Formal Dinner

Four days after I arrived at Devonshire, there was a formal dinner. I wasn’t allowed to attend though, because I hadn’t signed up (I didn’t even know the thing existed until it was too late). So I got a to-go meal from the dining hall and ate in my room. I was then determined to attend the next formal dinner. As one would expect though, they don’t happen very often.

So when I saw the signed posted in the dining hall that the next formal dinner was coming up, I was ready. I asked my friends what signing up was like and how it worked. The formal dinners fill up fast, and they suggested I show up to the sign up at least 45mins ahead of time. I hadn’t realized that it was that intense (I later learned that it’s because both catered and non-catered students are allowed to attend the formal dinners, which is twice as many as the dining hall usually feeds and hence, doesn’t have the room for).

I show up in the foyer 45mins before the sign up is supposed to start, and there is one other person there. I take a seat, because clearly the rush hasn’t arrived yet. I also took note of the fact that there were no less than three tables, all of which could potentially be used for the sign up. This made it difficult to know where to position myself so that I could get to the sign up sheet as quickly as possible. Slowly, more and more people started showing up and it became clear that arriving early was going to be of no benefit unless I knew where the sign up sheet would be placed.

Clearly, some of the other people had the same idea, as they suddenly stood up and started a line at one of the tables. I quickly joined them. The sign up sheet hadn’t actually shown up, but they were now dictating where the sign up sheet should logically go. Other people quickly joined the line because they thought the sign up sheet had arrived. Then everyone was just standing in this blob you would be generous to call a line, waiting for this damn piece of paper to show up.

Eventually, it arrived. They were smarter about it than I had anticipated, because they had multiple sign up sheets spread out over the table, so 5 people could be signing up at once. I was second on the list 🙂 Satisfied, I then headed to dinner knowing that I would be at the next formal dinner.

Fast forward two weeks and you arrive at this past Monday, the day of the formal dinner. It was St Patrick’s Day themed, even though St Paddy’s day isn’t until tomorrow. They had decorations all around the dining hall, although they weren’t exactly ‘formal’. They were your standard party store holiday celebration collection of banners, signs and flags. The tables were a bit more formal: we had table cloths, fancy napkins, and they even had two bottles of wine for every six people (not that that meant anything for me).

Everybody was dressed up (since it was, you know, a formal). The most exciting part was that we got gowns to wear 🙂 I felt like I was at Hogwarts or something. Some people clearly didn’t like wearing them and had them falling off one shoulder, but I was loving it.

Unfortunately, none of my floormates were at the formal dinner. Some were busy and I think if you’ve been to a number of them already, the novelty probably wears off. I ended up sitting with a friend who I eat meals with sometimes. We also chatted to the people we were sat beside a bit. Once one of the guys discovered I was from Canada, he would sporadically turn to me and give me advice about ‘something you absolutely have to do while you’re here’. He also drank almost all of both bottles of wine, so was not completely sober by the end of the dinner.

The wardens and heads of Devonshire were at the dinner, and we had to stand when they entered. They said a prayer in what I’m assuming was latin, and that was about it in terms of ceremony. Between dinner and dessert, 3 guys got up and sang what I think was Ireland’s national anthem. The warden asked us to sing along, but who outside of Ireland knows Ireland’s national anthem? The guys singing it were even looking at lyrics on their phone.

The food was no more impressive than other days, except for the fact that it was a solid piece of meat, rather than a stew or some sort of mixed dish like they usually serve. It was a three course meal though, with soup, pork, and red velvet cake for dessert. The main thing was that it was served to us, rather than us going and getting it.

The dinner ended rather suddenly, when we were asked to stand as the warden and heads of Devonshire left. Then nothing happened. Except, people were going up to the head table and stealing the bottles of wine that hadn’t been finished! Apparently that’s normal. The advice-giver I was sitting with said that at the last formal dinner everyone had left and he walked around picking up all of the bottles that had wine in them still. People just left at their own speed after that.

Overall, an enjoyable evening, but I can understand why my floormates weren’t super eager to attend. But I doubt there will be another formal dinner while I’m here, so I’m glad that I went to this one.

4 thoughts on “Formal Dinner

  1. Heather glad you were able to experience a formal dinner. I believe that when your grandad A was at Cambridge Univeristy he had to wear a gown every night at dinner.


  2. I too had to wear my gown every night at dinner when I was living in the University Residence.We were never served wine. I am surprised they served pork rather than Irish stew with lamb! Ah well, another interesting memory to add to your collection.


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