Everything you’d do if Cambridge had a Reading Week

Imagine going to a university that didn’t treat you as an essay-writing robot

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What better way to excuse your personal failings and the mediocre quality of your academic work than blaming it on something outside of your control?

The lack of a reading week at Cambridge is a perfect outlet for this. It’s a wonderfully convenient target for senseless moaning. This will, of course, never change – we will never get a reading week. But that’s irrelevant. It’s the perfect topic to fuel mopey Week Five conversations. It’s democratic, spanning across subject divides. Everyone is united in their self-indulgent crankiness.

So, it’s worth considering what you would do in the hypothetical situation in which Week Five was converted into reading week, a transformation which is reminiscent of that of the frog to the prince.

Not catch up on your work

Evidently, a reading week would not end up being particularly productive. The novelty of having days with no concrete commitments or deadlines whatsoever would be too overwhelming. Any time management skills that you have managed to preserve from Your Motivated Sixth Form Self will finally disappear entirely. Bid them farewell. You will never see them again. In reality, you would naturally put everything off to the final day.

Stock Photo Lady knows the best way to spend her reading week

However, you could still plan to do work in the weeks in the run-up to reading week. Nothing gives a more intense and deep feeling of satisfaction than the making of an utterly impossible revision timetable, in the full knowledge that you will never stick to it. Great way of putting off work for the entirety of the first half term.

Go on a run along King’s Backs

You could finally start that fitness regime you planned over the Christmas vacation, but just never had the time (read: could not be bothered) to ever begin.

Start at Queens’. Try to reach King’s Gate, maybe even Clare Bridge if you’re feeling extra energetic. Proceed to get winded, develop a cramp before you can even see the River Cam, and faint by the time you’re alongside King’s Chapel. For reference, see Mark Corrigan in ‘Peep Show’:

Your sedentary lifestyle is too difficult to crack out of. Welcome to the prison of poor health from which you will never escape.

Back up your files

Granted, you don’t really need a reading week for this. It should take about ten minutes.

But, God, how do you do it? I haven’t got a clue. My technological skills are so poor that putting Microsoft Excel down on Linkedin would be a liberal interpretation of the facts. You need a week off work to scout out a CompSci, wherever they hide, and bribe them to sort out your computer. Keep a look out for the classic combo of a Leavers’ hoodie, paired with straight leg jeans and trainers. Couture.


I am so clean. I am. But not here.

I need a week off to truly deep-clean myself. Work takes up so much of your day that having a shower becomes a gargantuan task to fit into your crammed schedule. Priorities shift: is it more important to be clean, or to make this week’s essay deadline?

Laundry is much the same – I’ve had to buy more socks before because I ran out and didn’t have time to go through the rigmarole of washing, tumble dryer, hanging up and putting away that laundry demands. I’ve thrown away dirty cutlery, although this was mainly because I was too lazy to walk to my gyp to get any washing up liquid. But I’ll blame that on not having a Reading Week, too. It sort of works.

What a pleasant break!

Maybe go punting

Emphasis on the maybe. It’s essentially for the ‘gram. Otherwise, the appeal of punting is pretty minimal, especially in the balmy climate of February. It’s not exactly a gondola down the Grand Canal, is it?

Venice or Cambridge? Tricky

If you do go punting, get someone else to do the actual pushing the stick bit. I definitely should not be allowed to control the punt – the first time I took my driving test I got so many majors that the assessor stopped writing them down. Punting looks almost as difficult as parallel parking. What’s more, you’d probably fall in and/or fall out with all your pals.

Lock yourself in a relaxation flotation tank

Float around feeling weightless in spite of the soul-crushing weight which is bearing down upon you in the form of your degree.

If you’re lucky, someone will lock it accidentally so you’ll be trapped inside, never having to leave and face your work again. Instead, you can sink gradually into the watery embrace of the grave.

Of course, a reading week will basically never be introduced. After all, class lists are technically illegal but they don’t seem to be going anywhere.