I don’t know about anyone else, but recently I seem to have been bombarded with invitations to old pals’ reunion events. I’d put this down to my celebrity status and widespread popularity, but I suspect it has more to do with the rise of social networking and its ability to give you a nasty shock by shoving pictures of people you haven’t seen in three decades under your unsuspecting nose when you’re trying to surf news websites while eating breakfast.
So far I have managed to dip out of the school stuff, most of which seems to have been organised by people who blatantly didn’t rate the school experience much, spent most of their time being a nuisance in classes and promptly left as soon as they were let off the leash at 16.
Last year’s university alumni shindig, on the other hand, was a whale of a weekend, despite the fact that the alumni office got us there under false pretences by promising lots of people we were likely to know and then delivering precisely no-one. So we had fun drinking in old watering holes and wasting unjustifiable amounts of money in Record Collector, astoundingly still there and going strong after over 20 years, though it’s more CD Collector these days, as you’d expect. The lack of auld acquaintance turned out to be a matter of little import after we bumped into a jolly chap named Charles who graduated the year I was born and whose first question when he found out we’d arrived the day before official activities was “Which pubs did you go to?”. (The Bath, if anyone’s interested, possibly one of the best pubs in the city and pretty much exactly the same as it was in 1965, according to Charles.)
So my advice to any Sheffield graduates out there is to cease binning all that alumni bumf and get along to their next annual party. Large amounts of rather decent food and wine, a guided tour of your old haunts and the chance to relive your misspent youth by having your eardrums perforated in what used to be the Lower Refec disco. What’s not to like? I did get a bit worried about the left ear when I still had tinnitus a week later, mind.
This year a letter arrived inviting us to drinkies in the House of Lords, a tempting prospect especially as we missed the cocktail party at the embassy in Paris the previous year due to my partner in crime having other commitments (something about being presented with a gold vibrating sausage – no, I’m not about to explain). But unfortunately we had to give their lordships a raincheck when someone popped up on Facebook proposing a reunion for ex-members of the Rag Committee instead. (Note to organisers: doing a bit of liaison with a) the alumni office and b) these people would make my busy social diary much easier to manage. Thanks. We ski bums can’t spend all our time jetting round Europe in the interseason you know. Not if we want to eat as well, at any rate.)
Rag Dinner had the edge over the lords in that it was bound to involve lots of people we definitely had met before, albeit rather a long time ago. Which gave rise to a raft of fascinating questions – would Ann still be wearing completely impractical shoes? How many of the blokes would be fat and bald? Would Wooton get off with some unsuitable young woman in an inapproriate location? (Yes, none and I couldn’t possibly say but he added a twist by turning up in a skirt.) And more to the point, could we hold our own against the current committee when it came to Boat Racing? Yes, it seems, and by some margin as well. Tsk, the youth of today, what a total bunch of pansies. And can you believe that website? Seems that not only do they need commercial enterprises to organise their intro week bar crawls for them, they can’t get together a decent drinking game without a helping hand from Google. Hell in a handcart, I say.
So it didn’t come as an enormous surprise that the world of student fundraising seems to have been sanitised beyond all recognition. Apparently it’s considered bad form to annoy po-faced student politicos by stealing their office door these days. I’m not sure whether stealing half the door would be more acceptable or less so, involving as it did damage to property and (more seriously) unlicensed freelance use of a tenon saw on union premises without the correct risk assessment. Though to be scrupulously fair, Wimmin’s Group rather brought that one on themselves by bursting into the Ragofis and ranting at the person busy compiling that year’s treasure hunt.
Pyjama Jump, the committee’s flagship fundraiser and some of the most fun you got to have as a Sheffield student, finally managed to get itself banned, allegedly after a semi-naked tram surfing incident involving the closure of half the city’s transport network, though personally I think this is merely a smear campaign by the po-faced types, since Google turns up no mention of any such thing, and it seems a bit unlikely that the local paper would have missed that one. Google does offer a load of harrumphing about booze-fuelled antics, people having sex on pool tables and youngsters having the temerity to enjoy themselves, but I can’t see anything particularly reprehensible in any of that. Besides, I’m reliably informed that it was under the pool table, not on it. Or was than a different evening? Anyway.
Other interesting things you aren’t allowed to do any more include building rafts and floating them down the Don (too dangerous, might get wet), walking 50 miles round the city at night (too dark, might stub a toe) and organising a float parade round the city centre (too much fun, people might smile). Though they do encourage students to hitchhike half way round the world on their own, and apparently raise a large amount of wonga in the process. Odd priorities, but you can’t argue with loads of wonga.
Finally, they seem to have discontinued Twikker, an innocuous publication full of mainly rather crap recycled jokes, on the grounds that it was ‘offensive’. The Po-Faced Ones were always telling us Twikker was ‘offensive’, though they couldn’t explain how or produce anyone who had actually been offended. They did mumble on a bit about things being ‘sexistnracist’ (the 80s equivalent of elfnsafety), but they never managed to furnish any actual evidence even when they went so far as to drag the whole business into an official debate. If they’d put that sort of effort into fundraising we’d have made millions. As it was, we generally laughed at them and stole Wimmin’s Group’s door again.
To give the current crop their due, they do manage to raise substantial sums of cash, though you wonder how much more they could rake in if they were allowed to be a bit less drippy about everything. Maybe they should add it to the ‘to do’ list on their spreadsheet.
1. Have more fun.
2. Take a few risks.
3. Annoy some people. Preferably pompous ones.
We’ll be back next year to see how you’re getting on.