Writtle Agricultural College never topped any academic league tables that I heard of. If it did, it certainly wasn’t due to any contribution of mine. However, we did come top of one list – we had the most profitable student bar in Britain.
The bar manager was Cambridgeshire boy Murph; an affable young man who was equally happy to drink with his clientele like the mate he was – or chuck us unceremoniously out the door like the degenerates we were. The bar was part of the students’ union complex. The little college chapel was just down the corridor. I remember a friend, Gearbox, playing the piano for a crowd of us down there in the middle of a splendid booze-up. Friday nights were a particular favourite of mine.
By hallowed tradition, myself and another friend, Frogger, would establish ourselves at the bar and wait for happy hour to kick in, whereupon we would stock up on a couple of dozen bottles of “stripey stuff” at £1 a bottle. To this day, I don’t know what “stripey stuff” was actually called. It was a deceptively potent alcopop that came in a tiger-striped bottle, and after our first three or four bottles we were all set to talk pure slurry til closing.
Between full-dress college balls, Paddy’s night, rugby and Gaelic football dinners, there seemed to be scarcely a week that didn’t offer some excuse for particular excess, but the Moulsham 11 probably topped them all. The Moulsham 11 was an annual pub crawl where one had to provide evidence of having bought a drink in 11 Chelmsford pubs – the majority of them on historic Moulsham Street.
I believe it was part of rag week and officially a charity event. The money raised could have gone to the Church of Scientology for all that most of us knew or cared. It says much for the stamina of the average Writtle student that an 11-stop pub crawl would invariably start with warm-up drinks in the student bar, and end with further carousing in Club Zeus.
Don’t try this at home
Winding one’s way back to halls of residence through the expansive college gardens after a long night in the bar could be an adventure in itself. There was a mysterious red brick building on campus called Stoneyshotts. One of the garden design students spread a rumour that there was a certain plant growing behind it whose leaves had hallucinogenic properties when ingested. In the interests of scientific research, a group of us raided the garden late one night and methodically began eating the leaves of every plant we found growing there.
Either we missed the right plant or its effects were cancelled out by high levels of alcohol in the bloodstream. On another occasion, myself and Ali Watson took it into our heads that we were actually Russian high jump athletes, and decided to jump a hedge that must have been about six-feet high on our way home. We both made it over with no more than a few scratches and bruises. Perhaps we missed our true calling in life.
Thank goodness an English bachelors degree course is generally only three years – I don’t think my body would have withstood a fourth. Noted party animal Bob Mayhew was warned by his doctor to make a few drastic alterations to his lifestyle before his liver packed in. Bob was a credit to the scientific education on offer at Writtle. He helpfully pointed out to the doctor that he did, after all, have two livers. CL