End of Term Hijinks

Term ended at last at about 11am on Friday morning, after the final supervision (which was so early that the library was still closed) and a meeting with my DoS to read my end of term reports. The consensus is that I’m working much better this year, although I need to temper some of my political opinions with more academic backing. Fair enough.

On Friday night I went down to London to see a concert by Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, who are two of my favourite people in the world and wonderful musicians who just had a second baby three months ago. I hadn’t seen them for two and a half years so it was really nice to catch up with them in the interval – although so many of their friends were in the audience that I didn’t get to chat long.

I got back well after one am and didn’t get to sleep until quite a bit later. At three thirty the fire alarm went off.

I don’t know if I’ve explained our fire alarm system before but what happens is thus: if the smoke detector in one of the buildings goes off, the evacuate alarm goes off in that building. However, because all the buildings are connected by corridors, the adjacent buildings would also be at risk of fire so there is an intermittent alarm which is meant to go off in the buildings on either side of the fire.

Except that what really happens is the evacuate alarm goes off in one building – almost always the 1970s first year accommodation – and the intermittent alarm goes off in the building on either side, plus at least two more buildings which are further away.

When the intermittent alarm goes off you aren’t allowed to leave your building except by going into the gardens, so you have to choose between standing in the rain and cold, or staying inside with the deafening fire alarm going off. It’s impossible to do anything at all with it sounding – even thinking is impossible. It just drills into your brain.

So at 3.30am everyone who hadn’t gone home for the vacation was driven out of their beds and into the corridor. Most of us ended up congregating at the foot of the stairwell. It was quite sociable really, I almost enjoyed it. We were all bundled up in our pyjamas and complaining bitterly, but at the same time it was quite funny. You have to be amused by this sort of thing or you’d just break down in sobs.

Anyway the alarm carried on for half an hour, by which point we were all cursing the company who installed the sodding system – this KEEPS HAPPENING. It doesn’t seem to be possible to turn it off. Last time it happened the porter kept giving us updates about what was happening, but this time the porters’ lodge was closed off and the porter on duty wouldn’t speak to anyone. I think that was probably a bad idea – people were quite angry with him. Unfairly but understandably.

So I didn’t get as much sleep as I had hoped for. As a result I woke up at 11am. I had a hairdressers’ appointment at 11.20. I threw myself out of bed and turned on the tap to brush my teeth. No water came out. I brushed my teeth without water and cycled like mad to the hairdressers’.

The day picked up after that – my hair looks lovely, and I met a bunch of friends from the Gilbert & Sullivan society for lunch. Everyone was back in Cambridge for the reunion ball which was on Saturday evening (more on that later) and after lunch I went shopping with Sarah and Henry, who recently betrayed and abandoned me moved to Aylesbury. Then a short nap before getting ready for the ball. Which will have to be the subject of a later post because it’s time to get my laundry out of the washing machine!


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