Isaac Hewlings

Drunken rites of passage

I’m going to be frank with all you intrepid readers of this column, I’m taking the cheap route and starting this with a bit of recursive writing. Were it that I was either better prepared for this or had a reasonable amount of ability, I would have avoided this seedy alley and taken the much brighter vista of using an appropriate literary technique. My only promise will be avoidance of some of the cliché that is characteristic of these kinds of writing – perhaps I’ll flag up some of the primest examples as I go.

So how have I managed to end up in this situation – totally unprepared and patently under-qualified to hold your attention for the next five minutes or so? Well, the painful realities of third year are already besieging my woefully under-equipped mind. Thus, the joys of Wittgenstein and the state of Lebanon are currently competing for my attention, along with the Xbox, Peep Show and this fine publication.

This, in of itself, is no great news – which leads me neatly into my first cliché flag of the day: how tired and overworked us third years are. I’m sure I’ll be extremely overworked and stressed by January 2010, but one thing I won’t be doing is telling y’all about how tired I am, despite drinking my second Martini of the night in Evil Eye (a cocktail establishment of reasonable repute on Stonegate, for those that are interested). It’s the student equivalent of hearing a grumpy old man describing the difficulties of life ‘back in the day’. Whilst I’m not knocking the general eradication of Polio in today’s Britain, stories of walking uphill both ways to school just don’t make for interesting reading. Student journalists, much like their septugenarian forefathers, make the critical mistake of thinking that because they’re in a situation of relative esteem, that tedious rants are more than just extensive moan-sessions.

Nonetheless, being presented with the likelihood of actually studying the equivalent of a normal person’s working day is somewhat daunting. The joys of normal activity are still coming as a shock – waking regularly at 8am, actually going outside at some point before lunch time, looking forward to reclining in my cream faux leather sofa at the end of day. It’s almost like being a real person… except for the massive amounts of residual laziness of course. The evolution from primordial inactivity to owning my very own work ethic is pretty surprising.

And bam! I almost sleepwalk into cliché number two: that despite all the tribulations and so forth, we all grow up and learn so much from our York experience. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, in that I’ve certainly got better at doing stuff, but I have a feeling that celebrating this development is about as extraordinary and as impressing as loudly pronouncing your improved toilet training between the ages of two and eight.

Whilst it would no doubt be impressively reactionary to avoid getting any more responsible as you go throughout university, surely this is the kind of basic requirement of growing up that only us middle-class kids could herald as an extraordinary achievement. Insofar as I’m qualified to give analysis (entirely not, as it turns out), the beauty of university is both the dank laziness of first year – with the sweeping tundra of hangover after hangover – and the increasing desire for preoccupations of a more wholesome kind. The problem lies in writing about it in such a way that imbues it with more glory than it really deserves.

But I shouldn’t be moaning about the (perhaps largely imagined) foibles of campus journalism and lazy documentation of university ‘facts of life’. This is a freshers’ edition after all, so let’s notch up the happy-metre and have a peek at the extraordinary phenomenon that is Fresher’s Week. To any outsider it’s probably as comprehensible as trying to catch catfish with your fists. It is, for most of us is an orgy of Carlsberg, cheap wine and enthusiasm. The temptation is to bemoan the transient nature of these drunken misadventures, or to celebrate the insobriety of it all. So once again, what do we make of it all?

As far as I’m concerned it’s a fine coming of age ritual – about as pleasant as those more regularly covered by the National Geographic channel – and just as tribal. To those that avoid the alcohol, I applaud their judgement. Although never fear, the associated rites of awkward conversations and dealing with the people down the corridor who either a) engage in violently loud intercourse, or b) play their drum and bass ‘til 4am still have to be negotiated. Enjoy!