Freshers 2010: The Cambridge A-Z, Part Two

Soon-to-be Fresher? Let The Tab teach you how to speak Cambridge. Sunday: I – P.

bedder Cindies Date Ariane Disco DJs Drinking Facebook Fez Internet JCR Kambar Life Lottie Unwin National Rail Oxford Phoebe Luckhurst Porter spotify Swap The Mahal The Other Place the tab YouPorn youtube

Yesterday, The Tab taught you your A-H. But you’re going to be a Cambridge student, and that level of literacy is frankly embarrassing. Today: I-P. (If you missed A-H, shame on you. Click here to catch up.)

I is for Internet

The internet is both vital and a scourge to the 21st century student. It is easy to do the reading for essays; and far too easy to plaigiarise. Where once you might have read a chapter and then written based on the knowledge you gleaned – being informed by the source, rather than lifting from it – now it is all too easy to cut and paste. Where once, when doing said essay research, you would have had other reference books open, now it is far too easy to have iPlayer, 4OD and YouTube open in the other tabs. Where once, you would have gone out and found a real girl to shag, now it is all too easy to find an online alternative on YouPorn, or The Tab’s favourite online sweetheart, Ariane.

Ariane: she’s well fit

However, saying that, no one I asked was quite sure about browser history: is the University Computing Service taking a note of everytime you consume illicit material? Oxford, ever a killjoy, has banned students from using Spotify, so The Tab would hate to think what they do to those found cruising the web’s seedy underbelly. We invisage a Miss Trunchbull-esque ‘chokey’. Tab tip? Delete your history; it’s always embarrassing when a new friend tries to log onto Facebook and the laptop Mummy and Daddy bought you helpfully predicts something else starting with F and ending with K. And please, sign out of Facebook. Facebook rape – and never call it ‘frape’ – is acutely trying on the patience of my poor News Feed. While we are not sufficiently gullible as to assume that “X loves the cock!!!!”, accompanied by your new profile picture – a massive dildo being inserted up a willing arsehole – is actually your way of coming out, we are sufficiently judgemental as to wish you to fuck off and make a mental note to lower you in our estimation, Fresher.

And while we’re at it…become a fan of The Tab on Facebook here. And look out for our new feature, YouTube video of the week, next term. If you can’t beat ’em…

J is for JCR Committee (or Junior Common Room Committee)

No, it doesn’t make any sense to us either. Every student at a college is a member of their Junior Common Room; in other words, it is basically an acronym for the student body at any given college. Those who are involved in the JCR Committee will affect that this body is the defender of student democracy, communicating the myriad demands of the college population to the evil overbearers i.e. the Bursar and the Dean. This is, perhaps, stretching the truth slightly. The JCR is the body to whom you complain if your shower won’t perform on demand or your cross-corridor neighbour won’t stop taking toilet rolls back to his room to mop up his messy ‘cold’. Certain positions hold more sway (and college kudos) than others: the one you really want to be is ents rep, minimum responsiility, maximum street cred.

K is for Kambar

Kambar is Cambridge’s hang-out for the kool kids. Alliteration is cool, even if they disagree.  With some of the cheapest drinks in Cambridge and a Happy Hour between 10 and 11, you’d think it’d be slightly busier – at least for an hour – but instead the crowd revolt against anything that resembles protocol.  For want of a better word, it’s grotty on the outside – next to some wheely bins and with its very own oozing alley to its left – but a surprisingly spectacular Grade II listed building on the inside (think an edgy barn) and boasts closing times that make the rest of the Cambridge club scene look like pre-school.

Doors brandish instructions to redirect you “back to disco”

Said barn-like interior, bowls of sherbert straws on the bar and toilets that are impossible to navigate provides a welcome alternative to the Cindies/Life space/time continuum. It’s also the place to go if you fancy putting on a club night/renting a space for a birthday party. Contact them here. And look out for National Rail Disco – Kambar’s most popular night, and probably the only time you have to queue to get in. Alternatively, join the Facebook group so that you don’t have to look out for it, but will be generously reminded with notifications about its existence. See I = Internet.

Kambar: a little bit disorientingly cool in the otherwise dearth of cool that is Cambridge

L is for Life

Life is referred to by Townies as The Place, but to students, it is Life, the other of Sunday’s esteemed nightspots.  The Fez/Life divide is a social schism almost as deep-set as that of Oxford versus Cambridge (see: O). For those of you who will dismiss Life as Cindies’ identical – and equally flabby and shortsighted – twin sister, there  are nuanced differences. The music in Life is more varied (not strictly speaking wholly positive, given the variants to which it extends) and the smoking area smaller – but not necessarily any less of a refuge from sweat and morph suit clad giants (we are short girls and the world is one viewed at armpit level).  Instead of walking upstairs to get in, you go down some, though granted the feature of stairs (to ultimately nowhere, rather like an Esher picture) is shared currency.

