Evie Prichard

EVIE PRICHARD gets pessimistic in the face of having to do actual work for her actual degree.

Despite the cheery tone you may have picked up from my articles, there were a few weeks at the end of last term where everything seemed to go catastrophically wrong at once. To give you a sense of the scale of my misfortune, coming 145th in a room ballot of 145 was the least terrible event of the final month. But despite this, I’ve come to the terrifying conclusion that that term was probably the high point of my life.

As far as I can gather from the obligatory Brideshead-ing I indulged in before heading up (and it’s probably best you don’t trust my opinions too much here – I conveniently lost my copy soon after Sebastian stopped being crush-worthy) first year is for innocence and frolics before the second and third years mark the beginning of the descent into jaded cynicism, adult life and eventual alcoholism and insanity.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a fan of alcoholism and insanity as the next undergrad. In fact my Cambridge life hasn’t been too bad so far on the alcoholism and insanity front – I found it was quite a useful way to pass the empty days and nights which from now on I can only assume will be at least partially filled with actual work for my actual degree. Pretty soon I’m going to have to start revising for exams, and then all I have as a buffer between me and second year is a three month summer break. As terrifying prospects go I’ll admit it could be worse, but when you consider that it’ll be followed by third year, finals, employment, marriage, divorce, ungrateful children and eventual senility and death, it doesn’t look quite so rosy.

The decline has already begun. I’ve only been back in Cambridge a week and already I’m noticing the difference. When I swam in the Cam in first term it was a joyful midnight experience which went perfectly and introduced me to one of my best friends in college. Contrast this with my Easter term attempt to paddle in the apparently foot-deep water alongside Clare Gardens, which culminated in my running the length of Orgasm Bridge in one shoe, covered in water and black slime from the shoulders down and barreling tourists out the way in both directions with the giant borrowed punt pole that was over my shoulder. You’ll be glad to hear it did extremely well at fishing out the other shoe, but not as glad as the innocent punter I left drifting for the duration of the operation.

And speaking of punters, here’s another moment that will never be repeated. At the end of last term four of us were sitting with some beers alongside the Cam to celebrate my friend’s birthday when a punt full of tipsy Czech men pulled up and bought some of them for an extortionate price. Next thing we knew we’d all piled into the punt, which was so hopelessly overfilled that it was resting only half an inch above the waterline, and headed up the river. When our brilliant new Czech mates were fined 20 pounds for breaking the punting safety regulations (who knew) and a further 20 for allowing the drunken birthday boy to piss against the punt rental people’s bins (which they paid as a birthday present), they tried to make their money back by stealing a duck. It may well have been the most hilarious afternoon we’ve had at Cambridge.

But compare this to my latest punt boarding experience. Sitting on the banks of the Cam again, my friend Gillico and I were subtly watching two of the most gorgeous topless punters we’d ever seen (yes, we do sit by the river to perve, and if you don’t do the same you’ve been missing out). Suddenly they performed a spectacular U-turn, which I imagine must be quite a punting challenge, and offered us a lift. We were so flustered, excited, and frankly awestruck by the sheer romance (read physique) of these men that by the time we came to our senses they’d drifted too far away from us, and our dream of becoming punters’ wives and living out the cold Cambridge winters safe in their arms adrift on the Cam was shelved yet again.

So there you have it. Unequivocal proof in two anecdotal, barely relevant and inexplicably water-based stories that my life will never again be as simple and fun-filled as it was in the last two terms. Still, can’t complain – at least I’ve only got 50 years to wait until retirement.

University of Cambridge anecdotes column columnists Evie Prichard first term Fresher funny May Week punt PUNTING