KATIE MAIR’S well-lubricated (not just by the rain) ride on the Orient Express is one worth remembering.
The Orient Express
20th June 2011, £118
We may have set off to a soggy start, but it’s testament to the quality of the ball that the atmosphere on The Orient Express remained energetic for the duration of our journey.
The theme was a good call, and went a long way to sustaining a buzz in the face of dodgy weather. Allowing for such versatility in terms of food, drink and ents (taking guests from London to Constantinople, via Paris, Venice, Munich and Vienna), the Orient Express kept you on your toes, presenting so much to eat, see and do that you just had to get on with it, and sod the sodding rain.
As a vegetarian I can’t vouch for the quality of the meaty foods (and there were many meaty offerings: steak rolls, hog roast, lamb pittas), but the sheer variety available was impressive: from soup to strawberries, fajitas and fish and chips, pizzas and sushi, there was something to suit every appetite. It wasn’t just plentiful, either: it was really good quality, with proper wood-fired pizza and soup so hearty it could qualify as stew.
While there were complaints about the length of some queues, particularly around breakfast-time, most tents were really well-managed. Placing the sweet stall next to the Ferris wheel went a good way to allaying any grumpiness in the queue, too.
Drink was plentiful and varied, although some of the fruity cocktails were a bit weak and alarming in colour. With gin, vodka, Pimms and rum bars, the Munich beer garden, and whisky and wine tasting, you were unlikely to go wanting for your tipple. Hot drinks were served in Constantinople from midnight onwards: welcome warmth and caffeine for those starting to flag.
There was a good variety of music, ranging from intimate acoustic sets in the orchard tent to the sweaty heave of the main stage, where Professor Green’s insistence that Cambridge ‘fuckin’ HAVE IT’ was dutifully acknowledged and translated into an enthusiastic mass bounce. The Cabaret Tent showcased some amazing talent, from the Klezbians’ foot-stomping kletzmer to Fo’show’s ridiculously well-honed a cappella versions of the Ghostbusters theme and ELO’s Mr Blue Sky.
There was some nice attention to detail: we were entertained in the queue by a jaunty brass rendition of the Groundforce theme; the photographers were spaced around the site to reduce queuing; and the croupiers at the casino were charming, turning several blind eyes to a distinctly crappy approach to craps.
A few things went awry, timing wise: the head-massage kicked off late, and the pastries came out too early and were snaffled before they were timetabled to appear. The committee addressed the issue by handing out entire baguettes at the end of the night, although these were largely utilised as light-sabers, rather than savoury alternatives to the Danish.
That said, the rain was the only real problem- and with such a lot of the ball based outside, it did make the first couple of hours a bit of a wash-out. As Outkast pointed out long ago, though, you just can’t predict the weather. The committee provided free umbrellas to ball-goers, and that was as much as they could have done.
It definitely felt like the committee had gone all-out, and the result was impressive. Granted, I am the little Fresher from the concrete college who gets excited about new yoghurts in the canteen, and this was my first May Ball – but I reckon that even the most cynical finalist would have been thoroughly chuffed with their night aboard the Orient Express.
Food and Drink:
Value for Money:
Star attraction: Ferris Wheel
Biggest turn-off: The rain