And now, a musical interlude:
“Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson, Natwest loves you more than you will know. Woah-oh-oh. Where have you gone, student loo-ooan? A bailiff turns his lonely eyes to you… ooh ooh ooh…”
That was a corrupted Simon and Garfunkel, bought to you this week by the good folks of the higher education system of Great Britain. Because this week, I became a graduate.
(That’s a graduate, not ‘the’ graduate, just to be clear. No well-preserved friends’ mothers have ever tried to seduce me.)
Who would have known, though, that the most difficult bit of the process wouldn’t be the crippling sense of emptiness, the questioning of one’s self-worth, the dogged attempt to get to the champagne table before one’s parents, but in fact, the outfit? I know that when the star feature is a robe, you might think what’s underneath is pretty irrelevant. After all, this is a day of academic glory, not to be belittled by trivial things like hemlines and sequin embellishment! And besides, of all Phillip Green’s archive of fashion-forward design, Topshop have almost certainly never produced anything to be worn with a mortar board.
But I promise you, it’s a sartorial minefield. For starters, there are colours to be considered. When I made the choice, back in my first year, to have a UCL degree instead of a University of London one, little did I know I was actually deciding on a purple hood vs a maroon and cream one (so it was justifiable snobbery). But now I have to co-ordinate with the purple. Black would be the obvious safe choice, if not for the nagging worry that I’ll look like a) a raven, b) teacher from the Bash Street Kids, or c) Professor Snape, while anything brighter than a sensible navy threatens to have you remembered eternally as the ‘wacky’ one who would probably become a yoga teacher, and left off the alumni mailing lists.
Heels prompt another dilemma. Will they undermine your intellectual status? Will they clomp noisily across the stage, making you feel like Florence the prize Freesian in a Cumbrian cattle show? Will you do a Naomi? Of course, these are all irrelevant worries because you will wear them anyway. Because if you don’t, and everyone else does, you’ll be the little squat bundle of fabric in all the photos. This is literal one-upmanship. One-up-a-bit-more-ship. Virginia Woolf probably would have done the same.
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On our first night on holiday, we found ourselves in the middle of someone else’s romance. Ordinarily this isn’t my favourite place to be (snogging couples on tube escalators have learned to watch the backs of their heads), but when it’s a full-blown proposal, it’s fun to have a front-row seat. So half of St. Ives watched as a plane flew overhead with a banner bearing the legend: “GREG WILL YOU MARRY ME”. Then half of St Ives immediately started looking around for a man running, arms flung wide, up the hill shouting “Yeeeeeees!!”, while every man called Greg in a five-mile radius swiftly pooed themselves.
I, meanwhile, was forced to realise that my grammar fascism didn’t die when Lynne Truss stopped being fashionable. Because while everyone else was cooing about how romantic it was, what a lovely gesture, love is a many splendid thing, etc, etc, I was looking at the grand gesture and thinking ‘Where’s the question mark?’
I mean, seriously. It isn’t a hard rule to grasp – you’re popping the QUESTION dear, the clue is in the name. So while I obviously wish Greg and his future spouse all the happiness in the world, I wouldn’t have blamed him for looking up at that plane and thinking “I’ll marry you when you can punctuate properly, chump”.
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This is not just any foam shrimp. This is a line-caught, organically flavoured, individually aerated foam shrimp…