Last week we travelled to Portsmouth to see our eldest daughter graduate. Excited graduands milled about in the distinctive purple of Portsmouth University, surrounded by proud parents, spouses, partners, families and friends.
The skies threatened rain and there was a brisk wind but the atmosphere outside the Guildhall was one of happy anticipation and some nervousness.
We filed inside and found our places. It was fortunate that the ceremony would take no longer than an hour and a half for the congregation was crammed into seats with very limited leg room. As we waited for the ceremony to begin the Organist and Master of the Choristers of Portsmouth Cathedral played a programme of organ music. Finally, the congregation stood as the University procession entered the auditorium and took their places on the stage.
The Chancellor declared the ceremony open and the Vice-Chancellor made a brief and amusing address before the graduands were admitted to their degrees. We clapped as hundreds of young and not so young graduands crossed the stage. The men walked steadily in sensible footwear but some of the women, notably the younger ones, wore shoes with such high heels that it was difficult for them to toddle along. The most striking shoes were a pair that sparkled as they caught the light – they were so glittering that it was possible
to believe they had integral lights.
At last Gillian’s name was called and she could have won a prize as the speediest person across the stage! She is never happy when the spotlight is on her.
This was the sixth graduation ceremony I had attended (neither Barry nor I went to either of his ceremonies) and I was astonished afresh at the bad manners of some of the congregation. As the people they had come to see graduated so they got up and left the hall. One person left because he was unwell but the rest that I saw simply had no further interest in the ceremony. Had everyone adopted the same strategy there would have been very few left when the last graduands were admitted.
What they missed was a fine speech by the Chancellor, Sheila Hancock, who was warmly applauded for her heartfelt sentiments. She was particularly impressed by and complimentary about the mature students who had studied and gained their degrees at the same time as working and bringing up families. Gillian and her cohort were most appreciative of that. Her children understand at first hand the difficulties she has experienced of studying for long hours after work and family duties have been honoured and we all hope, Gillian particularly, that they will continue to further education while they are still young and relatively unencumbered.
The congregation stood as the University procession retired. Yet again I was amazed at the lack of respect and courtesy as people left their seats before the procession had completed. Barry and I were probably the last to leave, having enjoyed the organ music once more, and yet when we reached the ground floor there were still crowds queuing to leave the Guildhall.
We met our happy daughter and her family and then made our farewells. We knew that we would see them at the weekend when we could have a relaxed celebration. Gillian has laid the ghost of being the only one of her siblings not to have graduated and intends to carry on studying for further degrees.
See what has been happening in other worlds here.