Reading in Cornwall

2nd April 2014

News, Alumni news

Twelve Wadham undergraduates, two fellows and one alumnus spent a memorable week on the south Cornish coast for the annual College reading party.

Peter Thonemann, Tutor in Ancient History, accompanied Wadham's 2014 Reading Party to Cornwall and here describes a successful week away.

"In late March, a reading party of twelve Wadham undergraduates spent a memorable week on the south Cornish coast.  Accompanied by two current Wadham fellows (Peter Thonemann and Ray Ockenden) and one Wadham alumnus (Raphael Utz), they spent some seven hours a day reading and working companionably on subjects of their own choosing. 

The reading party stayed – as in 39 of the previous 43 years – at Lamledra, a rambling Edwardian house set in magnificent countryside overlooking the Cornish coastline.  Since the house is blessedly free from internet access or mobile-phone signal, our only distractions were the glorious sea-views, the breaking waves, and the occasional snorting of Tish the horse in the neighbouring field.  With the nearest supermarket forty minutes’ drive away, and the fish and chip shop mysteriously open only on Fridays 5-7pm, all shopping, cooking and eating was a major communal endeavour.  Several days of tremulous sunshine allowed us to swim (briefly) at nearby Hemmick beach, to walk the cliffs to Mevagissey, and to explore the Lost Gardens of Heligan. 

Applications for the reading party were invited from all current Wadham undergraduate and graduate students.  (The expenses of the reading party have long been underwritten by the generous bequest of a former Wadham history tutor, Reggie Lennard, boosted by subsequent contributions by reading-party alumni.)   Of the twenty-odd applicants, a group of twelve was selected, from a range of subjects and years.  Around half the students were finalists, who particularly appreciated the opportunity to get some serious reading done in the run-up to finals.  The other participants (mostly second-years) also read widely, in subjects ranging from immunology to medieval political thought.   

Communal washing-up was enlivened by ad hoc formations of disco-dancing dryer-uppers, who all, safe to say, firmly believe in life after love.  Tension and conflict were confined to several intense post-dinner games of Mafia and Murder in the Dark, the former illuminated only by the crackling firelight and the vivid narration of reading party veteran Ray Ockenden.  A game of charades reached its high point with Maeve Scullion’s virtuosic solo depiction of the Warden’s dog eating Jane Griffiths’ cat, though Theo Chevallier’s highly-sprung rendition of Raphael Utz’s head exploding ran it a close second.

In short, a happy and hard-working week was had by all.

Next year’s reading party will be advertised in January 2015."

Peter Thonemann

Related news