Silly Hat Day
I love university graduation day. I love conferrals. I love “graduands” as they are called – poised at an amber light of imminent transformation. There’s an energy about the day, an energy that is at one and the same time urgent and relaxed. There’s an excitement in the air, even though the happy outcome of proceedings is never in doubt.
My own graduations I dimly and unwillingly remember. I didn’t enjoy my own BA graduation for reasons that are entirely my fault. I did enjoy my MA graduation but I should not have done. That particular event was bad and wrong. And my PhD graduation I did not attend at all as I was grumpy and unemployed and too full of regrets.
Perhaps it is as a divine recompense for these past disappointments that I find sitting on a stage and watching the graduands totter up the steps wearing awkward robes extremely satisfying. I’ll be sat there today, applauding each and every one (I’ve figured out a sustainable ‘applaud’ that I can continue for the duration of the ceremony), perhaps upping the volume slightly for someone I know.
And then the graduates (graduands no longer) will spill out into something resembling sunshine, where nervous laughter breaks out. And there will be hugs and photographs and it will be my job to seek out particular students to congratulate. And then there will be tiny triangular sandwiches and something to drink.
Along with all the fun and the relief and the enjoyable collective embarrassment at the strange and impractical attire, there are slight moisture in the corner of everybody’s eye because this will be the last time a particular generation is to be so assembled. Of course people will see one another again – but they won’t see one another so collectively again. The sense of togetherness is all the more intense for its sheer transience. A precious transience that incubates its own immortality. As Keats would (did) say – a thing of beauty is a joy forever. And any slight edge of melancholy makes the day just that bit more beautiful.
So I’ll be here in and out of the cavernous barn that is our Aula Maxima all morning. I can’t get enough of a conferral buzz. I just dig the vibe. Furthermore there’s a hat I’m allowed to wear. Once a year I’m allowed to wear it. It’s the only hat that really fits my grotesquely swollen hat. It’s the only hat that really suits me. The kind of hat that can only really be worn by senior academics and Huggy Bear. And today’s the one day in the year it gets an outing.