Freshers 2010: The Cambridge A-Z, Part Three

Read the final installment of The Tab’s alphabet as we teach you the Cambridge lingo.

Debating Debating Chamber lbgt cambridge LGBT Lottie Unwin Phoebe Luckhurst Revs S Club 7 spoons Tab TV The Regal The Union town vs gown Townies wetherspoons

Here it is, the final installment of The Tab‘s Cambridge A-Z. Firstly, if you’ve only just clued up – check out A-H, and I-P.

Q is for Quidditch

Prepare for tenuous link numero uno. But, wait! Before you scoff at The Tab for being supremely mentally-limited (“Pah! Who can’t come up with something for Q?”) – may I remind you of the Catz (= St Catharine’s) students who believe that quidditch ought to be considered a sport and – mildly disconcertingly – don’t seem to be the lone maniacs in a sea of rational minds? Thank you.

Muggle Quidditch in action the USA

Now, on a more conventional note… Ultimately, if you want to play sport in Cambridge you will be able to do so at some level or another. Your college will have sports teams – sign up at your college Freshers’ Fair – and depending on the size of the college and the popularity of the sport, there may well be several teams. Other colleges are better provided for than others – Catz has an astroturf hockey pitch, John’s has vast playing fields, Jesus just seems to have endless nets, courts and goal posts. And there’s plenty of space on that freezing cold river for the rowers.


Oh go on, you want to see them playing Quidditch, don’t you

Those who are really good at their selected sport may be selected to play for the university, which is called being a Blue. Male Blues will then acquire a blazer, a reliance on thrice-hourly protein shakes, and an army of Blue-Tack – a Harem of variable looking girls who want to shag them purely because they play sport (and not at all as a result of any deeply-seated self-esteem issues).

Blue-Tack – stop salivating. The laptop keys are sticking together

For those of us who are not particularly interested in sport, or rather, whose interest in sport extends only to the fact that we’ll never find a boyfriend if our arses are halfway down our thighs, then Fenners, the University’s gym is only £40 per year for undergraduate membership (same cost applies to post-grads). Check out the website here.

R is for Revs

Revs is Vodka Revolutions. “Wait! They’ve got one of those bland, slightly overexpensive chain bars in my town!” Yeah? Well I bet yours doesn’t have a roof terrace. Revs is a favoured swap location for the 2-for-1 food deals and features an alluring series of ‘shot sticks’ will seem like a really good deal in fresher’s week until you realise that they are, in reality, not.

S is for Sundays

There are two Sundays on which your immediate concern upon waking up is not, “who’s heading to brunch?” but rather, where’s that bottle of Glen’s vodka? We speak, of Caesarean and Suicide Sundays.

Caesarean Sunday is an event about three weeks into Exam term (see: E, Part One) , and is seen to demarcate the last day of boozing before exam hibernation begins. (Those who carry on after this explosion of revelry are considered Massive Lads in public, and The Walking Damned in private). Caesarean Sunday is when many drinking societies choose to initiate new members (see D: Part One) on Jesus Green, a verdant spot which, within a matter of a few short hours, bears some resemblance to the Battle of the Somme. Even if you are initiating, it is likely you will be as drunk as your initiees. After initiations, most of the university crowds around the Girton Green Monsters and the Jesus Caesareans, who then do gruelling battle until one is crowned victor. Following this, everyone piles off for a tactical nap (one possible explanation for the popular nickname for the Caesarians – ‘the snoozarians’. There are others), and then normal Sunday rules apply: another battle to squeeze through the doors of Fez and Life and a hangover that leaves you sweating booze for three days afterwards.


The Caesarians and Green Giants do ‘battle’ in 2007

Suicide Sunday was, traditionally, the day upon which Finalists received their exam results. It is, however, post-exams and marks the beginning of May Week and therefore is a day of exuberant celebration and often tabloid hysteria. On Suicide Sunday, various drinking societies host garden parties – The Wyverns being the most notorious of them all, so notorious indeed, that the university no longer permits these Magdalene gentlemen to actually hold their garden party in the town itself – one of which you are bound to attend, and some people manage two or three. These parties are characterised by abundant alcohol, boys in chinos, blazers and drinking society ties and mildly-offensive portaloos. Some boast music, or bouncy castles, others assume excessive booze is sufficient – it is – but expect to leave unable to stand. Another tactical nap, and then it’s out for your usual doze of Sunday night entertainment, except this time, no Monday morning supervision, but rather the glorious freedom of May Week.

