Saturday, 21 July 2012

The best things in life are free

It costs a huge amount of money to get a masters degree from Cambridge. But there are ways around it. I now have a masters degree from Cambridge without having done anything to earn it. So unfair toward students who have worked hard for it.

This morning I went to town to the robemakers to collect my hood. Graduation is by college, and it was already going on - the robemakers are conveniently just across the road from Senate House. But I had to go to Homerton for rehearsal. I had never worn a hood before so I was glad there were people there to help with the robing. We had been told to bring three small safety pins and one large. Hoods were not meant for women, Men just put them behind their bow tie. Women have to secure them with safety pins.

Then we went through the ceremony. The procession within the college goes by degree. The doctors go first. They have hoods with red lining. There was just one doctor this time, so she went first. I was alone in the second category, master of arts by incorporation (there is a fancy Latin wording for this). I had a hood with white lining. The rest came in fours, with hoods of all possible colours. The Praelector - the college person who presents the graduands to the Senate - extends them a finger each. I got her whole hand. Right hand. And my right hand. "If I don't take your hand it means you've given me the wrong hand. It has to be the right hand". Then we were called out by name, had to kneel down, put our palms together as if in prayer and have a Latin phrase read over us, stand up, take a step back and bow. No curtsey. In some colleges they do curtsies, but not in Homerton. I had ticked the box in my application that I didn't want a Trinitarian blessing, so the Principal wondered whether I was happy kneeling down. I was.

There was tea for graduands and their guests, and that's where I realised that I should have invited Morag and David and all the students who were still around to be my guests. It was weird sitting there, chewing my prawns on my own. So I got over it quickly and decided to walk to town. The weather was lovely, I had plenty of time and good shoes. It was a nice walk. In fact, I think it was the first time ever that I walked from Homerton to town. I was there well ahead of time and stood watching other colleges go in and come out. I felt terribly lonely. One of my former students was graduating so we chatted a bit. Nothing happened for a long while. Apparently somebody had fainted during the ceremony, and there was ambulance and a lot of panic, which delayed the whole thing by forty-five minutes.

Suddenly Clementine turned up. She just happened to be there. Well, she did know I was graduating, but she just happened to be there. We stood and chatted and then it was Homerton's turn, and Clementine promised to wait and cheer when I came out.

It was all very grand, and my Praelector was nervous because the master of arts by incorporation is an unusual degree and she wasn't sure of her Latin. I told her that if she just talked Harry Pottish nobody would notice. The Principal - glorious in her scarlet robe with ermine lining (fake I hope)- forgot I didn't want the Trinitarian blessing so now I have my degree in the name of the Father, etc. It was meant to be.

I went out of the hall, got my diploma, went down the stairs known as "doctors stairs" and there was Clementine waiting for me. It would have felt terrible if she hadn't been there.

Then we went to an unrelated party, and it's all over, as usual in such cases, far too quickly.

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