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Time Ceremony

It is around one o’clock in the morning. Most people in the room are inebriated, some have fallen asleep on the couches. Others are in the last throws of another game of face-jenga, novelty wearing off but giggles over the pictorial evidence not subsiding. The MCR has seen several hours of sub-fusc-ed students battling the slowing down of time with many litres of port. With around half an hour to go till we gather on the sun-dial lawn and can begin one of the more recent and absurd Oxford ceremonies, a unicorn, witch and zombie walk in. Late arrivals that have abandoned a Halloween-bop. They give a twist to their supposedly sober black-and-white that even sexy-sub-fusc will find hard to beat.

Sundial in Fellows' Quad

At twenty to two people start moving outside. We are in luck, it is hardly cold for late October, and it is dry. The gathering on the sun-dial lawn looks like something from Harry Potter, be it a little less glamorous and a little more bedraggled. But as each row of people files into Fellow’s Quad and starts their hour of twirling constantly backwards, people seem to regain consciousness and energy. Students perk up, chat, shout, pass the port around. Some are spun dangerously fast in the corners, held up by their friends. Sometimes to the bitterly evil looks of a grumpy student on patrol, sometimes with friendly encouragement from another, friendlier, one. Someone passes a bottle of port to one of the latter, to pick it up two rounds later. Groups switch. Some students drop out for a rest. Others come back in. Time flies.

Walking alone, with a cup of port, at a sedate pace; one of the founders of the ceremony stands out amongst the lively crowds. Many would be too shy to join him: founders of tradition, however peculiar these traditions may be, inspire awe. But apparently unicorns are bravely bred individuals, and for a while the unicorn and founder walk backwards round the quad together. A rare vision, but not sure which is the rarer breed: live founders or live unicorns. At Merton, apparently, you find them both. Side by side.

The Time Ceremony takes place in Fellows quad at 2 am on the last Sunday in October when the clocks are turned back. We Mertonians believe that by walking backwards dressed in subfusc and drinking port, we are saving the universe by stabilising the time-space continuum.