My invitations to Eden Hall, the British High Commissioner’s official residence in Singapore, have been rather thin on the ground but two days ago, on the evening of Easter Sunday, I swapped my Easter bonnet for my party frock.
The occasion? The 159th Oxford v Cambridge Varsity boat race, being celebrated and watched on British soil in Singapore for the very first time (it’s usually held somewhere other than Eden Hall).
The timings of the great race, which are always the same, reliably ensure for a great party as the televised broadcast doesn’t start until well after 11pm Singapore time.
I had a strong temptation to bring a box of Ferrero Rocher along with me (“Monsieur, with this Rocher you are really spoiling us“) but, you will be pleased to hear, got a grip of myself and did nothing of the sort.
The big question was of course….what to wear? Cambridge blue, natch. (On the basis that I went to neither I decided to calculate this – quite wrongly as it turns out this year – on the fact that they’ve won more times than Oxford – 81 wins to Oxford’s 76 – and so were likely to do it again).
…well that and the fact that I had a suitable dress in Cambridge (light) blue and not in Oxford (dark) blue.
The champagne reception was in the fabulous high ceilinged great hall and adjoining drawing room before we were all piped upstairs to dinner (very home from home for me – I love the deafening roar of the bagpipe and find it cuts down hugely on small talk – if only for 5 minutes!).
Dinner consisted of three very long tables all adjoining the high table at one end. It felt thoroughly collegiate, which was no doubt the intention, and food was brilliant and British: smoked salmon, lamb cutlets – I decided to keep quiet about the fact I’d already waded through an enormous plate of roast lamb at lunch – and Eton mess, followed by some of the best, runny and delightfully stinky cheese I think I’ve had in Sing.
Antony, above, making his speech. Being an Oxford man he vicariously backed the winning team who won by half a length against arch-rivals Cambridge.
Despite the unusually cold weather, crowds still managed to line the banks of the Thames to watch the race, which took place over a 4.2-mile course from Putney to Mortlake on Easter day.
Varsity boat race image courtesy of the International Business Times