Tom Witherow: The York tradition that will die hard

Entering the weird world of the graduand via an eight-hour Courtyard drinking binge, you find yourself in an awkward limbo between the crushing atmosphere of the exam period and the forty-five years of work awaiting you in the real world. But for the most part, those York ‘traditions’ that are hurriedly invented to fill our three short years won’t be coming with us.

Take the bucket list. In this limbo before Summer Ball, we third years return to a fresher-like state through this great tradition. No one will ever complete it, unless that is you can pull 27 different people, sleep with 18 more, and drink the equivalent of 13 bottles of vodka in 33 days. But tradition demands we must attempt it.

We will tell of our plans to undertake the crate-escape, finish Edward Ciderhands, make a quote-wall and roll down Clifford’s Tower, all in the first 24 hours of post-exam freedom. Waking up the next morning we find our bodies a) are no longer 18, and b) have suffered three years of drinking the likes of which probably won’t be repeated again in their lifetime.

My plan to go out ten nights in a row, “like we did in freshers”, has had to be reassessed. Three is considered acceptable; the loss of face is avoided this way.

Tradition two: the Gold Rush has returned, an ancient ritual that people pretend to partake in. It pains me to break it, but if they didn’t want to get with you in terms one to eight, term nine isn’t going to be any different.

Meanwhile, Quiet Place copulation has been denied by the university, as it didn’t appear in the campus security notes. I feel for the poor security guard who keeps stumbling upon the many students getting busy, but who is then too shy to report it. Unfortunately, people taking part in ‘outdoor activity’ will find a whole new meaning to the phrase doing the dirty – there’s been too much post-exam rain for an enjoyable experience. It’s not a tradition anyone will be taking with them into future life.

Other rituals have been included crowding into a housemate’s bed to share in hangover pain – something that can surely only happen at university.
York’s collection of chunder stories and ‘Never Have a I Ever’ tales can certainly be dropped, as can some of our university’s more bizarre societies. No-one can regret such gloriously unimportant activities as barbershop singing, Scottish dancing and pantomime, but dabbling in things in which you have such little talent is something I’ll probably shelve… until retirement.

But York has one thing that no graduate of our brutalist landscape should forget. If we can pretend that sixties architecture is beautiful, we’ll have no problem retaining optimism into the future that the education we’ve received here will serve us well into out futures.
York students’ sense of humour has been evident in every one of my 90 weeks, no more so than when York Mosque was threatened by an EDL wing, hundreds of students turned out to face them … armed with cups of tea.

Think back to the 1960s and you can imagine a comic adventurer waking up in Freshers’ Week and telling a hungover flatmate, “It does look like a space ship”.

Binge-drinking, sexual daring and dabbling in singing (out of tune), dancing (out of time) and acting (I forgot my lines) can be left in the annals of the ‘University Experience’. If there’s something I’ll take from York, I hope it is the optimism, kindness and sense of fun that all its students, lecturers
and staff display.

York, it’s been a pleasure.

One comment

  1. Just want to tell you all. I’ve completed that bucket list

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