It was the best of terms, it was the worst of terms: both an age of exams and an age of at least moderate warmth. Trinity sets itself apart from Michaelmas and Hilary with the ephemeral promise of sunshine, which brings out a new range of weird Oxford activities to try your hand at.
Punting instantly presents itself as one of Oxford’s summer eccentricities. From the outside, it appears idyllic and picturesque; you may have conceived fancies about floating parties (of up to six people) drinking Pimms and picnicking. I find it very hard to believe that this ideal has ever been truly attained, as it quickly becomes apparent that punting is actually very very difficult, and requires Herculean upper arm strength in order to pull off any semblance of smooth movement. For the majority of mere mortals/students, punting offers an hour or two’s chance to escape the library and live dangerously (almost falling into the river a couple of times is pretty dangerous living, for Oxford). At least a half hour can be spent turning in circles whilst everyone has their five minutes of boating fame or embarrassment. If you manage to actually get somewhere, you may also be lucky enough to be aggressively shouted at by tramps on your return, at which point you realise that even a pedalo is faster and you don’t seem to be able to get it to go forwards again. Amongst all this kerfuffle, the idea of mixing Pimm’s becomes a bit too much, so the refinement is ultimately reduced to drinking a carton of juice and eating a packed lunch. The solutions to this collapsing Oxonian dream are either to find a peak physical specimen amongst your friends and employ them to work whilst you relax in the sparsely padded boat, or give up and leave the river to the rowers.
If your desire to be immersed in the Cherwell has not been fulfilled by punting, you can attempt to jump off Magdalen bridge this May Day. The festivities of the first are not confined to nutters and bridges, however; there is singing on the top of Magdalen Tower at 6am – the only respectable way to be awake for this is to have stayed up all night. This is followed by “general revelry and festivities”, including more music, Morris Dancing, and early morning pub-going.
Understandably, May Day is too much upheaval and noise for many students who prefer a more sedate excise. Croquet calls to anyone who wants to be invited to sports dinners without the hassle of exercise or to others who are endlessly amused by the frequency of the word “balls” in polite conversation and the suggestive nature of holding a long mallet between the legs – to hit said balls. Croquet cuppers is usually entered into with a great deal of enthusiasm, coupled with a general ignorance of the rules, followed by a swift dispatch by a neighbouring college’s grad team. This should by no means dissuade you from trying the game and pretending you’ve fallen down Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole, before you realise it’s sort of Oxford’s weird alternative to crazy golf.
Most students are ultimately focused on exams this term, so even if you don’t get the chance to participate in Oxford’s strange diversions, you can enjoy ridiculousness in both mind and body as you don sub-fusc and waddle uncomfortably towards Exam Schools or Summertown. Enjoy the summer weirdness.