If you’re reading this with a hangover, you’re probably a fresher. If you have a hangover and you’re not a fresher, you’re probably a second year trying to get to know the freshers. (Freshers, if you don’t know what ‘sharking’ is yet, you almost certainly will soon – most likely at about the same time you learn what ‘sconcing’ and ‘pennying’ are). If, though, you are a third or fourth year with a hangover, I am afraid there is something terribly wrong with you.
What’s the excuse for it? Have you recently turned 18? Are you celebrating your first intoxicating taste of true independence by, well, intoxicating? Of course not. The fact is, there are many very good reasons for getting completely smashed when you’re a fresher, but in your final year, those reasons are irrelevant.
For a fresher, particularly in the two weeks leading up to matriculation (or matriculash), drinking, and indeed drunkenness, are the norm – necessary even – and will never again in one’s university career be quite so respectable or encouraged. Second years can just about get away with it, although their motives for drinking with the freshers are perhaps rather less than noble.
All this is well known and perfectly well established as an integral part of the Oxford curriculum. I don’t think anyone has a problem with it, except maybe the junior deans, whose job it is to see that binge drinking happens at an acceptable volume. No, it is not freshers and second years for whom I counsel temperance. It is rather the finalists who should think again about that second pango tonight. They should be embarrassed to be seen in such low venues as ‘The Bridge’. Does the Bodleian have a toilet attendant who advises “no spray, no lay”? For finalists, drinking is merely habitual: they should immerse themselves in actual culture, not merely drinking culture.