Organised Fun and Caesarian Sun

ALEX PORTER is baffled by the Cambridge social scene.

Alcohol alex porter Caesarian Sunday Drinking drinking society girton jesus jesus green organised fun swaps

I am somebody who finds it difficult to know how to have fun. Like many who populate Cambridge, I was fairly well-behaved in school, spending more time working than anything else.

Upon leaving the regimented schedules of life back home, I was both excited and nervous. I looked forward to having more free time, fewer early mornings and a greater degree of liberty as to how and when I decided to go out and have fun. But I was also pretty scared. How would I, a simple London girl, manage to negotiate the wealth of social options open to the Cambridge undergrad?

Drinking socs: an elitist institution?

Drinking socs: an elitist institution?

I was so happy to learn in my first week that I needn’t have worried! While Cambridge may seem a vibrant and interesting place to go out and meet people, I was quickly informed that my life could be made so much easier by simply following a strict schedule of club nights. There was no need to try anything different when everyone you could possibly want to run into would be in Cindies every Wednesday night.

I was also relieved to find that the competitive edge Cambridge students bring to their studies is also brought to their social lives. Rather than make friends willy nilly with people who seemed ‘fun’ or ‘shared your interests’, it became clear that the best strategy for social success at Cambridge is to make it in the world of the drinking societies. Although the process may involve spending a lot of time with people you appear to have nothing in common with, this way you can be guaranteed to meet at least ten people every week on a swap…and, if you’re lucky, you might remember the name of one of them.

The ULTIMATE swap crew

The ULTIMATE swap crew

I had always been taught that drinking was best done at your own pace in the company of friends, whenever the fancy struck you, but I have discovered here the far superior way to enjoy alcohol. It is far more enjoyable to get drunk with a group of relative strangers at a pace dictated by the frequency at which you can be fined for embarrassing incidents. As already mentioned, I was a relative novice at drinking before arriving in Cambridge, so I was happy to have my limits dictated to me, instead of just stopping whenever I felt like it.

If we’re honest with ourselves, Cambridge students are simply not the wildest lot. No wonder we need strange rules and routines in order to get ourselves out of the library and into the realm of actual human contact. We like to know we’re the best, to be assured in our academic and social superiority. So while some of us will compete for firsts, others will compete for that final spot in the drinking society. It’s fun, but with an edge.

Just your average Cantabs

Just your average Cantabs

So as I sit here on this Caesarian Sunday, catching up on a bit of reading in the sun, I feel a twinge of sadness. It seems such a waste to have only drunk one beer this fine afternoon, to be dressed in my own clothes rather than a drinking society uniform, and to be hanging out with my friends rather than enduring an overpriced swap with a bunch of people I hardly know. Despite nearly two years in this institution, I evidently still don’t quite know how to have fun.