Date Twenty-Three – The Oxford Blue

It’s interesting, because most of the time, it’s those outside of Oxford and Cambridge who would make the biggest deal about the ancient rivalry between the two universities. Most Oxbridge students were just happy enough to have made it to one of the two famous institutions, and it was really only at the annual Varsity sporting matches that any form of ‘feud’ was particularly obvious.

We would call Oxford ‘Scum’ and they would remove their shoes, wave them above their heads and retaliate with the nonsensical ‘Shoe the Tabs!’ It was an affectionate rivalry, and most of the chanting I remember engaging in at Varsity Rugby was normally directed at other Cambridge colleges than at the guys in dark blue! ‘I’d rather be at Oxford than St. John’s‘ was a particularly popular song!

So far only one of my Dates (The Original Pimpernel) also went to Cambridge, and The Enigma had done a year at Oxford, but never considered himself a true alumnus.

My date tonight, not only went to Oxford, but also got his Blue whilst he was there.

A Blue is the equivalent of University colours, and can only be earned by those who play against Oxford (or in his case Cambridge) in the Varsity match of particular sports. Different sports carry different weight according to tradition, national rankings, and popularity – so for example, when I was at Cambridge, rowing, rugby and cricket were all Full Blue sports, but Rugby League was a Half Blue sport, and Ultimate Frisbee only earned you University Colours.

If you were a sportsman or woman at Oxbridge, getting your Blue was a big deal. Some believed it enhanced your degree by an entire grade marking, because employers understood the dedication and commitment required to get to Blue standard in a sport whilst at University. Others simply saw it as a social passport.

Boys who received their Blue could purchase special blazers, which they wore with pride at social events and on nights out, and which acted as an automatic aphrodisiac, with girls happily admitting to being Blue-tac – attracted by the guys’ sporting prowess alone. Technically female Blues could buy the blazers too, but the only time any girls tended to wear them would be at their sport’s Varsity match itself, and so most girls simply wore a scarf (and didnt really benefit from too much male Blue-tac!)

I was lucky enough to represent Cambridge in both skiing and cricket while I studied there, and with three Half Blues, and one Full Blue somewhere in my loft, the world of the Cambridge Blue was one which I once knew well. I sat on the Ospreys Committee – a committee made up of female Blues, and enjoyed regular socials with the Hawks Committee – the men’s Blues social club, at their gentleman’s club in the centre of Cambridge.

In a world full of sororities and fraternities, dubbed ‘drinking societies’, to hold a Blue was a social trump card, particularly if you were a boy. We were literally given special cards to jump the queues at nightclubs, and the upper echelons of Cambridge socialising revolved around the more elite sports teams, and most traditional college drinking societies – with names like the Wyverns, Porcupines, and Kittens.

A proud Osprey, Alleycat and Catz Whisker, I enjoyed four years of Cambridge socialising, formal halls and drinking games. And yet six years after graduating, that entire world seems a lifetime away.

So it was definitely a blast from the past to find myself sat at dinner with a date who happened to have a Full Blue from Oxford, and even more of a surprise to realise we had played at the same Varsity match!

In my third year at University, I captained Cambridge against Oxford at Lord’s. It’s an anecdote I often use when I realise my date is a cricket fan. Not many girls like, or can talk about, cricket, and so it makes for novel first date chat (for them, if not for me!). I played at Lord’s three times, but that third year was probably the most special (even if I did get out for a duck!)

Turns out, whilst we girls were playing on the Nursery Ground (the warm-up area essentially!) The Oxford Blue was playing for the opposition on the main ground! (Don’t get me started on the inequality behind that decision!)

We literally played in the same Varsity match all those years ago!

The Oxford Blue was recommended to me in a very random way. His friend nominated him, after following @30Dates on Twitter. At first I was quite apprehensive about dating the friend of a complete stranger, however I searched out the Twitter reference on Facebook, and we had mutual friends, including The One With The Sign, and as a result, The Blue’s friend had been following my blog since Date Two. The Oxford Blue knew about the blog, however he knew absolutely nothing else about me, other than my first name! Unlike most of my ‘blind’ dates, he hadn’t even seen a photo of me – which could have made for an interesting tale when he turned up in a room predominantly full of women!

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The Oxford Blue and I agreed to meet at Rachel’s Kitchen, a cookery school based in North West London, run by Rachel Davies, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Rachel formed Rachel’s Kitchen in 2010, and teaches masterclasses in all kinds of cookery – from fresh pasta, to Tapas-making, sushi, and macaroons. As well as evening and weekend classes, Rachel also runs Hen Dos and Team Building events.

The Oxford Blue and I were to attend a sushi-making masterclass, along with eighteen other pupils.

I arrived at Westbourne Park half an hour ahead of the Oxford Blue, who had already let me know that he would be running late. I was welcomed with a glass of wine, and began chatting to some of the other class attendees. A lot of the students had come on their own, so the atmosphere was relaxed and sociable, with everyone making conversation over the welcome drinks. Whenever anyone asked if I was also there alone, I began explaining that I had a date, but that he was running late, which inevitably led on to me telling people about the blog and the challenge.

