Cornwall Reading Party 2022

Date Published: 28.03.2022

Spectacular weather and intellectual gymnastics characterised the 2022 Wadham Cornwall Reading Party, as Fellow Peter Thonemann reports.

"One of the very finest Reading Parties of modern times"

Emeritus Fellow, Ray Ockenden

"After two years’ enforced abeyance, expectations for the 2022 Wadham Cornwall Reading Party were high. They were not disappointed: this was a truly vintage year, swiftly and correctly hailed by Ray Ockenden as one of the very finest Reading Parties of modern times. Even the local maritime wildlife showed greater than usual interest in the varied goings-on at Lamledra House, much-loved home to the Reading Party for many years.

This year’s Reading Party was led by Ray Ockenden, Julie Curtis, Sarah Cullinan Herring and Peter Thonemann, watched from afar, as ever, by the gently rotating shade of Reggie Lennard, whose generous bequest continues to fund many of the Reading Party’s costs. Applications were invited from all current Wadham undergraduates, and the thirteen successful applicants, selected with uncompromising rigour, included students from several different year-groups and subject-areas, ranging from Biochemistry to Economics.

Seven hours each day were dedicated to quiet self-directed work. A startling range of topics were mastered, ranging from the novels of Mary Wollstonecraft to the intricacies of special relativity. Zahra Grieve did her best to find some merit in Horace’s Odes, Anna Dowell was left speechless with outrage at the gender politics of The Taming of the Shrew, and Fernán Caballero kept Freddie Seddon occupied at unpredictable hours of day and night. The most intense intellectual gymnastics of the week came courtesy of Uri Sharell and Ruth Thrush, whose six small rectangles left the entire reading party flummoxed for a good twenty minutes.

The spectacular weather enabled us to take several lengthy walks and slightly shorter swims on and off the beautiful south Cornish coast, sadly unaccompanied by small ponies travelling at a medium pace. A glorious excursion to Hemmick Beach saw Alasdair Leeding and Jemima Swain scouting out hitherto unvisited smugglers’ hideouts, and a large axe was conveyed across surprising distances without any permanent disfigurement resulting.

The quality of evening cuisine was exceptional throughout. Highlights included Rhea Arora and Finbar Kneen’s French onion soup, Zahra Grieve and Imogen Front’s tomato orzo and vegan lasagne, and some raspberries with egg on them. Post-dinner entertainments included a terrifying, if oddly repetitive sequence of murders in the dark; Junior Okoroafor’s fearsome psychological detection-skills underpinned a memorable round of Mafia, in which Callum Long revealed hitherto unsuspected abilities to multitask, killing off Rachel Hart with one hand while “applying” for “internships” with the other. One particularly magical starlit night inspired Finbar Kneen to build an eponycian bonfire for us on Vault Beach, and the entire Reading Party would like to put on record their profound gratitude to Uri Sharell for not attempting to arrange Avicii’s Levels for ukulele.

A most agreeable and hard-working week was had by all. Next year’s reading party will be advertised in January 2023."

Peter Thonemann, Tutorial Fellow and Professor of Ancient History

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