13 December 2009

the sound of guffaws

Off to watch the Varsity match last week I searched everywhere for some old college regalia.

rugby_match by Jim Grady

My old rugby shirt? Nope: borrowed by a member of the 3rd XV for the infamous '85 tour of Wales and never seen again.  College scarf? cufflinks? umbrella?. all lost.  I gave up and then I suddenly realised I still have my gown!

It's kept in the dressing up box; it's commonly known as the Harry Potter Outfit.

"Don't be silly", I told myself a few minutes later, inspecting my crumpled appearance in the mirror: "you can't possibly go to Varsity match in your gown"

I took it off but impetuously stuffed it into my rucksack anyway (well, you never know). Then I headed out and followed the sound of guffaws to the stadium. Were we like that when we were students?

The first time I went to Varsity Match I was a student. It was 1982 and 60,000 people were there. We stood in the wooden West Stand and cheered the three members of my college who had made the team.  Nowadays only 30,000 turn out and all the team are from Hughes Hall and St Edmunds  (the undergraduates play in a U21 curtain raiser). Perhaps those things are connected.

This time I was sat in a corporate box and there were eight of us -  with food for 12 as the party from our supplier's other client had failed to pitch. Beef Wellington, a glass and a half (cough) of claret, Bakewell tart and meat pies for tea, and afterwards there was a sea eagle to scare the pigeons!

What's that? Oh yes, Cambridge won.

Walking home, happily, later that evening I found myself alongside a group of girls from my old college. They were wearing their red boat club fleeces and college scarves, and laughing and joking with some rugby players from the college next door.. I felt an insane urge to approach them -  "Hey, I used to go to St John's as well!"

I restrained myself - obviously they wouldn't believe me, and would no doubt take me for some random, drunk and sad, middle-aged wierdo.  If only I had had my cufflinks to prove my bona fides.

And then I remembered my gown...

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