Drinks at Life are similarly extortionate, so the pre-lash is both advised and necessary if you are to leave in a moderately amenable mood. Most importantly: beware the ‘VIP booths’, where opportunistic rogue characters skulk, ready to leap onto (and quite possibly into) any poor catatonic damsel who stumbles their way.

A sinister sight: the ‘VIP booths’ at Life

You will discuss Life with the same world-weary condescension with which The Tab has written this, but you will go, probably every week for your first year and (possibly/probably) beyond. Unless you’re at Fez that is.

M is for Mahal

While much of Cambridge is shrouded in archaic rules, there is a small pocket of the town which is anarchic in the extreme. The Mahal – a favoured swap location – is a curry house located on Mill Lane, and in mystifyingly characteristic Cambridge fashion, isn’t actually called The Mahal but Bombay Brasserie. But forget we said that since few will actually understand what you mean if you drop it in in conversation.

Debris at the Mahal

At The Mahal, you can and will: throw curry; remove your clothes; stand on the chairs; chant offensive names at people; make people eat their curry with their face; throw up; sweat as if you’ve just realised you’re still drunk in a supervision; involve yourself in outspoken inter-collegiate battles with others who have also chosen to rent a sty at The Mahal, tossing gems such as ‘Sit Down, Shut Up’ and ‘[Insert college here] are gays!!’ at one another. Read The Tab‘s interview with the men who preside over this anarchy, The Mahal’s proprietors.

N is for Nanny

I’ll admit this is a tenuous link. Nanny in this instance is the role served by your bedder, (who would have been B if it hadn’t already been taken up with Bop). Your bedder cleans your messy pit; as you will soon discover, your bedder also becomes a surrogate mother, psychiatrist and, yes, nanny, all-rolled into one. Mother, because she scolds you gently for leaving your socks all over the place. Psychiatrist because she will (over-)analyse that parting gesture with you (was that a hug? Or more of a shoulder budge?), probably after walking in on the two of you at it on your creaky mattress in G block. Nanny because at some point, she will encounter you crying and comfort you with silly stories and matronly good-humour, which is something that Mummy never did and probably why you need bedder to fill this triumvirate of roles in the first place. Incidentally, bedder will almost certainly also see you naked, which Mummy certainly did a long time ago, and Nanny did too.

Your bedder will be your rock…if she can find you in there

Getting your bedder on side is vital: if you and she (and it is always a she) are ‘friends’, then she’ll be myopic when suspicious characters emerge from said room at 7am; cigarettes will be disposed of wordlessly; and an extra bog roll will be provided, without enquiring as to why the last one is propped on the bedside table next to a TV guide open on a photo spread of the Loose Women. But remember, they’ve been at this game way longer than you have. Superciliousness won’t cut it. Don’t throw roses at them. They don’t want chocolate. Just be polite, don’t cause offensive smells and try and keep the nudity as covered as possible. Literally. Although she’s probably seen it before.

O is for Oxford, or The Other Place

Have no qualms about it, you picked the right one. Affectionately referred to as ‘The Scum’, we’ve trounced them in three Varsity matches this term (Varsity match = Oxford vs. Cambridge match) – the boat race, the rugby and the cricket – and the Times Higher Education supplement’s latest rankings put us at second in the world, while Oxford languishes at a measly fifth equal with Imperial College, London. Of course, it all depends on the data you read, but that is rather immaterial to issue at hand, because part of the Oxford-Cambridge rivalry is a bloody-minded conviction that you attend the superior institution. Don’t say, “But the Guardian ranks Oxford as the UK number one.” Say: “Bosh the scum!! Varsity triple!!” However, most of us retain a curiosity about “The Other Place”, and catering to that curiosity, The Tab boasts its very own Oxford columnist. Read his first entry here, and look out for his column in Michaelmas.


Thrashing the scum at the boat race, the single day of the year we all pretend we care about rowing

P is for Porter

Like the Bedder, the Porter has seen everything. And if you’re clever, again, you’ll keep them on side. Bedders and porters form the fabric of a college. If you keep them sweet, you’ll be wise, my friend: porters have been known to exercise discretion if they like you. What discretion, I hear you ask? Well, say you’re having a small gathering of amigos and aquaintances, and one of your fellow corridor residents – probably unhappy about the neglected invitation, the dull sod – chooses to report you, it will be the Head Porter you’ll be facing come 8am the next morning. The Porter will decide if your case goes to the Dean. It’s kind of like a small-scale Mafia, except instead of a heavy-set Italian Godfather, it’s a slightly wizened chappy from Ely who’s worked at [insert college here] for 30 years and “looks out for his own”.

Helen Stephens, a porter at Selwyn, became the first female porter in the university’s 800-year history

He is also a useful pub quiz weapon, for useless trivia is the porter’s version of a degree. Porters are a trove of college gossip – so watch who you snog (or worse) in the porters’ lodge. If he likes the boyfriend you’ve picked up, four days into term, then you might just find yourself divorced as swiftly as you were joined.

Return tomorrow for the last installment of The Tab‘s Cambridge A-Z.