There are many things I thought I would be aged 20 – globetrotter, university student, an almost functioning adult… single mother of 9 was not on the list! Turns out its pretty normal in St Andrews, so before the Jeremy Kyle producers get any ideas let me explain…
From red gowns to academic families and the infamous ‘May Dip’, it’s certainly safe to say that the University of St. Andrews has many unique traditions, but the highlight of the University calendar has to be the infamous ‘Raisin weekend’. The roots of this University event are planted in the Medieval period when the university was first founded. Traditionally, young students were given academic parents to look after them during their time away from home at university and as a gesture of thanks presented their parents with a pound of raisins, hence the name Raisin Sunday. Now, 604 years later the tradition remains, if slightly modified! First year students are adopted by an academic mother and father, who are in third year – hence, my 9 academic children.
I adopted my lovely lot in freshers week and we’ve had a couple of family events since then, but this weekend is what it had all been building up to, Raisin. Sunday consisted of a host of drinking games commencing at 10.13am precisely. I realise that from the outside this all sounds a little insane and verging on academic child cruelty, but I was very kind in comparison to some of my peers – I’m referring to you parents that rudely awakened your kids at sunrise and made them run into the North Sea! Besides, I believe in responsible parenting, so I gave each child a sign with their name and address written on it, they can’t say I don’t look out for them! Suitably fuelled with a mix of prosecco and skittle vodka I set the Waterson clan loose on the already upside down St. Andrews for a scavenger hunt. My charming children serenaded strangers with Barney’s ‘I Love You’ song, successfully traded an apple for a variety of interesting objects and took photos with a range of people of authority, from police officers to security guards. However, a special mention has to go out to the winning team who managed to find and return with a long-lost brother as their ‘souvenir’. The whole thing is entirely mad but loved and enjoyed by parents and children alike – I’m not so sure local residents are quite as keen, but it is only once a year!
The Monday after Raisin Sunday is arguably the best part of the whole weekend. The biggest foam fight in the world occurs in the lower college lawn of the university quadrangle. This part doesn’t have quite the same history behind it and no one is really too sure how it all started, but what could be a better hangover cure than getting dressed in a ridiculous outfit before spraying your peers with shaving foam? Having sent my 9 off to their various academic dads at around 4.30pm I was very impressed to have all 9 show up at 10am this morning to get dressed up. Feeling a little responsible for their hangovers I cooked up some bacon and pancakes before dressing them up as a leprechaun, each colour of the rainbow and a pot of gold – just embracing the stereotype! Armed with cans of shaving foam, leprechaun, rainbow and pot of gold all entered the battlefield and I waited outside with towels. I have to say I was definitely out-mumed by the girl beside me who had an armful of Starbucks hot chocolates for her kids, I just didn’t think that far ahead!
Raisin is one of the craziest and best aspects of university life at St. Andrews. Although it is frankly a little weird to have to specify if you’re speaking about your real parents or your academic parents in everyday conversation, it is simply part of the St Andrews experience that is there to be embraced and loved – there really is no place like foam.