- The Good: I went to the Boar's Head Gaudy on Saturday, and the one person I most wanted to see was there.
- The Bad: a flash snowstorm earlier in the day had caused a couple of dozen cancellations, and the eventual 70-odd attendees did not include any of my former classmates.
- The Ugly: I was caught out in said snowstorm because I'd gone to Tesco early while everything was clear, and on the final bend in the road before arriving at my street the car lost all traction and went straight on into a parked car. News just in is that the estimated cost of repairs is roughly double what the car was worth.
The Boar's Head Gaudy, as well as being a feast based on a slightly odd ritual from the Middle Ages, is a posh "do" for selected old members of The Queen's College. Each year they designate two matriculation years whose students will receive invitations, and it's typically about 20 years before you get your first invitation (and it follows that you will only ever get two invitations, though I have a vague recollection that very old members are invited permanently — I may be wrong as I didn't see any attendees in that category). This year's magic numbers were 1986 and 1987. So you get to see a bunch of old friends that you may not have seen for two decades.
Two of the events which happen on Boar's Head night involve the College choir — first, a recital of seasonal choral pieces in the Chapel (this year including Howells' A Spotless Rose which is an old favourite), and second, the procession involving the Boar's Head itself, during which the Boar's Head Carol is sung. While I was at College I was in the choir for four years and was never invited to sing at this event, though several fellow choir members were. (I don't actually know why, but it may have been restricted to Choral Bursars, of which I wasn't one. It must have been a pretty small choir group in those days, unlike this weekend's which numbered almost twenty.) So the Boar's Head Gaudy always held a slightly forbidden air of intrigue to me, which is why I personally delivered my reply to the College the day after the invitation landed on my doormat a couple of months ago.
There were eight Mathematicians in my year, as I recall, but at least one of them is on the "lost list" of former members for whom the College no longer has contact details. Two were on the 2.30pm version of the attendance list for the Gaudy, but both had been deleted by the time the final seating plan was produced. (And amid all those deletions, someone accidentally deleted the wrong line because I got there to find my name wasn't on the plan — so as far as the seating plan was concerned, I became Mrs Franks for the evening). And only one Mathematician from the year above turned up; however, I did know him, because we had been Bridge partners for a time.
I was seated at "the science table" with the aforementioned Mathematician; also an emeritus Professor of Mathematics, a couple of physicists whom I vaguely recognised, an engineer (and former CU member) whom I remember quite well, and, sat opposite me, an atmospheric physics graduate and tall tenor who was instantly recognisable. I don't remember how well we got on in those days (obviously we would have spoken to some extent as we all took dinner together after Evensong) but he was very friendly (and said he will email me at some point). He's still singing and is currently in a group called Commotio.
Our former organ scholar, whom I regarded as one of my best friends during my undergraduate years, coincidentally stepped through the College door about one minute after I arrived, looking hardly a day older than when I last saw her, and was seen off by her husband (coincidentally a Mathematician, who was also very recognisable). Got off slightly on the wrong foot as she didn't recognise me because of my long hair (I told her my first name, and she said something of the form "Good gracious, you're not …") and then there was a faff deciding what to do with all our clobber because neither of us had booked rooms overnight and the porters hadn't been instructed on what to do with things, and it was about five minutes to the recital. I ended up taking my coat off and carrying all my things into chapel, whereupon a Chemistry graduate whom I hadn't seen since our Bolton School days (with the same name as bopeepsheep's brother) said hi and I went to sit next to him. Another former choir member and current Oxford resident arrived during the recital.
After dinner, said organ scholar, tall tenor and I formed a bit of a clique, and got on rather well, I thought. She went away with a copy of the flyer for Blackbird Leys Choir's January 22 gig (although she thinks she is playing in another concert that day) and someone else's card with my details hand-written on the back of it. Haven't heard anything back so far, but it's early days…
And as for the car… well fortunately the owner of the parked car was rather stoical about it all ("bloody weather, eh?") so I gave him a photocopy of my insurance certificate and left it at that. His back bumper is slightly cracked, but you would not think it had been in a crash just by looking at it. I had to wait about four hours for a recovery truck to come from Bicester because all the roads were at a standstill (fortunately the car was only 200 yards from my house so I didn't have to wait outside, and I managed to collect everything including the new tax disc from inside the car before they came), and after the car had been loaded on to the truck and taken away (with me standing by in my DJ) I made a mad dash for College, arriving just in time for the recital.