May Week: St. John's May Ball

I woke up well after midday on Tuesday, completely exhausted after Jesus the night before. I think my body was trying to tell me that all-night indulgence is no longer a viable option! I let A sleep in a bit more and started to prepare for my bar shift at John's May Ball that evening.

The theme for this ball was 'Lost Worlds'. Each court at St. John's College was transformed into an exotic hark back to the great mythical and real civilisations of the past: Ancient Egypt, the Mayan empire, Atlantis, the pleasure domes of Xanadu from Coleridge's Kubla Khan. I was assigned to the Jagerbomb station in the Mayan-themed Third Court with my friend Imarin, which, as you can imagine, was completely chaotic. Students and alumnae queued up in their droves to request multiple drinks, sometimes up to sixteen to enjoy with large groups of friends. Not to delve into the realms of hyperbole, but I must have poured at least 500 Jagerbombs!

At 1AM our shift supervisor signed us out, leaving us free to explore and enjoy the ball. Imarin and I quickly changed out of our sticky uniforms and into our gowns to make the most of the remaining five hours.

Imarin rocking a pale blue number with the fan vaults of New Court as a suitable backdrop.

I went for a bright orange dress from Topshop, which was a steal for a ball dress at only £45 (£41.50 with a student discount)! You can find it here; it's a great one for a summer evening event! I was pretty pleased with the price as it meant I could run around the ball without worrying about the dress getting stained or the hem getting ruined - something that has upset me in the past when wearing more expensive gowns.

Imarin and I took the obligatory photos in front of the Bridge of Sighs, then decided to start the ball off in style. We toasted our last ever May Ball as undergraduates with champagne and freshly made sushi.

Given that we were snacking on sushi, I wonder if you can guess the 'lost world' theme of this court? It was Atlantis - an ancient civilisation drowned thanks to the folly of man. 

We finally explored the Mayan court we'd been working on and had pictures taken next to a huge, three-storey high waterfall. The waterfall I'd posed next to at Jesus the night before was a sardine next to this absolute whale of a water feature!

In Chapel Court we met up with some of our friends also attending the ball. Imarin and I fell in love with San San's beautiful red backless dress.

Chapel Court had been transformed into a beach for the night and we stood on the sand wishing it could be a little warmer than the chilly 14 degrees it was that night!

While in Chapel Court I picked up a delicious Oreo milkshake and some warm banana fritters.

The banana fritters weren't enough to keep us warm outside in the nippy breeze, rain threatening to spill from the leaden skies above, so we retreated into the Great Hall to put our jackets on and drink some port. Here, in the company of olive trees and plaster casts of Hellenic statues, we realised that we had entered the Ancient World.

Next we strolled into First Court to explore the pre-Renaissance medieval sphere in which Cambridge sprung up, founded in 1208, with St. John's College set up a few centuries later in 1555.

No medieval celebration would be complete without giant (fake) animal heads to inspire that wassailing spirit!

Let's be honest, he's just a big cuddly teddybear really.

We grabbed some very tasty cocktails from the bar in First Court and just as we were finishing them off, it began to drizzle in earnest. We decided to decamp to the covered parts of the college and take a stroll around the themed cloisters.

I was impressed at the number of pretty paper pompoms.

Imarin, meanwhile, was not so impressed by the exotic flower I proferred. In her face.

View from the Bridge of Sighs.

Imarin on the Bridge.

Once over the bridge we entered the Backs, a.k.a. Ancient Egypt.

We were quite taken by this handsome fellow. Even-toed ungulates are always a winner in our book!

Egypt soon dissolved into generic North African/Middle Eastern themed surroundings with this Bedouin-esque tent filled with Turkish delight and napping revellers.

We walked down to the river outside New Court and were subsumed into an Oriental literary lost world reminiscent of Kubla Khan's Xanadu or the imaginary stone works of Ozymandias. The sky took on a Tyrian purple hue as dawn finally began to break on our last Ball.

The sun came up properly and Imarin and I nabbed some beautiful rain-covered flowers from the ornate flower arrangements which we knew would be thrown out promptly after the ball.

Upon reuniting with Anna and San San as the ball wound down, we found that we weren't the only ones to have had this idea!

Thanks for having us, John's! It was a pleasure to finally experience an event Time Magazine has asserted as 'the seventh best party in the world' (purportedly...) The perfect end to my four years at Cambridge.

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