I don’t think I’ve ever talked about trashings. It’s one of those Oxford traditions that you just get so used to that you sometimes forget it doesn’t happen everywhere. When students finish their exams – sat in a uniform-like get-up known as sub fusc – they are bedecked with silly string and confetti and ‘trashed’ with water and champagne (or whatever fizzy wine their friends have got their hands on). It’s a kind of crude rebirth metaphor I suppose; they enter the porter’s lodge dry and still a student, and emerge on the other side sopping wet, freezing cold, and laughing in the ecstasy that their exams have finished. If you’re unlucky, you’ll get a sopping hug from a grinning friend, and if you’re really unlucky you’ll get caught in the crossfire of buckets and bottles. It’s also one of the few occasions where students are allowed to walk on the grass of the front quad, so there’s usually a large congregation of people who turn up to watch. When the history students finished, I stood at a safe distance and caught it all on camera.
It’s a little sad, especially for finalists because they know that’s the last time they’re undergrad students, and it means goodbye for most of them. But there’s value in the rebirth metaphor: washing away all the stress and youth and neuroses of the past three or four years, they are now ready to make mistakes and be silly in new places.