It’s June, which means that in Cambridge the college May balls are happening.
Even when I was a student, I didn’t quite understand why they are called May balls.
Obviously, you cannot plan a huge ball until exams are over, but why not call them June
The tickets are hugely expensive, almost prohibitively so, unless one has been especially
careful with the student budget.
An all night party, involving a ballgown, lavish food, extraordinary live music and fireworks,
they go on all night, finishing with breakfast, and a romantic punt down the river at dawn, if
you are lucky!
I was lucky, and from my second year found myself sought after to attend balls rather than
pay for them, because I was a member of the university ballroom dancing team.
There was an enthusiasm then for ball goers to have a try at ballroom dancing, once they
had got themselves all dressed up.
So the ballroom dancing team were offered free tickets to attend the entire event, in
exchange for providing a short class to any ball-goer who wanted to have a try. We loved it!
One year my partner and I made arrangements to give demonstrations at three different
balls on three consecutive evenings.
I booked three hair appointments late the previous afternoon. I could wear the same ball
gown, as it was my competition / demonstration outfit, but I wanted my hair to look
The first ball went beautifully. As competitors, we love being the centre of attention, and it
was glorious to float around a large dance floor in my dance partner's arms. Later we
enjoyed the free food and champagne, and boogied to more modern music.
I was in bed by four am, then back at the hairdressers in the late afternoon again.
And so this went on for 3 nights. I have no clear recollection of the third ball. I hope that we
made a good job of our demonstration. Afterwards I slept for a week!
I am still in touch with some of the team members from those days. We don’t get to dance so
much together now, but we still enjoy each others’ company, and those happy memories.