Freshers 2011: Cambridge A-Z, Part 1
Scared by the confusing world of Cambridge? Let us show you the way. In Part 1, A-H.
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Freshers of 2011 come one, come all! This guide, constructed with the love and care of one thousand super-nannies, will aim to colour in the edges of your presumably blank Cambridge canvas. It will be the sky and maybe a few hills in the background of a beautiful watercolour; you’ll have to fill in the people and houses, but at least we’ve got you started:
A is for ADC, the Amateur Dramatics Club: Cambridge’s famous student theatre, some freshers literally cannot wait to pace the famous boards of the ADC, their clunky Doc Martens tracing the steps of thespians from Cambridge’s past. Sir Ian McKellen didn’t go from zero to ‘YOU-SHALL-NOT-PASS!’ in five seconds flat, you know; he spent many an hour nervously peeking at an ADC audience through the curtains. It’s all student run, so you can get involved either behind the scenes or on the stage – see Freshers’ Guide to Cambridge Theatre to find out how.
The ADC has launched the careers of many actors and actresses
If you just want to enjoy the shows, tickets can be booked online or via telephone, or you can turn up on the night and try your luck. The ADC theatre usually boasts a weekly mainshow (7.45pm) and late show (11pm), as well as weekly Smokers, where the Footlights practice their stand up.
Budding critics can become reviewers for The Tab, by emailing [email protected] For each show you review, you’ll get two free tickets! No experience necessary.
B is for Bop: Sometimes life presents you with the opportunity to take off all your clothes and dance around to ABBA hits with only a Sainsbury’s plastic bag and some gaffa-tape protecting your modesty. At Cambridge you’re presented with this opportunity fairly regularly in the shape of a bop. Bops are parties put on by individual colleges for students, and they usually involve lots of fancy dress and cheap booze. Bops are also a breeding ground for ‘Banter’. Many people will claim to possess this. Be warned: banter is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone will find it amusing when you place your penis on their baguette and yell “SAUSAGE SANDWICH” into their face.
C is for Cindies: It may say Ballare on the sign, but believe us, it’s still Cindies. The traditional king of Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday nights in Cambridge, Cindies is something like a rite of passage for all Cantabs. Even David Mitchell went there!
It must be cool if David Mitchell went…
The most famous club in Cambridge, Cindies is perhaps the only place in Cambridge where you’re as likely to hear the Lion King theme as you are Tinie Tempah. Cindies‘ busiest night is a Tuesday, where you’ll find all of Cambridge’s big names under one roof. As well as providing fantastically questionable music, Cindies also acts as the breeding ground for Cambridge’s finest. It’s just not quite Cindies unless you see some drinking societies trading curry-flavoured snogs after a swap at The Mahal (see M). Which brings us to…
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.
Enjoying a cross-dressing swap
Drinking societies exist to go on swaps – which are basically an exercise in enforced matchmaking, under the guise of “making friends in other colleges.” 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. You will pretend you don’t want to be in one until you are invited to join one, at which point you sneer at those who haven’t been invited.
D is also for Discipline: Cambridge takes this grotesquely seriously. Photocopying your boobs in your local library may have simply been a way of life back home, but it certainly won’t be here. The Dean, who dishes out the discipline, will always be a bastard. This is how he gets the job. Imagine Snape from Harry Potter before we find out he’s actually good in the last book. Each college has their own set of rules, and punishments can range from a fine to having to be a bedder. In reality, you can be disciplined for whatever the Dean decides he doesn’t like, and your punishment can be whatever the dean can think up.
E is for essays, exams and Easter Term: Which of these three came first is a matter more thornily discussed than that of the chicken and the egg. So let’s arbitrarily begin with essays: you will be writing lots and lots and lots of these, and you will also quickly learn that whether it’s 24 hours or 12 minutes you spend on it, your essay will be awarded a mid-2:1. When it comes to writing essays, your best friend will be Blue Bolt, the knock off Red Bull that Sainsbury’s sell. Drink one Blue Bolt for each book you didn’t bother reading that week and you’ll be fine.
Essays lead to exams, in which you inevitably have to write an essay. Only this time, instead of leisurely typing it in your comfy college room you’ve got to smash it out in timed conditions on a spiky wooden bench in a lecture theatre. However hellish these panick-scribbled tribulations may prove, nothing feels better than the fresh air that hits you as you walk out of your last exam. If you have any friends at all, they’ll also be waiting outside to spray you with a bottle of your college’s own bubbly.
Exams come in Easter Term, which can only mean one thing: May Week. When you’re not dancing gleefully through a fertile field of free champagne and Haribos like a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you might choose to lie in a field wearing shirt that’s too big for you and invite a beautiful girl or boy to lie on your tummy. This might be the best week of your year, and you’ll probably have many first-time experiences. The finishing point is, the lord be praised, lying sloshed in a field wondering what exactly happened to the last week or so.
St John’s Quincentenary May Ball this year
F is for Failure: fear thereof. It is inevitable that there will be at least one moment in your Cambridge career when you will completely belly-flop. It is impossible to predict when this time will come, and thus the omnipresent fear of failure nibbling away at your kidneys, like a very hungry cater-pillar of wisdom. Don’t worry: everyone thinks they are shit, and some of us are. But there are ways to numb the incessant feelings of inadequacy. Vodka, Harry Potter, Ritz crackers, roly-polies, achieving a storming boner. Try a few of these in combination to see which work best for you. NB: some couplings are better than others: vodka and a textbook erection don’t go as well together as Harry Potter and half a dozen disks of lightly-salted snack.
F is also for Fez: a club that comes in the shape of an excellent drinkerie in which to slake your thirst on exam nights. This artily-lit night spot smells good. Actually it smells really good, which really comes as an advantage over Life (see L), Fez’s biggest rival, which unfortunately smells predominantly like, for want of a better word, poo. Fez is best on on a Sunday, when Shark Buckets are just £7.50, which allow you to reminisce over your gap yah…
G is for Girton: You won’t be venturing this far out, so don’t worry about learning this one. It’s not even in Cambridge! Note however: Girton comes in really handy if you are looking for a good butt to one of your jokes.
Look now, because you’ll never go there.
G is also for Gardi’s: Hidden in cobbled streets where young studious men would lean in arches composing notes to their loved ones, now sits Gardi’s, or more formally, The Gardenia.
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. 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. Plus, it’s owned by Vas, the friendliest man in the world.
Photograph by Will Seymour
H is for Hall: You will probably tell your friend at home about this. This is the bit where you get to don your glad rags, seasoned with a Rowling-esque robe, and enjoy feeding time in a really, really nice dining hall. You will find that you will take many photos of this, soon discovering that it sets your Freshers’ Facebook albums apart from those inundated with Smirfs and ‘Where’s Wallys?’ of your friends. Try the ‘candle light’ setting on your camera, as the room will be inevitably decked with more candles than Café Rouge on Valentine’s Day. Try also to get any old portraits in the background of your shots, as this will only add to the mood and might be the different between a ‘like’ and no ‘like’ on Facebook. You know you want this.
The only time you really will feel like you’re at Hogwarts
Many colleges now ban it at formal hall, but ‘pennying’ will regardless still become the culprit of many of your pre-dessert TC. The rules are simple: you see the queen drowning in your glass of wine, you neck your wine. Lovely jubbly. This friendly slice of drinking fun does however also make it really easy to spot the alcoholics: these are the people throwing coins into their own drinks.
Check back for I-P on Saturday.