If Durham Colleges Were Books…

“I wish I could find a good book to live in.” (Melanie Safka)

I dread to think how many times the back of my sofa was used as a pony when I was younger, or the broom cupboard as a make shift stable, or the video cassette tape cases as showjumping courses. I am not sure whether the dream to live in a stable block stemmed from Silver Snaffles, Black Beauty, A Pony for Jean, Another Pony for Jean, Moorland Mousie, Jerry the Joker or one of my other countless and treasured childhood reads, but I certainly wasn’t the only child dissatisfied with treating home as a house. Indeed for all Englishmen their home is a castle, and what is your castle if that is home? I am not convinced that the majority of students in University College wake up in Hogwarts, but if I were to walk through the doors of each college and be transported into the realm of a book, these are the pages where I think I would find myself.

Chad’s College, as one of the smallest colleges in terms of pupil numbers at the University, shares its introspective qualities with To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. Dialogue is scarce and action is in even shorter supply. Undisputedly the college is of great significance, but no one is really quite sure what for. Although Woolf’s novel served as a landmark to modernism, a position which Chad’s does not share, it is a place that the majority consider visiting, even if they don’t stay there for long.

The College of St. Hild and St. Bede occupies its own world, which it fills with Annabels, Annabelles, Belles, Bellas and Edward Cullen lookalikes in true Twilight Saga style. The baseball team would blow any other college out of the water, but don’t try and involve yourself if you aren’t one of them.

At the heart of Vulgaria lies Collingwood College. Its attitude to life is in keeping with Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: it appeals to the masses but probably won’t stick around forever. Whether staggering round the Stag’s Head or stirring up gossip in The Wooden Spoon, you can’t fail to miss the sight of shaved eyebrows and ‘Cheesy Wotsit legs’.

Although all students have the option to purchase a college hoodie, members of Grey College seem to have leapt at the opportunity and barely a day goes by when you haven’t found yourself behind one. With similar pride did the British public display copies of the Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, throughout 2004. Perhaps not the most flattering comparison academically, but the infamous Grey College annual fireworks display holds its audience in suspense, as indeed does the Da Vinci Code’s absorbing action.

In Hatfield College class is key and if you find that you aren’t acceptable on arrival, invent a pseudonym. After all it has worked before, as Jane Austen can testify. Pride and Prejudice contains many strong characters and leaves out all the insignificant ones. Hatfield is certainly not one of the most popular colleges but its students don’t seem to mind, in fact, “for what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and to laugh at them in our turn?” [Mr. Bennet].

John Snow shares a key theme with One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which you do not have to look any further than the title for. As the number of students living there is none too generous, a life within the college walls is likely to lean towards incest, which the Buendía family were more than familiar with.

Far on the horizon the lovers of the great outdoors who name Josephine Butler as their sleeping quarters have found themselves striving for the existence that Wordsworth detailed in Poems, in Two Volumes (1807). Self-catered Josephine Butler is on the brink of breaking off in its own socially conscious style.

St. Aidan’s College was designed in the same mind set at the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. The students predominantly study science and are well-equipped to wield telescopes from their position on top of The Hill. Aidanites have an affectionate penchant for alien fancy dress: many were witnessed in bright blue body paint boogieing at the last bop of the term.

St. Cuthbert’s Society boasts the best collection of red trousers in County Durham because they are all too well aware that “there is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” Although their wit is not quite on level with The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde would enjoy the natural air of decadence that students of St. Cuth’s give in public, although copies of Debretts are secretly studied by candlelight.

Just like Hymns Old and New, there is a place for St. John’s College on everybody’s shelves, but it wouldn’t be everybody’s first choice on a Saturday night. A friendly bunch of students, All Things Bright and … 5/10.

The strong female contingency of St. Mary’s College remember all too well its single sex heyday, and sympathise with the views of Catlin Moran in How To Be a Woman. Male members can occasionally be sighted, but usually trotting around with glasses of Moët for their demanding girlfriends whilst they themselves are ordered to remain sober (hence the distinct lack of bar).

Stephenson College is just a bit Too Far for me to accurately recall. Just like Rich Shapero’s novel, you can usually find one lying about somewhere in Durham. Of all the colleges Stephenson is the least book-like, which is just as well as Too Far is accompanied by a CD, with tracks including ‘Naked and Crazy’, which perhaps summarizes the lifestyle of college members rather better.

Trevelyan College has an unsettling exterior colour scheme for which it is famous, just like The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill. Although in the public eye, you wouldn’t want to be lost in its ill-boding hexagonal layout in the dark.

University College is respected far and wide and has been since the dawn of time. With more than its fair share of eccentricity and humour, only an absolute classic which contains a vast spectrum of personalities would do, and that is why The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer will do just nicely. However unlike the more modern colleges ‘O wind, O wind’ echoes throughout the castle during the night, which has never concerned itself much with heating.

Ustinov College – Education? “Please Sir, can I have some more?” Perhaps more Great Expectations by Charles Dickens than Oliver Twist.

Students at Van Mildert College love their pond, around which most college activities are centred. They are most content to lie by the banks of their liquid haven and enjoy the Pond Book, available from the Pond Conservation.

Tried and tested: staring at the pages of a physics textbook won’t bring numbers to life. Looking forwards to a summer respite before term restarts in October, I anticipate the realisation of Melanie Safka’s dream: “I wish I could find a good book to live in.” Until then, I’ll merrily continue to pretend that I am already in one, to (rather perversely) retain my sanity.

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