19 August 2005

Don't Mention the Waugh

It's important I complete my epic write-up of last weekend's festivities before it all falls out of my head. As my fourth decade progresses, I find myself forgetting things remarkably easily -- I used to retain information without even trying, often without even wanting to at all, and now it's a real struggle. It's tragic really.

...Where was I?

Right. Yes. The Oxford reunion weekend -- and specifically, the DougSoc reunion weekend, which means that it wasn't terribly much like the floppy-haired cricket-whited unrequited Weltschmertzfest that the phrase "Oxford reunion weekend" suggests.

(To be honest, Oxford in the 1990s wasn't a particularly Brideshead place anyway -- except for a few unrequited-floppy-cricket types who insisted on perceiving it as such, and who for fairly obvious reasons tended to congregate around Christ Church, which as ill luck would have it was my college. I didn't tend to spend much time there.)

Anyway. Last weekend was well-attended, with some thirty or more DougSoccers, accompanied by partners and in two cases infant offspring, partaking of traditional activities ably organised by Silk and Pete, to whom enormous thanks are due.

Festivities began at Saturday lunchtime with a grimly determined picnic in the University Parks. This eventually succumbed to the inevitable downpour, and we decamped to The Lamb and Flag[1], one of the many highly decent real ale pubs in Oxford (and the only one, I believe I'm right in saying, which has its own dedicated beer, Lamb and Flag Gold, although it's not brewed on the premises).

After this we resorted to The Bear, the traditional starting-point for the now internationally-renowned DougSoc Role-Playing Pub Crawls. (Historically the reason for this has been the extensive outside seating, which is of course useless in a downpour. We crowded out the sweaty, steamy interior instead.) Enormous kudos points are due to Pete at this point for creating an all-new pub crawl (which hopefully will be getting archived at some point) -- a hugely ambitious crossover between the Hitchhiker, Prisoner, Sandman and Doctor Who universes.

The original DougSoc Doctor Who pub crawl (not archived) was called The Claws of Time and featured yours truly as the Master (bwa-ha-ha). The Doctor Who elements in this updated version were naturally based around the 2005 series, and pubgoers were given the parts of the Doctor, Rose, Captain Jack, Margaret the Slitheen (played by B.) and The Editor (played by me -- I'm evidently typecast. It's the beard, I think.) We were sent on a schedule from pub to pub, drinking and interacting in character with each other, and more surreally with characters from the other fictional universes.

All of which was enormous fun, even if it did involve wandering around in the rain (and visiting The Turl, which has gone enormously downhill and where the only remotely drinkable beer was Guinness[2]. For completeness' sake, the other pubs where I was sent were The St Aldate's Tavern -- formerly known as The Hobgoblin, and prior to that The Bulldog -- and the splendidly-named The Three Goat's Heads.)

After which we all went for a nice Italian meal, then to the Oscar Wilde Room in Magdalen College for your classic booze-up-with-comedy-sketches event. Booze consisted of beer, wine, Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters[3] and all the usual; comedy consisted of recycled Cruel and Unusual Punishment sketches, along with some other usual suspects like Fry and Laurie. A massively good time was had by pretty much all, although the children and most of their parents had vanished by this point.

Attempts to play Mao were abortive as far as most of us were concerned, since the (otherwise highly impressive and efficient) organisers had failed to take into account the need for playing-cards and the players had to trek back to someone's house. Plus it was late, and a lot of us lost our all-night-partying student stamina long ago, so went to bed instead. (B. and I slept at her old college, St Hilda's, which has a very nice S.C.R. guest room and rather less impressive cooked breakfasts.)

Sunday morning saw the most Bridesheadish activity of the whole weekend. I didn't partake of the punting, having a pathological dislike of any activity which stands a chance of resulting in any part of me being submerged in filthy river-water. Instead I wandered around the bookshops kindly provided by the entrepreneurs of Oxford for the purpose, and picked up a copy of the Hugo-Award-winning Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, which I'm looking forward to reading even as we speak.

I met up with the others for lunch at Magdalen College bar, after which we lounged around in Christ Church Meadow before in some cases progressing to the very best of Oxford's fine real ale pubs, The Turf Tavern, for a final round of beer before making our ways to our various homes.

The whole thing was generally a fantastic time, with the opportunity to catch up with some people I haven't seen for a very long time and many others who I don't see nearly often enough.

Plus beautiful surroundings, nice beer, good food, fun activities and, naturally, the universe going "foom". What more could one ask?

[1] Pub reviews courtesy of Colin, for nostalgic reasons, and therefore very likely several years out of date.

[2] A short history of Phil's drinking preferences over the years, for those of you whose curiosity was piqued by the tobacco rant:
1985 to 1990ish (aged 14 to 18) -- Pimm's and lemonade (the first thing I ever got drunk on). Dry Blackthorn or Woodpecker cider. Martini and lemonade, Bacardi and Coke. Lambrusco.
1990ish to 1999ish (aged 18 to 27 -- the Oxford years, frustratingly enough) -- Guinness and other then-mainstream stouts such as Murphy's and Beamish. Occasional mass-produced ales like Caffrey's. Tastes in wine becoming more acceptable, moving quickly from white to dogmatically red, with an exception made for retsina. Spirit consumption limited to ouzo and vodka, except at drunken parties when pretty much anything would do (see [3] below).
1999ish to the present (aged 27 to 33) -- Sudden discovery of real ale and consequent reformatting of the palate. Favourite beers now too numerous to name. Still ignorant about wine, but I know what I like and it's definitely not white. Not at all averse to a decent single malt whisky, either.

[3] The historic DougSoc recipe for a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster: take 2 parts Blue Curaçao to 2 parts vodka, 1 part tequila and 1 part rum. (In practice, just take 2 parts Curaçao to 4 of anything that pours.) Mix in a large mixing-bowl. Add orange juice in much larger quantities until the mixture is an opaque green colour. Slosh in a little of anything else that looks like it might be interesting, then ladle out to all comers. Garnish with a slice of aubergine (optional).

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