CHARLIE BELL was far from blown away by Robinson May Ball, this year.
I’ve been to Robinson more times than I care to mention. It’s always billed as cheap and cheerful, so you don’t go expecting much. Which, frankly, is a good thing given this year’s offering.
Let’s deal with the theme first – Japan. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, which is good, because I found absolutely nothing. There were some pretty crap pseudo-Japanese paintings up around the place, and a man playing ‘Old MacDonald’ on a ‘traditional Japanese instrument’, which was actually very good, but that seemed to be it. I suppose Asahi beer was also on target, although that brings me to drinks, which this year at least didn’t run out.
So that was an improvement on a year or so ago. But what wasn’t an improvement was the general quality. Here are a few tips from a bit of a snob. If you offer a sparkling wine reception, then buy enough sparkling wine – don’t give everyone a quarter of a glass. If you are serving beer, serve it in bottles and not pre-poured, hours before, into plastics – because it goes flat and tastes like dog piss. And if you are offering cocktails, it’s probably a good idea to tell the people serving them what’s in them. I have never had a problem with finding something surprisingly delicious in my welcoming mouth, but that’s not a good enough excuse.
I’m probably being a bit unfair. The food this year was definitely better than last year, although the moaning vegetarian fruitcake whose ticket I had bought and hence who felt obliged to follow me around did point out that there was very little in the way of vegetarian options. This, to me, is a huge plus, so for that, well done.
Aforementioned fruitcake and I often decide to go for depressed and drunken existential walks during May Balls, and this year was no exception. However, we were slightly alarmed by what must have been an escaped convict that was being searched for by some burly chaps with torches, running through the Warden’s garden. Having said that, we did manage to come to our usual conclusion that we would probably end up middle-aged, alcoholic, sad and alone, so it didn’t ruin things too much.
The entertainment was also a bit lack-lustre this year. When we arrived (having accidentally pushed in the queue) there was a girl allegedly rapping who frankly belonged in an institution – she was quite seriously deranged. We moved swiftly on. There was the usual fare – dodgems, cheap fairground games – but not a huge amount, and the fireworks were good apart from the pissing down rain and no shelter. We saw some larger frames swish their way to salsa and enjoyed most of what went on in the main tent, although I’m not sure that anyone who actually enjoys Abba should be allowed into Cambridge. But generally, it was fine.
So don’t get me wrong – I had a lot of fun and after the year I’ve had I needed it. We made it through to survivors’ and stole someone’s taxi on the way home. We both felt like hell on Saturday and I think part of my liver exploded. And I managed to embarrass myself in front of both an ex and my sister. It was a classy night.
I just feel that May Balls should at least attempt to offer something for what they charge – and over £80 is not a small amount of money. It was adequate, but nothing special; it just didn’t really deliver anything over and above. And as an old-timer, I’ve seen much better balls in the same place for the same cash. Robinson need to up their game for next year.
But that’s only my opinion. And I know how much Tab commenters love that.