Image description: a bunch of lads drinking in a bar. Though they are not wearing rugby gear, please imagine that they are. And also they’re saying ‘Rah Jonty’ a lot. Go on. Imagine it.
The following text is to be read exclusively in your finest mental Attenborough voice.
A homoerotic bellow emanates from the depths of this prestigious Oxford college. Look! The males are entering the bar. Predictably, there are no females. Their plumage is all uniform: stained chinos, blazer and – the centrepiece – the prized necktie. The hoots, shouts and wails begin. They are aroused and ready for the contest ahead. This is the masculine battle royale of the rugby social.
The leader of the pack stands tall above the rest. He is shorter than he thinks, with carefully manicured hair and a vague chin. He proposes a game. The pack howl in assent. The rules of the game are impenetrable to a bystander, but, to the pack, they are second nature, instilled into memory by port, nudity and social awkwardness – perhaps all at once.
They swing their arms vigorously, each time delivering a specific shout. The shamanistic ritual perpetuates around the circle, getting louder with each turn. The air is becoming thick with bad breath and sexual tension. The mammoth prop stands tall and wide, trumpeting, after winning the first arm wrestle of the night. While his victim is quivering on the floor, he reaches for the nearest glass and pours its entire contents over his elephantine head. The flanker removes his trousers and begins to squat the full back. The scrum half is bundled beneath table and kicked mercilessly. The two centres, shirtless and handcuffed together, compose limericks. This is all part of the game.
Oh no! The youngest in the pack fails to construct a working tightrope from a pair of rugby socks. The pack roar in unison, eyeing him up like fresh carrion. It is time for them to punish him. The youngling looks around in desperation, only to be confronted by the sinister glint of the leader’s eyes. A relic is produced by the leader’s succubus and taken hurriedly to the bar where it is begrudgingly filled with beer. The cacophony intensifies as the relic is presented before its unfortunate recipient. He raises it to his lips and begins to drink. He is making good progress, scared stiff by the consequences of failure. The pack are in a state of catatonic bliss. This is the most excitement any of them has had since they made eye contact with their crush in the library.
Oh dear. The nectar has risen back up and devastated his suede shoes – and with the leader’s matching ones. One member topples from his stool in surprise, another vomits up his own stomach in amazement, a third reaches to smack the youngster’s bottom in congratulation. In this culture, that is high praise indeed. Yet for such a transgression, further, and more serious punishment is decreed. Sadly, we cannot follow the young one any further. The pair hurriedly disappear into the leader’s staircase. Life in the jungle is often brutal, but always fair.