Forgive me, for I have sinned. I have received at least one whole complaint at my absence last week, and for that I apologise. I can only imagine how hard it must have been. All I can say is that the life of a finalist is a traumatic one. But it does at least present me with a musing for this week’s column.
For it is with trepidation that I prepare to attend Finals Subject Dinner. In first year the dinner was, well, a little rogue. Small talk may be painful, but big talk, we learned, is worse. A fellow student, after inhaling a little too much vin au rouge, proceeded to spice up the conversation. We had been talking about tutors’ research for evidently long enough. It was time for a bit of spice. And thankfully DreamGirl had a solution. I call her DreamGirl, not because she is my one-and-only, but because of the nature of her spice. You see, DreamGirl, after a conversational trigger that to this day we struggle to track down, began to narrate a dream. With wild gestures, and passionate phrasing, DreamGirl laboriously narrates how each vital organ one at a time is violently and poetically expelled out of her mouth. She concludes: “and then, and then, my liver just POPPED out, right into my hands!”. She looks up in nostalgic awe, and finally acknowledges our expressions.
The tutor to my right, who had been discussing his recent book until the dream began, sits silent. His mouth is slightly open, displaying what I later try and convince DreamGirl to be sheer admiration. Not disgust, nor shock. No no.
But things have loosened somewhat since first year. Nowadays hesitant banter is encouraged. And as students in the presence of elevated figures pretending to be our friends, we of course love it. Soon I am being directed up to the SCR toilets, for if we have to pay £30 for this shitty meal, a tutor suggests we should at least be able to experience the ‘real deal’. Soon we learn that by real deal, they mean ‘fancy ass shit that is far from reality’. I nervously twist the crystal door knob, opening the door to a polished, swanky and relatively absurd haven. Newspapers in all languages deck tables. Distracted from the need to pee, I explore. Strange wooden dolphins sit on a side, bowls of apples mark each metre of the room (I swiftly disprove allegations that they are plastic). The SCR is a strange world, and it scares me. We return to the table, my friend waddling behind me, a monogrammed towel newly underlining her dress.
I contemplate returning upstairs to pinch a wooden dolphin, but a tutor quickly protests – “No no no! Not the dolphins!”. It turns out that these aren’t any ordinary wooden dolphins. (Is there such a thing as an ordinary wooden dolphin? Perhaps in the SCR there is). Each morning tutors gaggle around the dolphins, flocking to communally slot them together in order to create different shapes and towers. Apparently that is not a euphemism. Oxford bubble? It seems being a student is mere child’s play. We don’t even have fucking wooden dolphins.