Freshers 2010: The Cambridge A-Z, Part One

Soon-to-be-Fresher? Let The Tab teach you how to speak Cambridge. Saturday: letters A-H.

ABC ADC Alphabet Cindies cindies spelling Clare clare may ball David Mitchell Drinking Drinking Societies Easter Term exam term Fez Formal Gardies Hall Harry Potter Ian McKellen May Ball May Week Peep Show Robert Webb Sidney Sussex Sidney Sussex May Ball The Ferrets The Squires The Wyverns

Arriving at university is sort of like your first day of school – lost, disoriented, embarrassed by your parents whilst trying to postpone their ultimate departure – except this time with hormones and enhanced social awareness of the awkwardness of having no friends. And you have to learn a new alphabet: this one won’t teach you how to read, but it will allow you to posture as someone who Has A Clue What’s Going On.

Let The Tab teach you how to speak Cambridge…

A is for ADC

The hang-out spot of choice for the future Mitchells, Webbs and McKellens, the ADC or Amateur Dramatic Club is where the thesps come out to play. It usually boasts a weekly mainshow (7.45pm) and late show (11pm), as well as Smokers (during which the Footlights practice their stand up) and other performances that take its fancy.

Bright Lights, Big City: The ADC has launched the careers of many household names

It also has one of the cheapest bars in Cambridge, which stays open till 3am: plenty of time to consume a bottle and a half of passable wine and make a play for this week’s lead dreamboat. The ADC is also very supportive of new writing (as the website promises, “Indeed, one of the highlights of the ADC’s programme this term will be the focus on new writing“). To audition for a show, check out Camdram – which also posts the audition times for shows performing in other theatrical spaces of which Cambridge has many. Also check out the Corpus Playrooms – it’s the kind of ‘intimate’ space that thesps bang on about, but don’t let that put you off. Audience participation is not compulsory.

You can also apply to produce, direct, stage manage, etcetera, if treading the boards isn’t your thing – again, check out Camdram for listings, and if you’re really keen, sign up for the ADC email nesletter (should be a stall at the Freshers’ Fair). Regarding performances, book online/via telephone or turn up and try your luck. And if it’s searing critiques that interest you, you can become a reviewer for The Tab which gets you two free tickets to a performance and a platform from which to exorcise as many shoulder chips as you can cram into 800 coherent words. Contact [email protected] : no experience necessary.

B is for Bop

Part-Year 10 disco, part-Shagaluf – many of your compatriots’ outfits are sufficiently miscroscopic as to induce optical haemorrhage, certainly didnt see that in the school gym – ‘bops’, as Cambridge University affectionately, and mystifyingly, calls them, are an excuse for intra-collegiate incest. Other distinguishing characteristics include: walls that weep with sweat and amateur decorations that are liable to end up draped over that girl in the corner to protect her modesty by half-11.

Dreadful moniker and, lets face it, concept aside, bops are often a lot of fun, if only because their location in a college bar means you can get battered for a tenner. The best bops end up with an after-party in The Fountain and a complicated six-degress-of-separation game the next day as you work out who got with who who also got with her forty minutes later, who sucked him off next to the condom machine while ‘I Gotta Feeling’ was playing.

C is for Cindies

Soon to become your Tuesday and Wednesday night’s entertainment, Cindies – technically called Ballare, and sometimes ‘ironically’ referred to as such – is sort of like your fuck buddy from back home. A little flabby around the edges and someone whom you’d never introduce to your cooler friends, but consume sufficient units and squint a little (which, if you’ve drunk enough, should happen instinctively) and you’ll have a good night.

Cindies as you’ve never seen it before: empty

Specialities include the Top 40 playing on repeat, with numerous old, ahem, classics from the DJ’s iTunes making an appearance, and expect to see shenanigans to rival a bop and find yourself still awake at 5.30am, ears still ringing with the DJ’s stellar selections. Ultimately, you will discuss Cindies with the same world-weary condescension with which The Tab has written this, but you will go, probably every week for at least your first year and (possibly/probably) beyond. If you rise to the higher echelons of The Tab’s editorial team, you might even get to sample Cindies’ delights for free.

Cindies as you usually experience it: rammed and malodorous (the latter not discernible from photograph, but take our word for it)

Even esteemed alumnus David Mitchell has frequented Cindies in his time:


D is for Drinking Societies

Despite what the University Admissions Service would imply, there are aspects of Cambridge that remain elitist and impenetrable to certain unwelcome outsiders. We give you, drinking societies. Most colleges have at least one male and female drinking society, to which future members must ultimately be invited and endure a gruelling initiation ceremony, which can include such horrors as eating foul substances, drinking thrice your body weight in Sainsbury’s basics alcohol and performing embarrassing spectacles that often include whipped cream, sex toys and a huge audience.

Drinking societies exist to go on swaps – which are basically an exercise in enforced matchmaking, although matchmaking glorifies the outcome of such trysts. Just like much of Cambridge’s social scene, hook-ups require some kind of organisational body too, based around a dinner at a cheap establishment, with cheap alcohol which you are required to drink quickly and furiously to lubricate the swap’s social cohesion programme. You will probably have to dress up too.

