.

There is, of course, rather a wide margin for error in the delicate art of pre-drinking. When do you begin? How much do you drink? Experience tells us that without discipline a good vibe can quickly transform into an emotional, angry sea of regurgitated WKD.

That said, some might argue that it is possible to frame these disadvantages in a positive, ‘life experience’-type light. E.g. pre-drinking offers students opportunities to learn what potent, brand-less spirits can do to the human body, to tolerate ingesting what is essentially vinegar (NB Sainsbury’s Basics ‘Table Wine’) for the sake of a good night, and to develop an impressive resilience to alcohol that’s indistinguishable from urine.

Admittedly, these skills aren’t exactly transferrable. And putting your body through major internal trauma isn’t generally the first ambition of the undergrad. But this is freshers’ fortnight, and if you aren’t blessed with manic attributes that are usually socially toxic (e.g. unrelenting enthusiasm/frightening personability), you might fancy a small beverage to warm the cockles before you make the pilgrimage to the trippy carpets of Ye Olde Syndicate.

And this is normal. A great deal of freshers’ themes and activities are a warped ploy to help you ‘relax’, ‘settle in’ and ‘socialise’, that end up doing entirely the opposite. An event entitled ‘Socially Awkward Sunday’ (Goldney Hall, hang your head in shame) may be an attempt at a tongue-in-cheek ice-breaker, but really, when you turn up at 6pm on the first night, so sober you might die, having been instructed to wear your favourite jim-jams: it really ain’t that funny.

So on day 12, puffy-eyed as you cake smurf paint onto your greasy, sallow hangover-face, it’s unlikely that you’ll really want to be chatty with, interested in, or even vaguely tolerant of any new people. And in this mindset, looking like a bloated, blue idiot is only bearable with a wee tipple to start the night.

There’s nothing edgy about chundering right back into the shot glass you just drank out of, and drunkenly defecating in the street isn’t exactly going create a sexy air of intrigue, but the point of pre-drinking isn’t a 9.30pm bedtime with sick in your hair and wee on your shoes. Such extravagant displays are avoidable. Freshers’ week is not. The pre-lash is here to stay.