Why I’m vaguely concerned for my liver – or Suicide Saturday
They call the Sunday after exams have finished ‘Suicide Sunday.’ It’s an ill-fitting name.
A better one might be: ‘The Sunday, Saturday and Friday in which all students go out in pretty dresses and silly shoes, top hats, sports jackets, body paint and joy. Where they celebrate together and drink quite a lot, prancing around on grassy bits. Where there are boat races. Where livers die.’ …but I suppose this doesn’t have the same ring.
Suicide Sunday/Weekend is full of all sorts of weird traditions, most of which I’m only beginning to understand after two years of being here.
Case in point: The weird boaty fight.
Boaties are rowers in Cambridge speak. They wear hideous jackets and wake up around 6am most days to get out on the Cam. I admire them for their discipline while being very thankful I am not one.
My friend B, however, is one.
“What did you do this morning?” I asked him yesterday as we rode together to another garden party. The sun was briefly out and B was taking advantage of it, wearing one of those half-blue blazers (a mark of reaching a high level of sport) and sunglasses.
“We fought Trinity.”
Trinity is the enemy college of St. John’s, our neighbour, our quiet enemy.
“Well, not fought. But we fought. We walked through their college bumping shoulders. Then they walked through ours bumping shoulders. Then we stood in a line and tried to catch each other. If we caught someone from the opposite team, we had to take them to breakfast.”
Welcome to Cambridge fighting: Ritualistic, traditional, and pretty darn weird.
I couldn’t ask more though, because we had arrived at Newnham College for the CUMPC Annual Garden Party. Bread, cheese, grapes and biscuits were soon layed out among balloons across tables. Flowers stuck in wine bottles added color.
“Want some Pimms?” Asked my friend, mixing together strawberries with the syrupy brown liquid that makes this weird fruity alcoholic English drink.
I had sparkling wine instead. Several glasses. It was only 11am.
After hours of mingling, I made it down to Bumps, a Cambridge boat race where all those boaties in all their blazers get out on the water and try to ram into each other.
It’s like bumper cars, on boats, with boaties, in blazers.
As I joined friends at the Magdelen College tent, I was surrounded by dark blue and purple – certainly not St. John’s bright red.
“Drink Pimms,” advised an ami, a previous Magdelen rower. “It’ll make you feel better. And it’s free.”
So we sat in the sunshine, watching rowers go past with leaves in their hair (which they grab from the riverbank and stick there if they end up hitting another boat, or ‘bumping’), drinking Pimms and eating pickle-cheese sandwiches.
“Do you see how they’re balancing their blades like that? It’s so hard to do. It takes so much practice,” commented my friend as boat after boat went past.
“They train so much.”
One boat, Downing College, went by with a burgundy flag waving. It was the women, all smiles and sweaty arm muscles and lyrca. They looked exhausted but delighted; as they should be, my friend explained. They had managed to stay on top the entire competition, for all four days.
“Right. Now I need to sleep,” I explained as the race finished. The sun, the rain and the early start had gotten to me. It was only 6pm.
Instead I bumped into more old friends who insisted I go to a pub in town, a quaint little place called The Plough located right on the river. “I think my head is falling off,” I tried to explain.
“Have some Pimms. It’ll make it feel better.”
After the pub, there was coffee back at St. John’s College, at which point I sunk into a couch and resigned myself to not moving.
Until I got a call, and a text, and a chastisement: “Man up! Come out! Another drink will make your head fill better.”
Resulting in another pub, another several hours of friendship time, and multiple large glasses of water consumed. The bartender seemed unimpressed. Perhaps because I didn’t have a striped blazer of red, green, blue, orange.
I briefly considered sticking some of the nearby potted foliage in my hair. Instead I polished off my water and bid my friends goodnight.
Finally, at long last, I sunk into my bed; the sound of May Ball preperations filtered into my window, as the staff was still outside at midnight tacking carpet over the John’s grass and arranging equipment.
It will be a good party. Today is round two, the actual Suicide Sunday.
I think I’m going to go get some Pimms.
**Photos from Col. Seb Pollington, Laura D, or google.
***Pimms from that strange world of English cuisine/drinks.
Posted on June 19, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged a very tiring day, boaties, bumps, Danae Mercer, garden parties in cambridge, garden party, magdelen college, newnham college, pimms, rowing in cambridge, St. John's College, Suicide Sunday. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.