Twelve Snapshots from Freshers’ Week

Freshers’ Week is a bit like the 60s – if you can remember it all, you weren’t there. So these glimpses will have to do:

1 Mists and mellow fruitfulness.


2 Not knowing where anything is, and trying to get there by bike, if you can remember which one’s yours.

bikes against a wall

3 Existentialist conversations with a swan.

swan on the Cam

4 Signing up for everything at the Freshers’ Fair.

5 Blood-red Virginia creeper.

Sidgwick Hall, Newnham College

6 Smiling at everyone in case one of them becomes your best friend.

7 Buying lots of instant coffee and biscuits for all your new friends. Jeliazkova

8 Ridiculously cheap booze at the Freshers’ Disco.

9 Kebabs and puke.


10 Reinventing yourself (because you can).

11 Staying up till 3 a.m. (because lectures haven’t started yet).

12 Getting a meningitis jab (because it’s really important).

So many new beginnings, but for some things it’s an end. Goodbye, Strachey Building. I won’t be there on Friday when the wrecking ball comes for you and the Porters’ Lodge.

Strachey, Newnham College

Goodbye and Good Riddance, Dry January

If, like a sizeable proportion of the UK population, you signed up for a ‘Dry January’, you’re probably just about to grab the barman’s attention and celebrate the end of a month of abstinence.

red wineI won’t miss this January one little bit. But it’s not giving up booze that made it hard.  The bits of Dry January I can’t handle are:

1 People imagining that one month off the sauce will magically cancel out 11 months of serious abuse. The prevailing belief is that it doesn’t matter what you do to your liver before or after January. Anything goes because it gets annulled like a Catholic marriage. Yes, all you folks that didn’t have a sober half hour in the whole of December – I’m talking about you. And no, it wasn’t really that smart to finish off every single bottle in the house before New Year’s Day, just to avoid temptation.

white-wine crop

2 People seeking sponsorship for their abstinence. It’s only one month! It’s barely long enough for your liver enzymes to return to normal (if they’re seriously raised, you should be looking at 6-8 weeks or longer, like life).  Is there no such thing as self-control unless you can get some dosh out of it?  No? OK, so the next time I give up chocolate for three years, I’ll make a Just Giving page and ask everyone I know for serious money.

3 Pious facial expressions when ordering ‘just an elderflower’. Because, obviously, giving up the hard stuff for a small fraction of the year, while remaining self-indulgent on every other front, really turns someone into a saint.


4 Ever-longer lists of ‘mocktails’, almost as expensive in restaurants as the alcoholic versions. Along with a hefty helping of calories, some also come with twee names like ‘Nojito’ and ‘Abstinence on the Beach’.

5 Hilarious signs about Dry January. You know the kind of thing, often found outside pubs or on Facebook. pub sign dry January

6 Intense conversations about alcohol, mostly around its history or cultural aspects, and not all of it correct:

“In the middle ages, ale was safer to drink than water.”

“Even children drank beer and it was much stronger than it is today.”

“Arabs don’t even have a word for booze.”*

So long, Dry January. Welcome, Dry February.


*Oh yes, they do. There are even words for wine and beer. In fact ‘alcohol’ comes from the Arabic.

More on fatty liver disease and liver enzymes: When and how to evaluate mildly elevated liver enzymes in apparently healthy patients.