So, I graduated yesterday! It was a pretty expensive process - probably near on £200 between the hotel, gown hire, getting to Oxford and eating out - but really worth it. We had tea and biscuits in Hall with our guests, then got whisked off at 10.15am to have the Dean of Degrees (who's grown a beard since I last saw him at matriculation, and reminds me a bit of David Mitchell) explain the day's events to us over glasses of port or orange juice. There are only two things to remember, he said - first, nothing can technically go wrong, because as long as he gets us to the Sheldonian in one piece, we will
graduate. However, outside that narrow and technical sense of "nothing can go wrong", there is plenty of scope for looking like an idiot, so please would we abdicate our free will and do exactly what we are told for the next three hours. Then we had a run-through of the ceremony, in which the Dean predicted that the Vice-Chancellor would make "the same speech he made last time, except perhaps with a different comment on the weather". Finally, a lesson in competitive bowing - the Dean got told by the last Vice-Chancellor that Merton's bowing was the best in the University, so to keep up this proud tradition, we must bow from the hips, not the neck, and not look at the person you're bowing to.
After that, we were cowed enough that the ceremony ran pretty smoothly - or at least, the mishaps weren't Mertonian ones. When going through the doctoral degrees, the Registrar used the formula "the dean and graduands of College A, the dean and graduands of College B, etc." - but when doing the MAs, the formula used is just "College A, the Dean". So the graduands just sat in their chairs, presuming they hadn't been called and not wanting to mess up the whole process, and after an awkward silence the Registrar had to add "...and the graduands?". Also, at one point, the Registrar walked behind the Senior Proctor and sorted his hood out, which is competing with "the time the Proctor had an inflatable cutlass while supervising trashings" for my favourite Proctorial anecdote.
I'm not convinced I upheld Merton's bowing record, though - we bow when the Vice-Chancellor or Proctor doffs his caps to us, but during the actual "Ego admitto te" bit the graduands are in such a crowd that you can't actually see them
, and so packed together that bowing is difficult, which means you have to guess when to bow based on everyone else leaning slightly forward.
The aftermath was good - Merton held a buffet lunch, the hall staff encouraged me to have seconds (and I did), which as V pointed out, was a testimony to how well they know me and my appetite, V and I went back to our hotel room and took photos of me with my BA hood up and looking like a cross between Father Christmas and an Auditor of Reality, and then we all decamped to the pub until people drifted back to their various homes. V and I then de-gowned, got takeaway pizza from Cowley Road, and watched two episodes of Dollhouse to round the evening off. (POOR TOPHER
So, now I can put BA (Hons) (Oxon) after my name, I got to see friends I haven't seen for a while, and Oxford in the snow (for it snowed today, while V and I were heading down Woodstock Road for a belated anniversary pub lunch). A good weekend, all told.