Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. A Gaudy

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. A Gaudy

Article excerpt

I went to a gaudy last weekend. Several British universities now host these splendid events; mine was at Worcester College, Oxford, from where I graduated in 1981 with a double third in mathematics. A gaudy is essentially a reunion weekend with knobs on. At Worcester they are blessedly free, which is great for paups like me who can enjoy the exceptionally good food and, particularly, wine with a huge stupid smile. (The only cost was £42 for a guest room for a night, and my God do you need that.) Gaudies typically occur for each year’s intake only every seven years, and when you get the invitation you need to respond by return, because if you don’t you won’t get in.

I won’t pretend that I didn’t have rather complicated feelings about either my college or my course. My thirds weren’t the traditional gentleman’s degree, fuelled by idleness, brandy and cigars. They were what you get when someone who isn’t quite good enough for his course works his socks off. But this was nearly 40 years ago. Time is a great healer, especially if you have made sure not to open a maths book at any moment in the intervening decades.

Now, as a writer, I am driven by an unquenchable curiosity as to what has happened to everyone. Happily, as we get older, more and more of my contemporaries are attending these events. At my last gaudy in 2012, there were only about 20 former undergraduates from my year (out of roughly 100). This year that figure had doubled. More than a couple of people I spoke to admitted that they had been quite nervous about it. …

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