Friday, 17 November 2006

The Graduate

This summer my daughter graduated from university. We all went for the day, and a beautiful day it was too, nicely hot and sunny with a clear blue sky but not too humid. When we arrived Catbert was just getting dressed in the regulation outfit for wearing under her gown and having the hood pinned into place. As she had to have her arms covered she was wearing a shirt over her skirt, and with all that under a black gown she seemed a little warm.

She looked lovely though, I hope you will agree, and we all went off to have our photos taken in the lovely college garden.

Soon it was time for the graduands to process to the Senate House to be awarded their degrees. We waited with all the other parents as the graduands formed into a crocodile and set off, still of course wearing their heavy clothes in the now blistering heat, for a good 30 minute walk.

After a decent interval the parents followed. There were parents dressed in traditional costume from many countries, including a Japanese family all beautifully dressed in ceremonial kimonos, which gave an exotic international flavour to the proceedings.

Arriving at the Senate house, we were shown upstairs to sit on rather uncomfortable benches from which we could look down upon the ceremony.
Fierce ushers in traditional uniforms menaced people who defied the clearly visible signs saying "no photography" and "no cameras". The ceremony and the institution are over 700 years old so they were not about to have some Johnny-come-latelies with a bit of fancy technology interfering with the way things were done. We hastily put our camera back in its case and settled down to read the programme. The building is not air conditioned and so all the huge sash windows were open to allow some air to circulate. This was pretty much as effective as a fan oven.
The ceremony itself is interminably dull and in any case conducted entirely in Latin. The high spot is of course seeing your own offspring stepping forward and then kneeling to receive their degree.
I thought how strange it was that 28 years ago I had been standing in that very same spot, waiting for my turn to step forward, while my mother watched from the benches in the gallery above. I remember standing in rows waiting for my turn to step forward, and being afraid I would forget what to do.

Suddenly it was all over and we were able to file out of the building and onto the lawn to meet the newly created BAs.

After chatting to Catbert and all her friends it was time to walk back to the garden for a lovely garden party!

Here we managed to secure a table for the six of us in the shade, and there we relaxed and spent a delightful afternoon, feasting on the delicious buffet, listening to a jazz quartet and talking of this and that.
We did not leave until the quartet had packed up their instruments, the buffet had been dismantled and packed away and the sun had started to cast long shadows across the lawn. What a lovely, unforgettable day.

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