Monday, 25 June 2012


I graduated three years ago today. I am generally reminded of the day I graduated by the yearly Michael Jackson obituaries, as I have a sort of magic touch for killing celebrities on important days on my life. (One day I will tell you about how I killed Whitney Houston.)

I loved graduating. Loved it. The actual ceremony was a bit odd, but the feeling of pride and achievement gently wafting through the room was beautiful. Mum cried, and Dad looked a bit gruff and pleased that finally someone in the family had made it through university. There was a garden party, and then the graduation ball was the next day.

There was an article in the Guardian a few days ago – Can you afford to go to your own graduation? This just makes me sad.

I had a unique set of circumstances when it came to my graduation. I was still in town, tickets to graduation were free for me and for two family members, and the garden party was also free for me and my two guests. The medieval history department also put on a significantly more boozy party, still free. There was an academic uniform that was mandatory, which for me was black skirt/trousers, nude tights, black shoes and white shirt. What I didn't own, I picked up at Primark fairly cheaply. I had to pay for the gown and cape. Looking at this article, I have to admit that I find it shocking that people are charged to attend their own graduation – you pay that much in fees for a reason, surely?

If you can afford to go to graduation, I sincerely urge people to do so. It's a decision you'll regret, otherwise. “It's all about the parents!” some people moan. Well, fine – let your parents celebrate your achievement! You graduate at 21, 22 – you're big enough and ugly enough to tell your parents to get stuffed if they're insisting on things you don't want. Getting a degree, despite graduate worries, despite the loans, despite the guff you get from people like me, is one hell of an achievement. Celebrate your awesomeness and embrace the stupid traditions. Graduation is the pay off for all of the hard work, and if you're lucky, there's a really good party afterwards.

In St Andrews, you get hit on the head with John Knox's trousers. Other universities have their own mad traditions. Come on, that's an opportunity you only get the once.

Friday, 22 June 2012

An unexpected sense of loss

That time has finally come for me. It happens earlier for most graduates, I appreciate, but the joy of the Scottish system is that you get to put stuff off for a bit longer.

The people who started university in the year I have graduated this week. I no longer have am active undergraduate link to the undergraduates of my old university.

I knew it had to happen eventually. One of the good things about being a part of societies, etc, is that you can pop in and still talk to people. It makes you feel connected, even as you get jobs and get married and do various grown-up things. You hear about things that are happening, rather than hearing about them through the alumni magazine, and pop along to visit, and good things like that.

Now, however, all friends from my time during university have all flown the nest. (St Andrews has an academic family system, so the metaphor is accurate.) Whilst I am very pleased and proud for them- graduating is SO MUCH FUN, more on that topic soon – I am also a little bereft and sad for myself, because now I have to accept that some of the anchoring to my student days has gone.

I don't know how common a sensation this is amongst graduates, mostly because I only noticed it myself a few weeks ago, but to all those currently graduating – look out for this one in three or four years, whenever the equivalent time comes up.

Oh well. There's always the Alumni Chronicle.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Disorientated Graduate: news edition!

I would like to have to measured, considered thoughts on the news, but mostly I am just baffled by it. Let's start with one of the major stories, according to the BBC, of the last few days:

They also seem to be of the opinion that allowing two ladies or two gents to get married will ruin marriage forever. Unlike, say, divorce. It's perhaps worth pointing out at this point that whilst Jesus was quite vocal on the issue of divorce (i.e. bad) he was surprisingly quiet about homosexuality. This is odd, considering the obsession some modern Christians have with the latter rather than the former.

Look, I can't add anything to this debate that's particularly fresh. I am a lady who is married to a dude and we got married in a church which we were lucky enough to be able to do. If the church doesn't want to marry two people, that's their decision. It's got nothing to do with how the state chooses to define marriage. If anything, extending gay marriage is an inherently small-c conservative thing to do, bigging up the idea of stable relationships in an old-fashioned mould. I don't think marriage is for every relationship, or indeed every person, and that's fine by me. I also happen to think that civil partnerships are ace ideas for people that don't want to be defined as in a marriage. Let everyone get married to whomever they wish, or civil partnerships.

Government, stop pussyfooting around the issue and pandering to the bishops in the House of Lords who you should have thrown out years ago. Let straight couples get a civil partnership, and let gay couples get married. And if a religious organisation chooses to marry gay people – the Quakers and Unitarians very much wish to do this – then let them do that. Don't be dictated to be a church that was, from one perspective, set up in order to allow Henry VIII to get his end away.

