Thursday, 7 May 2009
In front of the gate
Yesterday I had one of the most remarkable experiences of my life. I was invited to the annual dinner at St John's, an event called Ante portam latinam, St John's Day. Invitation card specification: "Black tie, academic dress, doctors wear scarlet". I only own one evening dress, and I am not allowed to wear scarlet, because I don't have a degree from Cambridge. But a combination of evening dress and academic gown was enough for me. That is, untill I saw all those other people in scarlet. I guess I have seen pictures, but to see it in real life... The preprandials were served in Master's Garden, one of those esoteric spaces that common mortals have no access to (a simple tour of St John's is impressive enough). The male dominance was tangible, and the average age high. And the splendour beyond anything imaginable. Not least in the dining hall, and there was a proper grace, not the short version, and there was a choir. Table conversation was radiant, the six course meal exquisite, the wine selection refined. Coffee was served in Combination Room, with a separate table placement. To say I was awed would be the understatement of the century. Now I feel I've had a real taste of Cambridge. Or is it just a game?