Pomp, Ceremony & Graduation

Posted on November 2, 2021

I went to my son’s graduation last night. It was not something I have experienced before, so I was not sure what to expect. The drive down to Bournemouth on a dark Monday evening was straightforward, apart from a bit of a standard Bob Lethaby debacle with the parking.

In the Reception

I eventually arrived at the BIC fully armed with my ticket and negative Covid-19 test, only to be asked for neither. I stood around, feeling a little lost in a packed reception area where everyone seemed to be taking a Boris Johnson attitude to risk. Barely anyone was masked up.

Harry was already inside but upon seeing a stream of excited parents backing up and out into the cold, I bought a pint and watched the queue until it was no longer there. It is a trick I learnt at airports when they open the departure gates. It is one where I sit it out and watch the proles whilst carrying a needlessly grandiose air of superiority.

The Ceremony

The queue thinned down to just the odd straggler as I finished my pint, so in I waddled. I was perhaps not as excited as I should have been. Luckily for me, I arrived in time for some sort of bizarre pomp and ceremony event. If I am honest, I didn’t know what on earth was going on. I hate all that stuff, as it is normally a cover up for someone who is making a fortune.

I kept an eye out for BBC War Correspondent, Kate Adie, the university chancellor, but she was busy doing something else. You would think graduation day would be quite important for the chancellor, wouldn’t you? Perhaps she had got word of the BIC super spreading event being more dangerous than tiptoeing around landmines in Beirut.

There were then a few speeches from people in odd looking clothes, which seemed like utter twaddle to me. I wasn’t alone in the utterly bemused apartment. All around me were uninterested people using this valuable time to work out how their phones and cameras would work in low lighting.   

The Roll call

We then had one of those patronising speeches. It reminded me of the headteacher after the awful school nativity plays my kids never got a part in (I think George was a tree once). Then it was time to read the names out. I entertained myself by imagining the backgrounds of the students as they walked on stage. Notable names were Goldsmith, Escobar and incredibly, one who appeared to be called Monica Lewinsky.

There were no handshakes, the students just walked past people in silly outfits that were made to look even more dystopian by the fact they were wearing masks (at least someone was I suppose). It was odd behaviour but as my son’s name was read out, I did feel a little swell of pride. I let out a spontaneous ‘GO ON HARRY!’, as if he was clean through on goal in a cup final. It was a short burst of joy, followed by a terrible sense of foreboding. What if he tripped up over his own shoelaces?   

Fortunately, he didn’t, but I could see by the look on his face he was carrying similar concerns. After the long list of names finally came to an end, we then had a video. It was of everyone who had ever set foot in the university, congratulating the students. Such things normally make me cry but this was so contrived, I needed sick bags rather than hankies. The more half-witted the person congratulating them was, the bigger cheer the students gave them. “Hoorah for Mr Thicky, the canteen cleaner”.  

There was one teacher, who was head of one of the journalism courses, who made me sit up. Rather than all the ‘Yahoo you guys’ and ‘Go for it!‘ nonsense, she solemnly declared that it was up to her students to bring truth to the world and make it a better place. I admired that, because I could tell she meant it. I hope they do her proud.


We finished the evening in the reception area where we got some free Prosecco. We reflected on the idiosyncratic events of the evening and Harry’s life so far. By coincidence, Harry started a job in Public Relations last week, which is the subject that he studied for 4 years. It’s such a relief he has career relevant to his studies.

If I had been standing there with a cheap glass of plonk, thinking my boy had been fleeced of £27k, it would have made it hard to swallow. It’s horrible to think that we have a system where young people from lesser backgrounds are getting priced out of getting an education. Its almost as if keeping people uneducated is the best way of maintaining control and saving all the best jobs for one’s own offspring.

Who’d have thought it?

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