Thursday, June 24, 2004

Graduation Day

Judith, Tom and I drove up to Cambridge this morning to get there in time for the start of ceremonies.

By the time we had parked one car in the Park-And-Ride, found our tickets and parking pass (in Laura's pigeon hole at the Colony), parked, and walked to Old Court, it was nearly time for the Graduation Service in Clare Chapel.

I had something to do, so went to do it, but Judith and Tom accompanied Laura into the service. Apparently the choir was fantastic and the singing divine, as the a capela singing by the same students later on in the Old Court yard indicated, and Laura, Judith and Tom were well impressed when they came out of Chapel.

Then it was a Welcome by the Master, followed by champagne and canapes (and the a capela singing), followed by a rehearsal for the whole graduating body in the yard. After that we queued to get into The Senate House, where we got a great vantage point in the gallery, right above where the graduands kneel to have their degrees conferred, whilst Laura and the rest processed from Clare through the streets to The Senate House.

The graduation ceremony itself was spectacular, in terms of the ancient ceremony, the atmosphere, and the minor catastrophes. The Vice-Chancellor's Deputy (in this case the Master of Clare) and other senior academics process into the hall with full gowns, hats, ancient leather-bound books and silver maces (much to Tom's liking). The Master then sits in his throne-like chair, with a kneeling stool in front of him. The assembled graduands process in groups of 4 to the centre of the hall, where the Praelector (also a Clare man) holds out his 4 fingers, which the graduands hold, whilst he says, in Latin, "Most worthy, Vice-Chancellor, and the whole University, I present to you thes men and women, whom I know to be suitable both by character and learning to proceed to the degree of Bachelor of Arts; for which I pledge my faith to you and to the whole University".

After the Bedell names the degree, each graduand kneels on the stool before the Master, holding out their hands as if in prayer. The Master takes their hands between his and says, again in Latin, "By the authority committed to me I admit you to the degree of Bachelor of Arts [or whatever], in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit".

This is where the minor catastrophes ensued. At this point the graduand is meant to rise gracefully, take two steps backward, and bow. Not only were the bows entertaining, but in two cases female graduands unfortunately failed to negotiate the return to a standing position, and fell into unseemly heaps on the floor. One hardly batted an eyelid, but another, a friend of Laura's, yelped with surprise and embarrassment, and exited stage right in paroxisms of giggles, and to rising applause.

Laura managed the whole thing without incident, albeit an Elizabethan bow, and we met up again afterwards in the Senate yard, on the grass in the sunshine.

The rest of the day is something of a blur for me, due either to lack of food, or something wrong with what little food I did eat. However, it featured all of the normal time play in the England-Portugal match, watched on widescreen with the rest of the graduates in the Old Court vaults (now a club/bar for the students), followed by a meal in the Trinity Vaults restaurant, which Laura and Tom left early to attend a nightclub(!).

Nevertheless, however unfortunately it may have ended, the rest of the day was so sublime it will long live in the memory, only to be matched in time by Tom's graduation.

Pictures will follow....


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