Of all of Oxford’s eccentric traditions, perhaps crewdates are the hardest to explain without prompting raised eyebrows and snorts of derision. On the surface they hardly seem unique – getting intoxicated over an e-coli ridden curry is pretty much par for the course at any British university. But then, like apparently everything else at Oxford, we insist on using quaintly archaic terminology which either sounds like a pretentious latinate reference or a hangover from interwar popular culture.
The fact that our highfalutin vocabulary generally describes really quite mundane things only serves to add yet more mystique to the fancifully droll shroud of Oxford life. The term ‘crewdate’ is one thing, but ‘sconcing’ is basically Never Have I Ever but approximately 100 times less socially accessible.
All this is to say that I have never been invited to a crewdate and so I am naturally disdainful of them. I am proud to say, however, that after a year and a term of life as a social pariah I am no longer a virgin to the sordid realm of crewdating thanks to this very newspaper which was kind enough to provide me with my first experience. This article consists of a summary of my personal reflections on the evening and thus I am torn between upholding the honourable reputations of my fellow journalists and writing an amusing article. What fellows depends on how pressed I am to meet the wordcount.
Conjuring images on my walk to the venue of a Riot Club-esque booze up complete with a ten-bird roast and a drunken rendition of the national anthem, I was pleasantly relieved to see that the Oxstu editors were a mellow and delightful bunch, inclined more towards lighthearted conversation than chugging spirits out of a shoe.
As we settled down, the infamous sconces began with a certain section editor excitedly jumping up to proclaim, ‘I sconce anyone who has ever gotten with a member of the Cherwell’. Two poor souls stood up to swig their drink. I could see where this was going. In fact, roughly half of the sconces over the evening were in some way related to deriding the Cherwell, but it was all in good fun.
I was pleasantly relieved to see that the Oxstu editors were a mellow and delightful bunch, inclined more towards lighthearted conversation than chugging spirits out of a shoe.
In addition to sconcing, pennying is also a tradition, albeit one that is not exclusive to Oxford. As the momentum of the crewdate reached its crescendo, pennies were flying across the table like bullet fire. Drawing on my experience from doing javelin in sports day once I aimed for someone’s glass, tossed my coin and missed. That was the end of that adventure.
It is perhaps indicative of how popular crewdates are in Oxford that there were two others running parallel to ours in the same restaurant. Despite passing most of the evening in harmony, a clash of personalities between the Oxstu and the Corpus Christi Boat Club was inevitable, culminating in a series of intercontinental sconces across the separate tables. That was about as rowdy as things got.
Overall, I was impressed by the crewdate. It was lively but restrained, spirited without being excessive. The curry may have tasted a bit like spicy cardboard but you don’t go to a crewdate for fine dining, you go for the frisson of energy which other social occasions don’t quite provide. As for any embarrassing sconces among the Oxstu editorial team, well, it looks like I have reached the wordcount.