Mace / Father Swan / Nine Ladies Dancing

Another weekend, another debating competition, another one of my hall priests stripping off to give a ballet performance…

It’s really annoying having to write this on the Monday after, because after three hours of classes on a dismal day, it feels as if the past few days are already the stuff of sepia-toned nostalgia. The debating competition was the John Smith Memorial Mace, the pirouetting priest a performer at my hall Christmas party. As a result of the above two events, the past three days have been somewhat surreal.

The Mace is meant to be prestigious, and I assume that’s why lots of teams flock to it. We go to it because it’s in London, meaning we save on transport, and also because the entrance fee is amazingly cheap. Unfortunately, with those perks comes the downside that we find the debating part of the competition incredibly unfulfilling. The motions are dull and uninspired – This House Would Adopt an Open-Door Policy for Immigration into the EU, on a Friday night. This House Would Renationalise The Entire UK Rail Network System was another real thriller. It is, though, a cause for some sort of optimism that out of 6 rounds we were only badly judged once, which is better than what we’re (Nick and me) used to. We came in 3rd and 4th in the first two rounds, and deservedly so, because we were appalling. The 3rd round was the annoying one, especially when we came out of it and the only other team there who knew their stuff was convinced it was between them and us for the top two places. Then we talked to the judge, who was convinced that the clear winners were the team who everyone else thought came dead last, and the clear losers were us.

After that stunning three round success record, we got chucked in debates with the rest of the people who had done as badly, which meant we won the next three rounds very easily. So we’ll probably look as if we did quite well when the official rankings are out, but that won’t really be a fair indication of our performance, given that our wins were easy and two of our losses deserved.

The social side of it was somewhat more satisfying. Apart from the usual sights of Aaron, Vikram and Wu-Meng, who I only get to see at debating tournaments, there was some good bonding between our 4 UCL teams and reasonably generous free drinks on Friday night with the usual meaningless but entertaining social interaction that comes with all that. Our mood of profound depression at our dismal performance lifted somewhat on Saturday with the three wins, and after a while we just stopped caring about the debating, and scooted off to retoxbar in Covent Garden with other like-minded souls instead of watching the semi-finals. Another lift to my spirits was when I found out that Russ and the rest of the men’s novices crew had seemingly defied all odds to win a rowing competition. And, in line with our usual practice when the wine is flowing freely, Nick and I embarked on a mutual affirmation of our intrinsic worth as individual intellectual beings, as well as our solid and satisfying debating partnership. So all of that operated to give me a smile on my face as Nick, Vish and I were walking home from supper at Chinatown, despite the bad debating, which I suppose should be the focus of entering a debating competition.

So I woke up on Sunday still in a reasonably good mood, which, as I’ve said, is far from what usually happens when I don’t do well in a competition. And, as thoroughly cliched as it may sound to say this, when I went down and saw everything decorated – a little tree in the reception area, a nativity scene in the dining room, lots of other nice touches here and there – I did actually feel all happy and Christmassy.

For the party at night, we’d all signed up to do skits about days in The Twelve Days of Christmas. I still don’t know who put my name on the Nine Ladies Dancing list, but I’m not complaining, since it could well have been Geese A-Laying or French Hens. I increasingly realize that the great thing about the people in this hall is our willingness to make fools of ourselves in the name of fun. When the time came for Father J to do seven swans a-swimming, he got up and talked for a bit about the all-male ballet production of Swan Lake earlier this year in London. I didn’t quite realize the extent of the link he was making until he stripped off his dinner jacket and clerical collar to reveal this filmy white robe (which, I suspect, came from an altar vestment) and started his hysterically funny ballet performance. I thought his stint as a face-painted Chinese opera jealous husband for our Charity Night earlier this year was something to remember, until Sunday night’s performance left that one gasping in the dust.

Our nine ladies dancing skit was good too. I say this especially because it was my idea. :P The basic premise of it was that we were a dance troupe, booked for two parties at Newman House, and we’d got the dates mixed up. So we were halfway through a strip routine for what we thought was a 21st birthday party, and then one of us began to “serenade” the birthday boy. We then suddenly realized that we’d mixed it up with our Christmas party booking, where the organizing priest, in making the booking, had left specific instructions that we waltz to classical music, with no touching, no eye contact, no hip-swivelling, and most importantly, no fun. So, following these instructions, we then rendered that performance, and awkwardly waltzed out, to much applause and general hilarity.