Friday, 14 November 2014

Edinburgh Weekend: Part 2 - The Graduation

Last week I talked about our arrival in Edinburgh and our little bit of shopping and sightseeing, but this week it's all about the main event that we went there for: The Graduation!

There had been a great deal of discussion about when we would use taxis over the weekend. Getting to and from the hotel was kind of a given and we'd planned to use them for getting to and from Usher Hall as well. When Saturday dawned, breezy but otherwise dry, we decided to walk it. After all, it was just down the road...

In hindsight this was a bit of a mistake, although I didn't realise it at the time.

Obligatory pre-event mirror selfie.
We got all gussied up on the Saturday morning. Mr Click wore his smart suit with the blue/black tie I had chosen for him. I wore a smart blouse, thick knee length skirt and some smart sensible shoes with a little court heel. Those shoes were the bane of my life for the day!

I'd worn them before and they're not brand new; we've always seemed to get along okay. Maybe the travelling the day before had made my feet swell or something. By the time we got down the road to the hall they were rubbing.

We had a bit of a wait, doors opened at 10:30am so then we separated (Mr Click wasn't allowed into the registration and robing area). I was not overly keen on making my way off on my own, but it was so well organised and signposted that it wasn't too scary. There were all these lovely people wearing OU sashes offering advice and wishing everyone congratulations, and I was surrounded by dozens of other people all just as nervous as myself, which helped somewhat.

Registration involved giving my name at the correct table (they were divided up by surnames, luckily the A-H line was short) and being handed a pack and my tickets. One set was for Mr Click, the other for me and had a name card I had to hand over later in the day when I got on stage.

The robing was right at the top of a spiral staircase which was thankfully carpeted because my feet were starting to protest at the shoes I was wearing. You walked into this long room with a bunch of tables set up at the end. As with everything else about the day, it was handled with military precision. You handed over your paperwork, were handed a gown and hood in the correct size and colour, then, if you weren't confident dressing yourself, they helped you put it on. There was also reassurance that if any time during the day you needed any help you could go back upstairs for more assistance.

I didn't actually get to see myself right away because there were just a couple of full length mirrors and they were already occupied so I headed straight down to rejoin Mr Click where we followed the signs for photography. By this point my feet were really aching and I knew I was going to have a blister or two.

Photography was nice and quick. Once again there was a nice organised queue through an area with lots of photographers all working at once. I almost forgot to take my hat off so could have potentially ended up with a graduation photo of myself sporting a nice red beret. Luckily Mr Click spotted it and removed it for me.

And then it was back to the cafe/box office area of the hall to wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.

Snapped when I wasn't expecting it by Mr Click.
You see, doors opened at 10:30am but the auditorium didn't actually open until 1pm. And we were there right from the start. So we had about two hours to kill before we could go take our seats. So we had a drink and we chatted and waited and took more photos and Mr Click treated me to a lovely red OU hoodie (which I barely took off all weekend) and then we waited some more. And I spent a lot of time taking my shoes off to rest my sore feet.

And 1pm rolled around at last and we separated. Mr Click went off to the Grand Circle where I couldn't see him any more while I took while I took my place in the Stalls. We were in order of degree level, type and classification so the three rows ahead of me held the Doctorates and Masters and I was sandwiched between two other people who had studied English Language and Literature. We had a nice little chat about our favourite modules, least favourite modules, and the incongruity of grown men and women having to read and write essays on The Tale of Peter Rabbit! I found out afterwards that the wife of the man sitting to my left was actually sitting next to Mr Click upstairs.

Photos by Mr Click
I will admit to having slight Harry Potter fannish moments seeing everyone dressed up in their robes (there was even a pocket where one could easily stow a wand). This only increased when the Procession started and everyone trooped in wearing their official robes.