We moved to the long communal dining table, which would double as our classroom for the evening. Rachel took a seat in the centre of the table, and I saved a space for the Oxford Blue beside me, realising how awkward it would be if he didn’t show up, now that I had told the others I was on a date! Forty-five minutes into the class he appeared.

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We had been shown how to cut various vegetables for maki rolls – cucumber, pepper, Daikon, spring onions, mange tout, avocado and carrot. The Oxford Blue arrived just in time to begin making sushi (and avoided having to chop up any of the vegetables)!

Rachel explained how to prepare the sushi rice, and then showed us how to manipulate the rice inside the seaweed wrapper and how to roll up the finely cut vegetables, using a bamboo mat – something both The Oxford Blue and I struggled at! His ‘sushi sandwich’ was a particularly special creation!

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Next we learned how to make inside-out rolls, with various types of fish inside, and sesame seeds or fish eggs on the outside. And then nigiri and temari, with slices of Japanese omelette, salmon, prawns and octopus on top.

Throughout the class we munched on edamame beans, sneaked bits off the vegetable board, and polished off the off-cuts of our sushi attempts, as well as being allowed to eat our first creation. Then with everyone keen for dinner, we each made different types of sushi to share. Trays of the different creations were then laid out buffet-style, and we enjoyed our creations back at the long dinner table, topping them off with homemade wasabi and green tea ice creams which Rachel had made.

After dessert, the Oxford Blue and I sat chatting at the dinner table, as gradually the class dissipated.

The cookery class was a really interesting venue for a date. It was fun to learn a new skill (not that I was particularly good at it!), and Rachel was a really good, patient teacher. She explained things simply, and well, and made it all fun and relaxed. And it obviously helps that I love sushi!

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Our hilarious attempts at sushi made a good topic of conversation, and The Oxford Blue and I chatted easily throughout the class, aided by the free-flowing white wine! It was really fun to do something practical on a date, and the fact it ended in a really yummy dinner was a bonus!

If anything, I would say the cookery class, with it’s long communal table, would work really well as a singles event, because it was so easy to talk to people, and if anything it felt a little rude trying to have a two-person conversation in amongst all the other students, especially as so many were there on their own.

Singles events tread a fine line – trying to balance opportunities for communication with other singles, but without forcing you into awkward conversations with people you would never normally speak to! So something like the sushi-making class would be great, as the communal table allowed you to mix with a number of the people around you in a really informal way.

As for the Oxford Blue, he was a really interesting date. It was a shame he turned up so late – it would have been more comfortable to meet him at the welcome drinks, and get to know each other a little before being sat at a large communal table, where the people around us knew what was going on.

He did make a rather odd comment though – when he explained that he was ‘seeing someone’. (Reminiscent of the guy from Birmingham early in the challenge who cancelled on me because he was ‘not 100%’ single). It soon emerged, because of my challenge he didn’t see me as a ‘real date’, and whilst he still considered himself single, it was a little odd to hear he was regularly seeing someone, in a way most girls would probably expect to be monogamous. However Miss32 has recently been briefing me on London dating, and perhaps I’m little more naive than most when it comes to expectations of monogamy and London dates! Not that I expect any of my dates to be saving themselves for me. I’ve just never been on a first date with someone who describes himself as ‘seeing someone’!

It was definitely a weird spin on the date, that’s for sure. But maybe that just goes to show how departed I am from my Blue-Tac days (though you didn’t count as Blue-Tac if you were also a Blue yourself! 🙂 ) . Because at University, that was how Blues acted. They played the field – both as sportsmen, and as eligible men. And so I guess, three or four dates in with someone else, that’s what The Oxford Blue feels like he’s doing?

Maybe if I hadn’t been so naive, and had such unrealistic expectations of monogamy in the early stages of a relationship (ironic from the girl going on 30 Dates, huh?!), then I wouldn’t have got into the situations I did with the Henley Boy and The Enigma?

I wore – an apron! (over a white fifties style dress, black cardigan, ballet pumps and pink pashmina (which doubled as my umbrella on the way home)

He wore – an apron! (over a blue and white check Ralph Lauren shirt, jeans)

We met – at the dinner table in front of 18 other people!

We drank – white wine (no lemonade!)

We talked about – cooking, university, the Dating challenge, Tinder, Blender, online profiles and photos, Cricket, sport, work

The date lasted – three hours

The date ended – as the Rachel’s Kitchen team packed up around us

Marks out of ten – Interesting one – as a date venue I would give the cooking class 9/10. However I have to deduct points for the Oxford Blue’s arrival midway through the class, as it would have been far more comfortable to meet during the welcome drinks. Also, I prefer my dates 100% single!!! So 7/10 overall!

Next date? Sunday – a Challenge first …. I have two blind dates in the same day (something The One with the Sign pioneered the day we met up!)

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