Oxonians outside Oxford

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It’s not the prettiest conclusion, I’ll warn you now. It’s all because of the Varsity Ski trip which I soon grew to understand needs a disclaimer-tagline. Varsity: the breeding ground for the pretentious and concentrated, the ironic-but-am-I-actually-being-ironic. You think you’ve heard it all,and then you go on Varsity.

I will start by clarifying. I enjoyed the trip. A lot. I plan on returning next year. But there are perils. One meets many “characters” at Oxford. Characters you learn to humour, whose hair you can fondly ruffle and question whether they reeeeeeeeaally should have said what they indeed just said. When I meet a St Benet’s student who is wearing a stiffly ironed shirt under their ski-suit, (“It’s excellent for keeping warm you know”), I laugh, and applaud them for not giving a fuck. But by the end of the week, my sweet meek sensitive self is lost to a grumpy, sassy hair-flicker.

What is most evident is that there are a few sectors of people who choose to go on Varsity. I had foolishly assumed that we would all think similarly – ski, drink, sleep, repeat. What could be better? But for some, the hubbub ‘Var-cité’ is where it’s at. All day. Every day. Essentially being purely a bar taken over for the week, with live ‘music’, I was definitely understood the appeal of après-ski. Sure. But pre-ski, during-ski, no-ski? On a skiing holiday?

Skiing. Holiday. A holiday to ski. I grit my teeth to think how many people spent less than half the week skiing. To think how many people actually skiied more than a single run.

Characters from the trip still haunt me. A fresher in the queue for the fittingly named ‘Melting Pot’ (a sweaty, underground club). His loud eruptions of ‘thought’ refused to let me go. At one point he even dared try and involve me in the ‘conversation’. Ha. Good one. Everything was ‘totally sweet’, the not quite concealed staccatoed enunciation revealing the comfortable middle-class background behind uncomfortable 90s chat ‘n’ hat.

“You have to like learn to dig the vibe, I feel.”

Don’t you just. 

Varsity is about vibing. Shredding metaphorical pow. Making some friends (who you avoid making eye contact with months later in Bridge).Yes. You certainly have to get used to the vibe. The chat goes on and on. And on. A girl makes a loud passive-aggressive joke to her boyfriend about a pink dildo. Elsewhere a fight nearly starts as the queue sways swiftly forward and back, like a tree caught in a fierce gale. That is, if gales keenly shoved, and blew toxic fumes of beer-fuelled-self-assertion, sexual frustration, and a lopsided, bemused me. Are these really some of the most intelligent students in the country? Are people around me going to be running the country? Writing venerable works of Post Post Modernism?

It takes until a week later, as I sit on the tube, watching people race on and off through slicing doors, that I realise. Without the framework of ‘important dates’ to pretend to rush to and between and from, essays to indulgently ignore, Tesco bags to lug home, pre-drinks to squeeze into evenings,… – we lose our control. We are left to the freedom of time. And so the champagne bottles pop and pour over floors, (“To debauchery!” each cork quietly shrieks) and I am left to snap my goggles on. It’s the only way I’m going to be seeing things rose-tinted.

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