Obviously most of them were Ravenclaws, like myself (in some form of blue), and there were also some Gryffindors (some variety of red or black with a red trim), two Slytherins, and I thought it was fitting that the Honorary Degree robes were yellow (that seemed to fit Hufflepuff somehow). There was also someone in Father Christmas robes (red with a white trim) and a very funky black with bright pink trim too.

And absolutely everyone was wearing a gown, even the people who were helping to make sure that we were lining up in the right place were wearing their robes. It was really nice to see.

Photo by Mr Click
The even was a nice mix of the solemn and the celebration. People walked in carrying scepters and some sort of axe-y thing. There was a lot of bowing to the President guy who was presiding over everything and handing out awards. But there was also a lot of laughter and little jokes which helped lighten the mood and the nerves.

It started with a video about the sort of people who do OU degrees (in short: anyone) and then there were Honorary Degrees bestowed to two people (one a chemist, the other a composer). That was probably the most long-winded bit because they had to be introduced and someone say why they were being awarded it, then they had to make a reply. I probably would've enjoyed that a little bit more if I'd known who they were prior to the ceremony; at the Versailles ceremony Michael Morpurgo was receiving an Honorary Degree and I would've been interested in hearing what he had to say.

Then there were all the presentations. Which went on FOREVER! Part of me wanted it to be like the school prize giving ceremonies where you hold off clapping until the end of each section, but on the other hand, everyone had worked years to get their degree and they deserved their moment of applause. And I wanted my moment of applause. Even if it meant my hands ached from clapping everyone else.

I spent most of the ceremony with my shoes off so had a quick struggle to get them back on when I realised it was nearly my turn to go up. We were ushered off to the side and lined up while a nice woman adjusted all of our hoods for us. And then you moved towards the stage.

Once there you got up there you were in a little group of people. One took your name card and another offered reassurance that you weren't going to faint or throw up... or maybe that was just me. She told me it was okay, it was just a short walk. Then when my name was actually called she said 'Well done Caitlin'. I know she said the same thing to everyone but it made me want to cry a little.

The lights were so bright that I couldn't see the audience and even if I could, I didn't know exactly where Mr Click was seated, so I focused on the guy on the stage. Oh and forcing my sore feet across the stage. He spoke to some people for longer than others and I can't remember exactly what he said to me. He handed me this blue tube, shook my hand and said 'Congratulations' and 'Well done' and I think he asked me if I was pleased or something.

And there was this massive applause.

And I was on my way back to my seat.

I was fairly near to the beginning of the presentation so there were still about four or five rows behind me still to go. So I clapped and listened to the names and watched out for people I'd seen and spoken to earlier in the day.

Then things were sort of wrapped up. There was another speech. Then another procession, this time with all of us graduates leaving behind them. We had to walk up the aisle with guests on either side of us and everyone was clapping and telling us well done. It was lovely.

I was quite disappointed to have to give back my robes. I would quite happily wear them every day. They're surprisingly weighty when you first get them on, but the longer you wear them the more comfortable they become. I felt all light and bare when I took them off.

And that was the day. We hobbled just a little way down the road to Wagamama for noodles and other Japanese delights, which I ate with chopsticks because I'm cool like that. And also took care of my blistered feet by sticking plasters all over my tights because I wasn't sure that if I took said tights off I'd get them back on again!

Oh and the little blue tube I received? I cracked that open when we got back to the hotel and I realised there was something sliding around inside. It was a bit like pulling a cracker, inside was a bubble wrapped memory stick (with the OU logo on it) and a little note from the OU Vice Chancellor congratulating me and letting me know that the memory stick has information on it should I want to continue my studies.

My amazing OU hoodie, cute little owl and the mysterious blue tube.
And what do you know, the next morning I found myself looking up potential future courses on the OU site... because I did actually enjoy my graduation ceremony so much that I'd quite happily do it again.

Oh and if you're curious, you can see me walk across the stage on YouTube here. It's set to start a couple of seconds before my name is called.


Let me know what you think. :-)