T is for Townies

Strictly speaking, there is a strict townie-student apartheid – unless you choose to frequent Wetherspoons, which you very well might since it’s cheap, and rather like The Mahal, rather hard to get kicked out of or barred from. However, in calling it Wetherspoons, or Spoons, as you indubitably shall, you expose that this apartheid is more complicated than preferred drinking locations, for no townie would call it Wetherspoons, instead opting for ‘The Regal’. And even if you go to Wetherspoons, you definitely wouldn’t go on a Saturday night. The apartheid remains.

An epicentre of Town vs. Gown apartheid: Spoons. Or is it The Regal?

This apartheid means that townies and students can coexist quite happily – because separately – and without any awkward altercations in which the former call the latter “toffs”, and the later retort with something horrifically classist that does nothing but strengthen stereotypes about Cambridge. Ultimately, us Cambridge kids avoid townie nights out because you don’t have to be a pussy to go here, but it helps. However, The Tab, ever heroic, ventured out one night, even daring to take a video camera. Watch the Tab TV footage below.


U is for the Union

Going down the union at most other UK universities usually involves four spirits for a pound, Cheesy Pop Wednesdays (!!) and an ex-member of S Club 7 performing a weak rendition of a 90s classic. But that is union-with-a-small-u. The Cambridge Union is a members only affair; less cheesy pop and nauseous childhood pin-ups (the girls anyway; the male members were never names you’d draw hearts around in bubblegum gel pen in your homework diary); more pomp, circumstance and an ancient debating chamber.

Aforementioned ancient debating chamber

It is not an exclusive members only club: any undergraduate at the university can pay to become a member, but unlike your JCR (see, J), you are not automatically a member of the Union by default of being a member of your college/the university. The Union attracts big name speakers to its sometimes contentious debates and holds various ents (including the innocently-named Pole Fitness) throughout term. Budding politicians: apply here; a position at the Union is likely to look good on any political CV.

V is for Varsity Ski Trip

Now, we’ve already made our feelings about Oxford very clear (See: O, Part Two). However, some Cambridge students are sufficiently charitable as to offer these Oxford students a glimpse (just that, mind you – you can look but don’t touch) of how much better university would have been if they’d only been slightly cleverer and been able to attend university with the likes of us. We give you, Varsity Ski Trip – in other words, a ski trip for both Cambridge and Oxford students.

The biggest student-run ski trip in the world, this year Varsity Trip is going to Val Thorens, in the French Alps, between the 4th and the 11th December – just after Michaelmas (first) term ends. The trip is pretty affordable – £299 for the first 299 people, and £319 thereafter. By all accounts, Varsity is a blur of apres-ski parties, with a bit of skiing thrown in for good measure – both of which, no doubt, we’re better than Oxford at doing too. Booking opens on the 5th October – if you’re interested, check out the website, since we’re promised this year’s trip will, “blow us away”. Furthemore – we are also assured that total beginners are absolutely welcome. Whether this welcome is the sort of welcome that means we will actually be shunned by those who spent a Gap Yah on the slopes has not been ascertained, but how hard can skiing be anyway.


Recognise the voice?

W is for Work

Much of this alphabet thus far has focussed on how mental we all are, with our drinking societies and out ski trips and our shite clubs. We’ve managed to keep a – studiedly – cool face on until W. But let’s face it, we all got in here because, we are a bit nerdy. Not unacceptably nerdy – well, most of us – but nerdy enough to want to come and study at Cambridge, which isn’t a walk in the park. Earlier on in the year, The Tab‘s Opinion Editor Ollie Kay made the – rather contentious – point that we could have all gone to Bristol and come out with a slightly less valuable degree but had a bit more of a laugh.

