The Semester was wearing on; you could tell it in the air. The usually dormant cold of the library was now oppressively warm, the eat-in tables from Pret to Rectors were derelict, Dervish had even had a chance to clean their counters for the first time since the turn of the Millennium. Such was the air that followed busloads of passengers headed for the annual White-Tie Reeling Ball. Discussion echoed on the bus journey over as members of the congregation attempted to rouse themselves from the haze of deadlines and tiredness that pervaded the town they had just left. This year’s venue would not be the five-minute journey to Kinkell Byre, but a full forty-five minutes away, something that set up grand expectations amongst the guests as they stepped out of the bus.
Instantly the crunch of gravel underfoot was overwhelmed by the sound of bagpipes as visiting piper George Nickerson welcomed the visitors. His input set the tone for a well-run coat-check and a welcome glass of champagne. The reception struck a tone of class not often seen in St Andrean events, letting guests move through the fine surroundings of Balbirnie House. That is, when they could move, as despite the grandeur of surroundings many guests had trouble getting to the dance pamphlets located at the middle of the room due to the size of the room. The event made a welcome change however, if the venue were to be used again, efforts would need to be made to stop the stampede. Similar attention to detail would have been welcome in terms of the dinner and breakfast, for the amount paid by the congregation seemed vast in return for the meagre amount of free alcohol, expensive bar, and long waiting time for a bacon roll at the end.
Yet, despite all the turbulence faced in terms of detail, White Tie Reeling Ball retains its crown where it counts: sheer enjoyment. I cannot dance, there have been more graceful car crashes, but that didn’t stop me from attempting almost every reel. The venue here really came through, where the atmosphere and vast space far outshining Kinkell as a Reeling venue. Here lies one of the key differences between Reeling Ball and other events, moving through the crowds I not only danced with dozens of people I had never met, I also saw in every dance both society and individual reaping the rewards of practice. Over the past months, or years in many cases, every practice constituted a level of investment in what was happening at Balbirne that night. People weren’t simply there to drink, they came with a shared purpose, one which we can take even more pride in as Scotland’s Oldest University. The price tag is hefty, but it comes with guarantees, the music for example will always be incredible as along as the Infamous Grouse Band are there to carry us through the night. Additionally, White Tie Reeling falls into that rare bracket of event, one where I didn’t check the time once, despite being one of the latest nights in the St Andrews event world.
So we leave Reeling Society with a foundation to be envied, and plenty to be built upon for coming years. I remember clearly wading through the kilt-clad crowds, spotting discarded jackets and even a Sgian Dubh as I left. In contrast to the cold of the outside air I carry with me sense of warmth, emanating from both a sizable alcohol jacket and the great success of the events charity endeavours. Here the raffle particularly drew the attention of guests to the Help for Heroes cause, with many bidding beyond the price guide. It is here, body fatigued and mind intoxicated, that I leave you. Thankfully, the bus journey was a blessing in disguise, giving me more than enough time to compose myself before the short stagger back to my flat.