Work, rest and play

12th April 2016

News, Student news

Switching supermarkets, eating cake, swimming in the sea and devouring Dostoevsky were among highlights of the 2016 Cornwall Reading Party, as Classics Fellow Peter Thonemann and Emeritus Fellow Ray Ockenden report.

Between the 12 and 19 March 2016, a group of ten students and three senior members travelled to Cornwall for the college’s annual reading party.  As for many years past, the party stayed at Lamledra, a magnificent Edwardian family house on the south coast, with spectacular sea views, open fires, and an internal layout which could have been designed for Murder in the Dark.  Despite the sensationally good weather – for the second year running – all the members of the reading party got a huge amount of work done over the course of the week.  Seven hours each day were set aside as quiet work time, and the finalists in the party particularly appreciated the opportunity to get some serious reading done in the run-up to finals.

An unusually wide range of subjects was represented on the reading party this year: Maths, Chemistry, Economics and Management, Classics, History, English, Modern Languages and History of Art.  The scientists in the party made use of a week’s freedom from the internet to explore aspects of their subject which required deep and sustained reflection; the humanities students drank down great draughts of Dostoevsky, Swift, Euripides, Goethe and others.  Many of these diverse interests coincided in tremendously wide-ranging dinner-time discussions of Lord Elgin, Cecil Rhodes, and the finer aspects of mediaeval land-tenure.  

On the journey down, during our traditional rest break at Taunton Deane, it emerged that Iseabail Rowe, our one graduate participant this year, laid claim to skills at baking.  Wild enthusiasm ensued, and later in the week the whole party was treated to lemon drizzle cake and home-made scones on the terrace overlooking the sea.  Despite the hirsute shadow of Ralph Weir’s Uncle Keith, urging the merits of cereal as a meal for all hours of the day, the party enjoyed spectacular cuisine each evening, culminating on Friday night in Raphael Utz’s monumental bake-up of leftovers, washed down with appropriate quantities of gin and tonic.  In one of the year’s more radical innovations, the reading party switched its allegiance this year from the St Austell branch of Tesco to the St Austell branch of Asda, to no apparent detrimental effects.   

In the afternoons, the beautiful weather encouraged us to make a number of excursions along the south Cornish coast.  For the first time in many years, our regular visit to Hemmick beach saw all members of the reading party plunging valiantly into the sea.  Few lingered, with the exception of the dolphin-like Henri Willberg and Claire Fleming, who subsequently found themselves in need of hot-water bottles.  A basking seal was spotted offshore, and a long walk along the cliffs between Mevagissey and Gorran Haven saw detailed plans drawn up for relocating Wadham’s entire humanities programme to south Cornwall.   

A hard-working and very enjoyable week was had by all.  Next year’s reading party will be advertised in January 2017.

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