Looking down on the ceremony within Christopher Wren’s exquisite Sheldonian Theatre. I’m somewhere on the front row.
As I stated in my last post, we were in Oxford on Friday 20th for my graduation ceremony, and this proved to be an interesting, nerve-racking, amazing and upsetting day all at once. We had originally planned to travel down to Oxford by train and stay several nights, but a reassessment of funds suggested that this would not be possible. Then, it turned out that my partner’s father couldn’t take us as we had planned due to being in hospital for a pre-op to a knee-op, and so for a few days it seemed as though we wouldn’t be going at all, and I may have had to graduate in absentia. In the end, we went down by car with my parents, despite our recent falling out, but this meant that there was only room for five people: my parents (x2), my partner, our youngest son, and myself. It put a dampener on the day that our eldest couldn’t be present, but he was happy enough watching ‘Pepper Pig’ and ‘Spongebob’ with his maternal great-grandparents back in Stoke to really care. To make things worse, my partner also couldn’t come into the ceremony with our youngest, as young children aren’t allowed into the Sheldonian Theatre where the ceremony takes place. However, we could all meet in my college (St. Hugh’s- previous alumni of which include Emily Davison and Aung San Suu Kyi) before hand for a briefing of what we had to do in the ceremony and for refreshments.
When the guests were in the Theatre, graduands met in the Convocation House, a very beautiful room off from one end of the Divinity School of the Bodleian. Convocation House was built between 1634 and 1637, and was used in the English Civil War as the House of Commons, and later in 1665 and 1681 by the parliament of Charles II when they were unable to meet in London. The Divinity School, on the other hand, is a breathtaking space that dates from 1427-1483, and is the oldest surviving building purposefully constructed for the University.
Convocation House. Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Divinity School may be familiar to some of you from the ‘Harry Potter’ films, when it was used as the Hogwarts Infirmary in the first few films:
Image: Warner Bros. etc. etc. etc.
…yeah. Okay- that picture doesn’t really show you a lot. Anyhoo- the ceremony itself was terrifying mainly because almost all of it was carried out in Latin, and the graduands didn’t have a booklet telling us what was being said. Unlike the guests… We didn’t go up individually, however, which was what I’d been worried about, and were done in groups of about 20, which was better, with our names all read out at the beginning. Also, BA’s were last due to being the lowest degree awarded, and so we had plenty of others to watch and learn from first who’d done DPhils, MSc’s, MA’s and all the other plethora of degrees offered. I never knew there were so many, to be honest. We all had to respond ‘”Do fidem!” (“I swear!”) to agree to the terms of us joining the university in the capacity of a graduate, and then left to re-enter to applause wearing our hoods: black with white fake-fur-trim for BA’s. You can also wear the hood as an actual hood, which may seem a stupid comment, but which I’d never realised until I saw some people wearing them such back at college.
The BA hood with gown. That’s not me, by the way, hence Image: Shepherd & Woodward.
Mortar boards were dutifully donned and then doffed to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor before returning to college for official and unofficial photographs, family pictures and drinks, but all too soon we were having to pile back into the car for the return journey up north.
Returning to Oxford for the day had seemed like coming home to my partner and I, and arriving back in Stoke after the pomp, grandeur and joy of the day (despite the disappointment of not being able to have everyone present in the Theatre) seemed like a massive kick in the teeth. It has, however, given us more impetus to return to the city we love so much as full-time residents either to work or study, and we can only count down the months!