Now we're done with equal rights, let us move onto the economy:

Really? Ah, good, we must be out of recession then, because surely everyone would get that pay rise, right, down to the cleaning staff and the lady that pushes the tea trolley? No, wait, that doesn't happen? And share prices are down? And the economy is still fucked? And yet, these people are getting obscenely richer whilst the masses struggle?


Now, to something about the alma matar!

YES. THREE MONTHS TOO EARLY. IT IS THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS. I can't believe I've had to crack out the Sisko picture AGAIN.

I'm not even in St Andrews anymore and it makes me want to die as a statement for sheer fucking stupidity. Also, Harry Potter and Gin Society? I'm not saying that it doesn't exist, but I was president of the Doctor Who Society for two years and I drank like a fish, so if that society slipped under the radar then it must have been a little low on the whole publicity issue.


That's enough ranting for now, I think.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Musings on patriotism

I'm not especially proud to be British. I'm pleased to be British. I'm pleased at being a small part of a historic nation. I like the Union, and would rather be British than English. I'm happy that I have the benefits of being British; I am aware of my national global privilege, but I like that I have free and fair elections in my country, that I have reasonable freedoms and all that good stuff. Proud, though? That's like being proud to have size 5 feet. I like that size 5 feet generally makes shoe shopping more straight forward, and I think they look nice and in proportion on the end of my legs, but I'm not proud of them.

I'm musing on patriotism at the moment, as the Union flag (fun fact: only the Union Jack when at sea!) has exploded everywhere, a bit like spores on moss. The Queen is having a diamond jubilee, something about which I am deeply ambivalent about. There is going to be a pageant of boats across the Thames. Last time this happened it was to welcome Catherine of Braganza to the country in 1662. I have no issue with Catherine of Braganza – seemed like a nice lady! - but she failed to have any children by Charles II, and unlike Hency VIII this probably was her fault, given that Charles had something like 35 acknowledged bastards by seventeen other women. This led to a major constitutional crisis and quite a lot of bad times for the monarchy. You know, just after Charles I had his head chopped off.

I'm just saying.

Anyway, the diamond jubilee is a thing that is happening at the moment. I am delighted to have a day off work, in much the same way I was delighted to have a day off for the last royal wedding. And I sort of respect the Queen, mostly for still being alive, even if she and her family are a set of parasitic leeches on society. So is my Aunty Phyllis and her brood, mind you, and I don't know if I want anyone to chop her head off. Then again, I'm not being encouraged to have street parties for Aunty Phyllis, either.

One thing that makes me quite skeezy, though, is the Jubilee song.

I am basically an emotional sponge and am fairly easy to start blubbing. I have been known to get a little bit weepy at adverts, and DIY SOS. To throw Gary Barlow at me (I love Take That with the passion that only someone who liked them the first time around can muster), Andrew Lloyd Webber (yes, I am an awful person) and then put in a bit of Gareth Malone is basically designed to make me weep like a child. It's a reasonably stirring song with vague lyrics.

And yet, the whole thing makes me uneasy, possibly because it reminds me what the monarchy really is. The Military Wives are defined by their relationships to men, not what they do as a living, and it says that we are a country at war, a country nearly always at war, and one that has belligerently pushed around big chunks of the world via a militaristic power, where those who are signed up and those who are left behind are made to feel Like It Really Matters. Lots of shots of angelic African children singing away are beautiful, yes, but how relevant is a tiny little British woman with a big hat to Kenyans? She was on the throne during the Mau-Mau Uprising, for goodness sake, there is not always good history there. The Commonwealth has made some good strides forwards, but there's an uncomfortable colonial history there that this song just blithely brushes under the carpet, and I don't know that's the right thing to do.

It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of a crowd, to be blown away by the spectacle and pageantry, and I might find myself watching that Jubilee concert tonight. But then, the pageantry is a show designed to hide the cold steel that lies behind the history of monarchy, the sense that if the Queen is in her God-given place then so are us underlings. That's a concept I'm really not comfortable with.

I'm enjoying my long weekend, although to be honest I spent the weekend catching up with some friends and have spent today watching so much Game of Thrones I think my eyes are going to fall out. That's probably as close as I'm getting to royalty today.