A feature in which one party enthusiast goes to some of the best (and not-so-best) events in wherever he happens to be at the time and gives his objectively correct opinions on them.
Up first, an Oxford ball, where you pay everything short of your firstborn child in exchange for one final night of revelry to end the year.
I feel compelled to begin this review with a confession. Oxford Commemoration Balls don’t seem all that worth it to me, at least on the face of it. Not a popular opinion I’m sure, but before you pick up the pitchforks and torches and band together to cancel me on Twitter, hear me out. You pay a mammoth sized entry free to spend one night in a college you’ve already lived in for at least a year, listening to musicians you’ve probably never heard of while praying more than Manchester United fan that it doesn’t rain. I grew up in Reading, so if I wanted to get wasted in a field, I’d just rock up to literally any green patch of land in a 5-mile radius on a random weekday.
Yet just like that giant robot the Power Rangers morph into at the end of each episode or the moral of every single sports movie ever made, the whole of the Trinity Ball was much greater than the sum of its parts. The feeling of the self-appointed leaders of the future all getting together to congratulate themselves on another year of being totally detached from the real world is genuinely intoxicating.
Despite how good the night turned out to be overall, the auspices were initially unfavourable. In my haste to return to the college which had so unceremoniously kicked me out of my room a week earlier, I ended up moping about in the town centre six hours before the Ball was due to start, staring down a long and antsy wait. Then, when it finally came to time to get dressed up, I realised I had left my actual white tie shoes at home and would instead be wearing a pair of battered school shoes from half a decade ago.
Fortunately, my mood swiftly changed upon seeing how sensational everyone looked in white tie (by which I mean how sensational I looked in white tie). With some borrowed Trinity College cufflinks and a clip-on bowtie, it was hard not to feel an enormous sense of accomplishment at how resplendent I looked. Was it worth shelling out one hundred quid to look like a Batman villain? Absolutely it was.
Now those who know me will be well aware that I am a bit a stickler for getting to places early. Some call it being an obsessive control freak, I call it being punctual. What this meant in practice was that I was absolutely terrified at the prospect of having to corral a good fifteen or sixteen of my friends the five minute walk from the RadCam (a niche and original picture spot I know) to the Trinity College gates. Yet two years of nagging had paid off and we arrived at the ball a whole forty-five minutes before the first entry. The length of the wait didn’t seem nearly as bad once the size of the line on Broad Street became apparent.
The plan was simple: don’t eat in the day, line the stomach thoroughly before having any drinks and pace myself properly to last the whole night. Yet clearly I had not sufficiently studied up on the military philosophy of noted insane person Mike Tyson, for as he has so succinctly put it, ‘everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’. And you can imagine what a punch in the mouth it was to find out I’d need to wait for another hour and a half before I could get food. I was struck with the realisation that there was only one thing that could fill the gaping void in my stomach: prosecco. Lots of prosecco.
Five or six flutes later and all of a sudden everything seemed to be a lot rosier whilst I felt a lot chattier. What superb conversational gems I was dishing out! For no one ever finds talking to a drunk person difficult and tedious. Not in the slightest. Safe in the knowledge that I was certain to dazzle everyone I encountered with my natural wit and charm, I marched forwards (and slightly off to the side) in search of some music to dance to and something else to drink.
The main quad in Trinity looked incredible as I wondered through it to access the cocktails. More than anything, it was nice as an Oxford resident to be surrounded by statues that weren’t commemorating any racists or colonisers (looking at you Oriel).
Special praise must at this point be given to the aforementioned cocktails. In a word: lethal. In several more words: sweet and tasty enough that one could down them without screwing one’s face up and burn one’s throat yet strong enough that after a couple more of them, I had a lot to say, but no way of saying it coherently.
For me, the headline music act was always going to be Milton Keynes’ very own Niko B. I have long found myself relating strongly to his lyrics, consisting as they do of a never-ending stream of consciousness focused on the mundane minutiae of life in Britain, from buying a plain t-shirt in JD Sports to losing his wallet on a night out. Sure enough, the man was just as entertaining as I expected him to be. Dressed in what can only be described as the clothes of a Victorian schoolboy (just with additional Adidas logos), his stage presence was much larger than his 5 foot not-very-many-inch height. It was undeniably hilarious to hear a man rapping about his own accidental, self-inflicted circumcision on the lawns of an Oxford college. Best believe I shouted every word. What was even more hilarious was bumping into the guy as he enjoyed a few drinks after his set and discussing with (or more likely discussing at) him how weird and posh everyone in Oxford is. He seemed like a very nice bloke, which makes it all the more gutting that he has yet to respond to the DMs I sent him asking him to go for a pint.
The rest of the night unfolded in much the same way. Frequent trips to whichever bar happened to be closest, interspersed with visits to the many diversions college had to offer. I absolutely crushed a round of mini-golf (my inability to hit the ball in straight line was matched only by my willingness to cheat), fooled around in a quaint little ball pit and found out I am terrible at making bets when drunk. Fortunately, no real money was at play because actual stakes on a roulette table coupled with my dreadful impulse control is like coupling Lee Harvey Oswald and JFK: a real vibe killer (pun intended).
In spite of all these activities to keep my sieve like brain distracted, the best times I had all evening were when I was dancing. It didn’t matter what the music was at that point, if it went oonts-oonts and I could make my fingers into a gun shape to it, I was loving it. I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the artists, or the songs, or the names of the people I was with, but it was still an excellent time through and through.
As dawn gradually began to break and the silent disco began, I surveyed my surroundings and saw a scene out of the Walking Dead. The air was choked with the smoke of a hundred rollies and elf bars and by this point my shoes had all but disintegrated. Yet still everyone danced on, clinging on to what was left of the party, all that little bit awkwardly out of sync as everyone always is at a silent disco. A monument to the perseverance of the human spirit.
Finally, the music died down, everyone mustered all the pretence that they were still feeling good for the survivors photo and at long last, the sweaty hordes poured onto the streets of Oxford to begin their arduous journeys home. One truly horrific bus ride and a thirteen-hour nap later, I woke up to be struck, first by how astonishingly hungover I was, second by how much I needed a glass of water and a paracetamol or else I would surely pass away and finally by an immense sense of what an amazing time I’d had. Sure, it was a vampiric drain on the wallet and sure, I’m going to need at least another week to recover but I couldn’t have asked for a better way to make memories (or lack thereof) with the people I’m fortunate enough to call my friends.
Rating: Whatever the number after infinity is/10