Lets not even imagine what they’re covered in

More importantly, drinking societies exist to impose the aforementioned heirarchy that the university would like to pretend doesn’t exist and to provide tabloid fodder under a headline screaming, “THESE are the future leaders of YOUR country”, accompanied by a suitably incriminating photograph of girls in hockey skirts and not much else. You will pretend you don’t want to be in one until you are invited to join one, at which point you sneer at the zeks who haven’t been invited. It’s 21st-century aristocracy: constructed not on a foundation of genealogy and class, but on how many jelly beans you can find with your tongue in a basin of granary flour after consuming three bottles of Sainsbury’s basics ale and a bowl of someone else’s tactical chunder.

But don’t let our jocular portrayal of drinking societies lull you into a false sense of security. In many colleges (Jesus, Magdalene and Girton spring to mind), a few senior drinking society lads take themselves VERY SERIOUSLY. Understandably of course, because being a senior drinking society lad is a very very important thing…

E is for Easter Term

Deceptively, third term is called Easter Term, thereby connoting various animal-shaped Lindt masterpieces and the awakening of new life. It ought to be given its correct name, Exam Term, thereby connoting a Pro-Plus and nicotine based diet and the death of your soul. Exam term really is as bad as that. It is febrile and oppressive and you spend many more hours trying to suppress that nervous twitch you have developed than actually revising anything. However, for those that survive Exam Term, at the end of the term there is May Week, which might be termed as Cambridge University’s apology for everything else about Cambridge University.

For Sidney Sussex’s Venetian-themed May Ball, they created a canal on their main lawn…

May Week means May Balls, no essay deadlines, garden parties and sufficient alcohol abuse to forget about exams anyway. May Balls are much more lavish than your leavers’ ball: a surfeit of food, alcohol and activity (even when it’s having fun Cambridge has to be an overachiever), and some big names too – check out this year’s May Ball Blog for a look at who balls manage to attract.

…and Clare May Ball employed their very own camel

F is for Fez

Fez competes with Life (see: L, coming tomorrow) on Sunday nights for the hearts, minds and student loans of the university body. While Fez prefers light indie (think a lot of MGMT), in Life, you are at the mercy of a fat 40-year old virgin (probably) and his collection of Now CDs, otherwise known as the house DJ. Fez also smells better because of the incense sticks that fizzle away on every surface. So really, it smells overwhelmingly like a Body Shop outlet store (Peppermint and Jasmine mouthwash – 75% off!!!!). But this is preferable to the aroma of Life, which The Tab can’t quite put its finger (or nose) on, but certainly isn’t pleasant.

Fez is smaller, but the smoking area is less lethal (read: not a cobbled alleyway that might as well be an alley of flaming coals when you’re pissed). Fez’s clientele is slightly less swap-heavy; you see a lot of fancy dress in Life. But ultimately, you’ll end up going to the one that is marginally less rammed. On non-Sundays, Fez is proving itself as a relatively esteemed music venue, attracting actual named DJs as opposed to fat 40-year old virgins (probably). Check out the website for listings – proper (i.e. non-student) nights tend to be more expensive, but perhaps a cherished hiatus from the usual bad-taste-without-irony fare of Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

G is for Gardies

Hidden in cobbled streets where young studious men would lean in arches composing notes to their loved ones, now sits Gardies, or more formally, The Gardenia.

Arty: Gardies as it is never usually seen

Boasting Greek men serving up kebabs, pizzas and falafel until the early hours always with a cheeky smile on their face, Gardies is a Cambridge institution, its popularity manifest by a thriving Facebook fan page. With its walls covered in photos of fast food fans and the permanent feature of the chain-smoking, dieting, and therefore not-kebab-eating girl outside, there is lots to stare at as mayonnaise drips down your chin and you contemplate the start of your hangover. Gardies is also a veritable papparazzi, taking pictures of you and your mates as you stand with mayonnaise dripping down your chin contemplating the start of your hangover. See below, and beware Greeks bearing Canons.


H is for Hall

Either Formal or non-Formal. Formal hall is one of those unfortunate events that encapsulates the less inventive taunts school chums grunted in your direction when they heard you were applying to Cambridge: “Ha! You’ll have to go to fancy dinners wearing Harry Potter outfits and speak Latin!”; simultaneously, it is one of the more photographed events of any term, often deserving of an entire album on a new chum’s Facebook page. Hence, putting these elements together, means that moments after being tagged in twelve formal hall photos, you’ve had four derisive comments from home friends about turning into a posh twat.

Don’t forget your roots

Ultimately, formal is a fancy dinner where you wear Harry Potter outfits (gowns) and a Latin grace is delivered before you eat. (Unless you go to King’s where, rumour has it, formal is less formal.) The food is better than standard hall food, not to mention good value: you can usually end up with a three course dinner for under a tenner. Varies from college to college, but tends to be minimum two (optional) Formal halls a week.

Watch out for ‘pennying’: a game played at Formal that involves flicking a penny into someone else’s wine glass. If it lands in the glass, they have to consume all the contents of the glass.  Keen wits are rewarded to avoid being pennied: two years ago, one chappy at Catz, a little too innebriated after too many pennyfuls ended up projectile vomiting across the floor before the Dean had arisen from his throne.

Harry, Ron and Hermione loved fish-and-chips Fridays

Non-Formal hall is basically the canteen your college runs for every other meal. Cheap (but probably not as cheap as cooking for yourself on Sainsbury’s Basics), whether you go will probably ultimately depend on how proficient a cook you are, and what your college gyp room facilities are like. It is, however, a good meeting point, especially in the first few weeks when you need to keep reminding people of your face so that you don’t cease to exist.

Check out letters H-P here.