First thing’s first, work at Cambridge has its own lingo.

Lecture = easy one to start you off. Sit in big hall with many others across the university who also do your subject. Someone far more learned than you will ever be speaks at you for an hour. You take some half-hearted notes and regret this lacklustre engagement come exam term.

Historians: prepare to be dazzled by the architectural aberrant that is the Seeley Library

Seminar = Either inter- or intra-collegiate affairs, small groups (probably about twelve maximum) of students and a supervisor, in a room. Good news – in these sort of set-ups, one pompous, sickeningly well-informed compadre will take the reins and basically talk for an hour and a half, while you probably won’t have to proffer more than a grunt. Bad news – you will probably have to deliver a presentation at some point, at which point your negligent attention span will be duly noted.

Supervision = The most scary affair, very small groups (often one-on-one) with a supervisor. In the most utopian of worlds, you are given a reading list a week before supervision, spend three days reading, one day gathering notes and thoughts, and two days leisurely crafting your opus, submitting before deadline and enjoying a cheeky day off – during which, obviously, you crack on with next week’s reading. This never happens and leads ultimately to one of those supervisions during which you can see the supervisor’s opinion of you dropping from ‘responds with a start to swift movements’ to ‘possible vegetable’.

As for degrees: a Geoff Hurst is a First, a Trevor Nunn is a 2:i, a Desmond Tutu (sometimes referred to as a ‘cheeky Desmond’) is a 2.ii, a Douglas Hurd a third, and a Dan Quayle is a fail.

X is for X-Rays

The student diet is not a healthy one, and you are likely to feel pretty lousy quite a lot – especially in the first few weeks, when like everyone else in the place, you will succumb to Freshers’ Flu, which is because you grotty little beasts have come from across the country bringing your various germs with you and infecting us all (because, unfortunately Freshers’ Flu is not exclusive to Freshers). Not to mention the fact that we all start copping off with each other. Just keep yourself going, like everyone else does, with a Berocca breakfast and a Pro Plus dinner, and you’ll live. If not, Trumpington Street medical practice is particularly central (just opposite St Catharine’s), as is Trinity Street Surgery, which is opposite Gonville and Caius college. And there’s a Boots in the Lion Yard centre, and a Superdrug on Sidney Street – the same road as Sainsbury’s, where you can feed your cold with self-prescribed sweeties.

Y is for Youth

There are two colleges exclusively for graduate students (Clare Hall and Darwin) and four that admit only mature students (those over the age of 21 at the start of their studies) or post-grads: Hughes Hall, St Edmund’s, Wolfson and Lucy Cavendish colleges. Lucy Cavendish is a women-only, mature students college. You may be supervised by post-graduate students, but the nightlife is dominated ultimately by undergraduates – probably because it can’t be that fun overhearing snippets of conversation about the 2010 A Level Geography paper. Nothing makes mortality rear its ugly head like the realisation that you are ageing swiftly away from your own demographic. However, by all accounts, the grad lifestyle is louche and has it’s own exclusive ‘scene’ which remains largely mysterious to The Tab.

Z is for Zoom Lens

Of course we copped out at Z. The Tab only has so much imagination, and X and Y were taxing and sufficiently tenuous as to leave us despairing of our vocabularies. Remember, we resorted to Work at W. What do you mean, “Zoom Lens?”, Tab? Well, remember, that one day, theoretically, this Cambridge degree is supposed to make you the ultimate in employability, capable of rising, phoenix-like from the ashes of the current graduate market and into a position to pay back a debt that increases with every pound you squeeze out of your unarranged overdraft. So for God’s sake, de-tag. Because no doubt, there are going to be some particularly incriminating photos of you emerging at some point in the next three years. The Tab‘s albums are merely glancing at the tip of a pernicious iceberg. At least there are clothes in these ones. So you have been warned. Don’t say The Tab doesn’t look out for you.

So. We hope the Cambridge A-Z has been of use to you new-faced, eager freshers. Well done to you, we look forward to bumping into you at some point, and do remember The Tab is always looking for new writers so get in touch if you’re keen. email [email protected] – no experience necessary.