As the debate on Durham’s nightlife rages on allow me to wade in, clad appropriately in Hunter Wellies that are the ubiquitous calling card to this fair city of ours. If, like me, you would rather see Lady Gaga in a Burmese prison than on the charts its difficult in Durham to find any music that ventures outside the top 40. Our headline act last term was Tim Westwood. The DSU, meanwhile, is attempting to resurrect their Saturday nights with a new offering called ‘Bad Habit’, but as the saying goes, ‘you can’t polish a turd’.
Perhaps the problem lies in our perceptions of a good night out. The main asset of living under the hallowed roof of St. Johns College is not the smugness of capping off a prolonged and fruitful visit to the college privy by greeting your unfortunate successor with, “if you’re going in there, may God be with you!” No, the highlight has to be the privilege of hearing every drunken chant that wafts up like room-clearing bouts of flatulence from the college socials on the Bailey beneath my window. It has been a downright honor.
After spending the early evening engaged in hardcore pre-lash, and no doubt cemented to their college corridor as if they were on leashes, these groups descend upon the Bailey with the manufactured rowdiness of a middle-class football firm. Their objective; to down each college’s specialty cocktail, which are often over-priced and some, like the ‘Skittles’, have the florescent color and texture of Mr. Blobby’s piss. Then, with new levels of liquid confidence, they charge down the hill crying God for England, Getting Lairy and St. Whatever-the-hell college they’re in. (Unless, of course, it is Josephine Butler, which sounds like a municipal leisure centre.)
Don’t let the knuckle-dragging exterior fool you mind, our uni compatriots in the Dirty South couldn’t hold a candle to these demonstrations of sheer ladestry. In fact, I would be prepared to personally sponsor a pub golf tour around South London as some missionary work for our unenlightened brethren. Just make sure to catch it all on camera, as the police may want the evidence from the ensuing bloodbath. You could at least sell the footage to Bravo.
Durham certainly holds a place in its heart for the chant, which I hold no aversion to. Neither do I have a problem with the fairer sex belting out the occasional rib-tickler. After all, there’s nothing like a lady with the mouth of a sailor to warm the cockles of the soul (and light a fire in one’s loins). However, this intoxicated enthusiasm was conspicuous for its absence when Durham was called upon by students across the country to demonstrate against the rise in tuition fees. Here, in true Durham fashion, the protest was not led by baton-wielding maniacs, armed to the teeth with knuckle-dusters and civil disobedience, but rather a jazz band called ‘Kinky Jeff and the Swingers’.
In order to truly gauge Durham’s rowdiness, you have to appreciate the socials in their natural habitat. This being locked in homo-erotic acts on the d-floor of one of Durham’s many night-time establishments. Fuelled by Tesco’s value trebles and equipped with a genidar (genital radar), they are led innately to one another’s private parts. If I wanted to do shots of lighter fuel and whatnot from betwixt my goalkeeper’s arse cheeks, I would have followed David James to the World Cup.
Also, unlike most rugger buggers, I’m not sporting a John Thomas that’s big enough to attack a city. So perhaps understandably, I’m not a fan of getting it out, willy-nilly. Don’t get me wrong, mine could probably damage a few suburban retail outlets but, as a rule of thumb, I keep Jabba in his hut… especially in the queue for Subway.
So if you’re not a born chanter, you leave stripping to the professionals and think fancy dress constitutes more than ripping a t-shirt and wearing a headband, what does Durham hold on a night out?