Classics Tutor Peter Thonemann reports on radical innovations at the reading party.
“In March 2018, as an enchanted dusting of snow descended gently over Wadham College, a party of twelve Wadham undergraduates and three senior members (Ray Ockenden, Peter Thonemann and Raphael Utz) set out for the 47th annual Wadham Reading Party in Cornwall. The snow thickened as we arrived at Lamledra, the rambling Edwardian house on the south Cornish coast where Wadham reading parties have stayed for over forty years.
"Applications for the reading party were invited from all current Wadham undergraduate 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.) The twelve successful applicants included students from different year-groups and subject-areas, ranging from Engineering to Classical Archaeology. Our sole repeat participant this year was Ollie Braddy, deservedly promoted from Master of Bins to Tsar of Bins.
"This was a year of radical innovation for the reading party. The traditional Asda shopping trip on the first afternoon was replaced by Asda home-delivery. The first snowball fight in the reading party’s history took place on the field below the house, and senior members’ duties for the first time included the provision of dream-therapy to student participants, with slightly alarming results. An excellent new washing-up system was introduced by our masterful treasurer Nat Beckett, who celebrated its adoption with a memorably enthusiastic rendition of Love on Top.
"Seven hours each day were set aside for quiet work and reading, and participants made good use of the week to disentangle problematic topics such as the philosophy of time-travel, galactic astrophysics, and the ethical complexities of Pirrauru, disturbed only by the crackle of excellent fires in the grate (ably managed by our fire-nurturers Pip Beck and Hannah Marshall) and by Rupert Sparling’s mysteriously elaborate tea-making rituals.
"As the snows melted to lurry, we made full use of the beautiful beaches and cliff-walks around Lamledra. Georgia Mason and Katie Oldham were inexplicably keen on plunging into bitterly cold seas, Rose Lyddon channeled her inner mountain goat, and various new-born lambs were threatened with abduction. Evenings were dedicated to outstanding cuisine (produced rota-style by members of the party) and games, the latter presided over with legendary flair by Ray Ockenden. The sparkle of dinner-time conversation seldom lapsed into entropic drosera. Conor Williets proved perhaps the most effortlessly brilliant player of Mafia ever seen at Lamledra, but a veil is best drawn over his attempt to evoke Sigmund Freud with non-verbal noises. Few who were privileged to witness it will ever forget Raphael Utz’s rendition of Georgia Mason shape-shifting into a werewolf in a game of Tuscan Charades.
"An outstandingly memorable week was had by all. Next year’s reading party will be advertised in January 2019."