Friday, June 11, 2010

The Summer Ball

The Al Fresco Four

We take a short break from "A Couple of Tenors Short" to bring you this report from Evar Guttaluttabuttavic, special society correspondent for the Pig Breeder’s Gazette.

June 2010, somewhere in the Heart of England.

Fine yeomen, those of you in the fair British Isles this past week could be forgiven if you have missed the fact that, according to the Ethaniel Nightswerve Almanac, we are enjoying summer. For students up and down the country, this marks the end of the academic year. For some, it is the end of their journey as students and the start of a new chapter in their lives as contributing members of society.

The summer for these marks a hectic round of tutorials, lectures, research, essay writing, revision and the dreaded final exams. Hours of burning the midnight oil to wring out the final few extra marks that mean the difference between a good degree and a great degree.

It is no surprise therefore that once the dissertation is bound and submitted; when the last presentation is made and the last exam is aced, the students let their hair down and celebrate the completion of their journey. The tradition within the august environs of all the great British Universities is for students to do this at the University Summer Ball.

The students knew that in 2010, there were always going to be funding issues. The world is in the midst of an economic crisis. The new British Government is introducing austerity measures to tackle the mounting debt crisis. University budgets everywhere are under scrutiny. Funding is in short supply. Despite all of this, they were determined to have a good time and make sure that their Summer Ball would live long in the memory.

This correspondent deemed it a great honour to be invited to cover the 2010 Summer Ball at Coventry University accompanied by Yvette, my photographer.

The weather did it’s best to support the student’s austerity themed extravaganza. Leaden skies blotted out the evening sunshine. A brisk and chilly North-Easterly wind invigorated by light drizzle made choice of formal wear difficult, but as you can see from the photograph, not impossible. In a reversal of recent tradition, women chose to go hatless, while it was the gentlemen who shone in a range of noggin apparel (Editor’s Note 1).

 The transport laid on for the students this year was sponsored by GM
Yvette felt particularly under-dressed in her Dior Donkey Jacket as the student’s arrived at the ball in the specially arranged transport.  Gone were the stretch limos of last year to be replaced by more restrained transport provided by the sponsors.  From around 6:30, students started to pitch up to the red chalked pavement in all manner of exotic transport.

 Blocked Gas Meter
Unable to afford the normal venue, compromises had been made. Yet, as you can see from the photograph, the students pitched in to turn the place of fun and laughter. The clever use of gaffer tape, a few balloons and yards of bunting might have improved things, but the students stuck with the theme.

The press corps which thronged the surrounding streets in the hopes of catching some candid shots of the celebrity guests, debated how the intrepid students would handle the catering. Having arrived early, I was fortunate to get the inside track on the arrangements from the manager of the 24-hour taekwondo shop.

The theme was most definitely Bring Your Own Grub! Some of the students sought out experts in the field to ensure that the culinary experience would be second to none. With dinner pencilled in for 7:30, the students sat down (Editor’s Note 2) with an air of gastronomic expectancy.

Student accommodation the length and breadth of Coventry filled with the sounds and smells of food preparation as the spirit of ‘we are all in this together’ gripped the student body. Where it not for some unfortunate oversights and numerous attacks of the mid-afternoon munchies, there would have been a fantastic spread laid on. (See Editor’s Note 3)

Delicious BBQ
Thankfully, this didn’t upset the spirits of the intrepid guests. After sharing their repast, the cheap cider flowed freely as they proposed numerous toasts to members of the faculty, the university administrators and, of course, each other. After the toasts, at around 7:45, they rose for dancing.

Unable to afford a full band and the CD player somewhere at the bottom of the punch bowl, the musical accompaniment was left to the student body. The dancing was highly entertaining. A string of students took turns to enter the compact and bijou dance mat to show off their shapes. We were in total awe of the innovative modern contemporary dance moves of one young gentleman only to  discover later it was the home brewed alcohol causing him to throw up over the garden wall.

Carriages would have been called at around 8:06, but local taxi drivers don’t take fares in that neighbourhood after 5:30. So after much kissing, groping and promises to call in the morning, the student body made their farewells and staggered to the nearest skip.

Editor’s Notes.
Note 1: Yes, I know that I have thrown a lot of links into this rather long and rambling piece, but if you have to follow only one of the links, follow that one – just promise me that you won’t  forget what you were doing before you did and you return here.
Note2: Well, they would have sat down if the budget had run to chairs.
Note 3: Although these unfortunate events meant the ‘Bring Your Own Grub’ initiative was a little less than a triumph, the students did manage to make sure there was a plentiful supply of booze. Even the hardened journalist present, who themselves are renowned for finding cheap booze, were amazed at how much alcohol the students managed acquire on their meagre means in tight financial times.

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