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Long Live Academic Chundergraduates!

A few quick observations of my own here, to show that I am perfectly serious. By and large, the Oxford chundergrad loses control of their oesophageal valves in one of three ways: mixing of the grape and grain is where most will go astray; little is worse than drinking on an empty stomach — but if there is something more dreadful, it is the over consumption of under-budget booze. I have more than once in my 8 college weeks woken up feeling like death, but nothing feels more to blame than the cheap bottle. White wine is the prime offender here, for its appalling acidity and banality. My sympathy is there for those who stoop to raise a glass of Echo Falls to their lips. If you suspect of a roommate that they may have wallowed in these circumstances, give them at least twice as long to make it out of bed, and don’t expect much of them thereafter. Help them to the shower if you like, but then again, they had it coming.

Some — no, most of our finest student moments happen when smashed, polluted, shitfaced, trollied, echo fallen, Northern Irish backstopped. But the Oxford boozer demonstrates with ease that drinking also befits academic rigour. The word “spirit” conserves the traditional instinct of the “inspired” that was noticed by the ancient Greeks when they came upon distillation, and commissioned it to lubricate their banquets. They knew that alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food better tasing, and helps to bring on what they called ‘entheos’, or the spark of unexpected motivation that flows when knuckling down on a piece of essay. We, of course, perfected this. Fermented Grains to forget the impending all-nighter, fermented grapes to ease it. All in moderate quantities, yes, if you insist — but how does one determine the line of ‘moderation’ without transcending it a bit? These small transgressions affirm the chundergrad.

I’ve noticed that things seem to go in any number of directions. Some recruit drinks in order to meet a deadline, some to forget, and some drink to convince themselves that it was worth missing. For whatever reason, there are a noble and genetically-gifted few who manage all three. I remember not long ago finding an example of this locally, thankfully towards the end of term. The historian in question retreated into his den shortly before dinner, stout, but seeming less than entirely confident, as was made rather obvious by the trembling bottle of flavoured gin (a second-rate choice) in his hand. Before bed, and long after the reassuring sound of typing could be heard through his open door, I went to look in, and found his dozing head making a faultless right-profile indent on the keyboard. Hoping that the brief spurt of effort had produced something which merited the nap, I checked on my friend’s word document, which read the three words “It is arguabl…”.

So if it comes to it, here are some pointers. For any form of student pre-drinking, observe the rule that one is far too few, and three is one too many. You want to get yourself in to the club, not be the person who collapses outside it. Eat the martini olives: they can be nutritious. Don’t mix from different bottles of red wine. Don’t touch sweetened fruit wine (you’ll know it when you smell it). Save port for dessert, but make the most of the sugar rush if you’re tackling an all-nighter. Drink on a good mood; it’s a pyrrhic cure for a bad one. Do not expect your college mates to accept you taking refuge in saying you ‘can’t properly remember last night’; they certainly do, and so do you. If you actually don’t, that’s a terrible sign. And break any of these rules sooner than ordering a pink gin.

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