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Student initiation

It was my first week at Trinity College, Cambridge, and I was off to the freshers’ dinner. 

I was keen to make new friends, and to have some fun, as well as to learn plenty, of course.

All the first year students were wined and dined in the Hall, seated on long wooden benches, overlooked by glowering portraits of former masters.  

Fresh out of boarding school, and only just turned eighteen, I was not used to being free to drink so much wine. We all emerged into Great Court considerably less than sober.

Waiting for us there seemed to be a rather large crowd of rowdy students. It was a beautiful evening, still mild and with so much laughter, I enjoyed loitering for a while continuing our conversation from inside.

I was vaguely aware that there was a noisy group in the central fountain, standing up to their waist in the water, but covered to their shoulders with foam. Some distant part of my mind wondered how much bubble bath you needed to get that much foam?

I was too tiddly to think about any risk, so when some well built strangers hustled me away from my new friends towards the fountain, I only put up a token resistance. They must understand that I was wearing my only good dress, and my student gown. No way were they going to dunk me.

Or were they?

Moments later I was head down under cold water. The shock was helpfully sobering, but panic quickly set in. I had no idea which way was up, back to safety and oxygen. I was disorientated by alcohol and the suddenness of the cold.

Oddly, a snapshot of the movie (was it Top Gun?) came into my head. Watch the bubbles – they move up towards the air. Simultaneously my feet found bottom, and my head popped up above the foam. I could breathe!

Furious about the fright I had received, and freezing from the ducking, I stomped back to my digs, the party well and truly over.

I’m just grateful that my Uni initiation was gentler than some we read about now.

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