Sunday, 28 June 2009

Magdalen College Ball 2009

These are some photographs of the Magdalen College ball I attended on Friday night, courtesy of Brett Tully.

You'll have to just believe me that there was a harpist playing at the champagne reception, where the 1800 (or so) guests first assembled.

At the back of the College is a deer park with benign trees and soft grass scattered with pieces of tree and ivy, reminiscent of an Enid Blyton story. The deers had been replaced for the evening by dodgem (bumper) cars and a big top circus. There were also white food stalls (lamb and cous cous, roast pork and apple sauce rolls, Indian curry, doughnuts with cinnamon and chocolate sauce and an ice cream stand). Young couples sipped their drinks in between the buttress roots. Many of the women (or at least the ones I noticed) were wearing quasi-regency, quasi-Greco-Roman dresses, with empire lines, fine detailing, multiple layers, in white, pale golds and creams, their hair long and flowing and barely pinned back. The men were in white tie.

Then, just in front of the park, the New Building lawn housed a more modern scene: igloo-style cocktail and oyster bars, chocolate fountains, and a large orchestra (which went on to accompany the fireworks that erupted once the pink sky turned dark grey).

In obscured corners of the College buildings, there were massage parlours, hairdressers, old-fashioned performers and large vases of orchids.

When I sauntered through to the Cloisters for the first time that evening, I found myself suddenly caught up in an eerie, purple light and the honey-coloured stone. Then, through the medieval tipped windows, I caught the first glimpses of the most heavenly scene and I squealed, 'Eeeee'. From a poll in the middle of the quadrangle, strings of fairy lights gently reached each corner. Once it was dark, the Cloisters seemed more Hollywood glamour than celestial. The dance floor was a checkerboard, the singer was suitably husky, and there was a whiskey and champagne bar and an olives and cheeses tent at two of the corners.

In large marquee in a parallel quadrangle, a load of English bands rocked it from 9pm, including The Epstein, The Feeder and The Pipettes. (The last were like The Wiggles for adults, but in the 1960s. I was hooked.) Then, from around 3am, the survivors happily exchanged sweat and shapes at the silent disco as the sun quietly rose.

Yes, it was ridiculous in hindsight, and even during it, there were a few people getting a little intoxicated on their own splendour. But, it was essentially playful and truly beautiful, and, given the scale, the sort of thing I will probably only experience once.

Having quickly read my description though, it's clear that my tone is far more formal, possibly even reverent, and far less humourous than it is by nature. (That third photo is asking for something, whereas I just left it there.) Maybe the whole thing's gotten to me. That's it. The old me is finished. Lavish only from now on. LAVISH!


Dr. No said...

Oh that looks LOVELY! Can I go next year?

I'd rather be playing frisbee said...

Stunning. Bet you looked stunning. But it is just fancy lash right? Lash + Vibrant + Irreverent = Lavish.

Academic, Hopeful said...

Dr No. - Meet you at the chocolate fountain at midnight next year.

Frisbee - You're usually right about such things. But I have been to a fair few of these balls before and there was still something magical about this one. It was probably the melodrama of the orchestra and fireworks combo that got to me most...That and the floaty dresses. But I like your idea of 'fancy lash'. x

Bavardess said...

Wow, those photos are beautiful. It could almost be Brideshead Revisited, if not for the presence of curry and doughnuts (yum, doughnuts...)

Ink said...

Wow. It looks like a fantasy! I want to be splendid with you, too, next time!