The Road to Diplomacy is paved with Stilton and Pear Tart

by Thomas Gidney

Freezing rain falling from a dull grey sky whilst a Dickensian mist hangs ominously over the old medieval streets. Yes this is about England. However, this is more than a story about my failed attempts to protect myself from the tyranny of British weather. Bad weather is a British tradition and in Oxford, tradition is sacred.

In many ways it is curious to think how this antiquated city, with its imposing colleges and quaint eccentricities, still conjures feelings of admiration, jealousy and eccentricity across the world. Oxford remains in many ways, a relic. It is old, revered and cannot be changed. It is a city not so much steeped but drowning in tradition looking back to its past alumni with a strange nostalgia that still inspires its disciples.

It is perhaps this obsession with the aged and sacrosanct city that drove so many of us to Oxford University’s Model United Nations (MUN). Oxford’s siren call resonated around the planet and was answered by 500 students from across the globe, filling the shoes of diplomats that had passed through the hallowed halls where the delegates were currently debating.

Our cosmopolitan assortment of delegates ranged from the Americas to Australia. From the fading grey pomp of West Point military academy to the matching Papal keys branded on the ties of the students from Leiden. The grizzled veterans of MUN’s tiptoed through the battlefield that is diplomacy whilst the blundering first timers detonated diplomatic mines across the committees. Needless to say, this was my first time as a delegate. My representation of Germany could have been perhaps a bit more vigorous though I am sure I could have performed to my utmost if I had discarded the suit and donned my Pickelhaube.

In keeping with the pomp and circumstance of Oxford, champagne parties and long candle lit dinners were naturally in order. Oxford may be rich in acumen and academia yet this is accompanied like no other university in terms of extravagance. Nothing screams decadence louder than consuming a pear and stilton tart under the disapproving gaze of the college’s more haughty alumni hanging on the oak panelled walls. The ‘Spatchcock’, our main course dripped with Oxfordian excess. In any other place on earth it would have been called chicken, but then in any other place you would stay to your allocated time zone unlike Christchuch College which somehow defies the normal and has its own.

So in some respects, Oxford appealed to the multitude of international delegates. They expected diplomatic treatment and I suppose in many ways we received it. But perhaps this is my next concern with MUN’s. They are simulations of diplomatic problems and events and though many of the delegates are very bright with many who may work for their countries diplomatic services in the future, it  can all be a bit silly. The champagne parties, the 18 to 20 something year olds strutting around in suits clasping note boards to their sides whilst discussing the UK’s bond rate seems in hindsight to be all a little bit ridiculous. You’re not in control of the world just yet.

Images courtesy of Oximun

A few delegates (me centre right)

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