How Cambridge made drinking my hobby
Is there anything else to do?
It’s fair to say I’ve been at this student journalism thing a while (I’ve even edited this paper, not that anyone remembers or cares). As the sun sets on my time in Cambridge, and having seen the same articles come out again and again (wow, coming from that regional town really does make you different!), I thought it was time to fill a longstanding gap in the journalistic market: lifestyle.
But wait; most of the student papers have a whole lifestyle section. You see, Cambridge journalists – for the most part – have a habit of being bookish, middle-class, speciality coffee enthusiasts, who love nothing more than pissing away their student loan on tonic espressos and vintage™ baggy trousers. That’s why almost every lifestyle piece revolves around shit that the majority of students just don’t care about. That’s why I, Eddie Spence, self-proclaimed everyman, am here to talk about the true seminal aspects of Cambridge life. The dirt, the mess, the nitty gritty. The low lifestyle.
And what better place to start than drinking? As a lager enthusiast, wine savant, whiskey fan, and tequila devotee, I’m well placed to talk about this. I love drinking, and Cambridge has one of the most interesting and fucked up drinking cultures in academia. I’ve swallowed it whole. Or rather, it swallowed me. Whole.
Go back three years, and like many of you, I was just a naive fresher (the kind who decides the whole university wants to read his various tropey columns). University opened up a world of total freedom and subsidised drinking, alongside an incredibly convenient if low-quality club scene, and I adored it. What was better than getting boozed up 4+ times a week with friends who now lived seconds away? Not only that, but Cambridge offered novel ways for you to get hammered. Formal halls gave a pretence of class, while Bops added a caveat of ‘College community spirit’. C-Sunday is of course a ‘tradition’, and who are you to break it?
I struggle to think of anything I actually turned down, and all the while my tolerance built to post-Belarusian levels. Before long, you’re on two bottles of wine before the club, along with as much syrupy 4-for-£10 crap as you can get your hands on.
Fast forward a year, and the party's over. The second year slowdown is a well known phenomena – clubbing is facile, formal hall is overdone, and Bops make you feel like an octogenarian. The pretences to drink begin to evaporate; yet still, I did. Arbitrary bottles of wine, tinnies with work – I genuinely couldn’t remember what I used to do in my spare time (was it gaming, or maybe sports?). Drinking was now a hobby, and not a nice hobby. Hobbies usually entail knitting, or painting, or fucking bird-watching or something. This hobby leaves you with a dry mouth, a perpetually low mood, and bastard behind the eyes. Queue Elliot Smith and a day in bed. Yet, it was still so appealing. Why?
Perhaps it’s because Cambridge doesn’t really allow for proper hobbies. Every time you’re working, you’re on the clock. As soon as that’s over, you’re off. No more mental energy should be spent till the next example sheet is due (I was a NatSci, don’t you know). Reading books is fun, but not really fun when you’ve spent the week ploughing through PDFs on historiography. Drinking, on the other hand, is easy. Simply lift pint to mouth and imbibe. Not only that, but it stops you thinking. All Cambridge students are overthinkers. My dissertation didn’t leave my mind till the 30 page ballache was bound and submitted. Yet here comes along this magic, tasty fluid, available in numerous flavours, which simply slows your mind down. Goodbye introspection, hello extroversion. Sure, the day after will inevitably be spent depressed, anxious, and guilty, but that’s tomorrow, eh?
I still drink a lot more than most, but I’ve managed to rowback a bit since my ‘heyday’. Maybe it’s because hangovers don’t vanish with alka-seltzer and a diet coke anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m a more responsible and conscious young man (lol). Maybe it’s because I took a lucid decision to get by habits in order. I know one thing for certain though: alcohol has affected and impacted my Cambridge experience more than the supervision system, 15th century buildings, and student journalism put together. It runs through the university like blood through the veins. It’s good, it’s bad, it’s everything. There’s no take home from this column. No pro or anti booze message. I’m not one to give lessons. Or heed them.