Graduation, I am glad to say, is now well and truly over. That makes it sound like it was bad in some way - far from it. In fact, we even coped with the physical damage of the trip better than we expected. Even so, the day went by in a black poly-cotton cloud of pain and movement. Now, however, looking back and feeling less poorly, I'm able to enjoy the day more and more.
I do not, and never will, like London. However, there was something of the adventure about getting into the capital, settling into a cheap hotel room and watching the best of a limited number of television channels. We cobbled together a rather lovely meal from a collection of tubs from an M&S and, aside from some noisy characters disturbing our beauty sleep in the early morning, we had a relatively good night. I got my first experience of a wet room and, had I bought my tools with me, I'd have pinched the bathroom tap (it was one of those bubbly water-saving jobs).
Arriving at the Barbican was trickier than expected thanks to some road closures, but we got to our reserved parking space (just a little way from the suspiciously heavy looking Range-Rover/Bentley Royal convoy - I'm sure the Citroen would have fitted in nicely) and very soon were in and rendezvous-ing with my sister.
My sister's ten year's older than I, and our relationship's developed in interesting ways in recent years. I think really we have more mutual respect than most siblings without being necessarily 'close' in the ways most people would understand the term. I was really pleased to have her there, and she certainly leant a strength to our little quartet.
A wheelchair always tends to throw people into a panic, and the graduation was no different even after a few emails confirming the situation before-hand. The Barbican staff were great, though, and getting on and off the stage was a painless freight lift affair. Although my 'I always said I'd go up in the world if I went to university' joke mid-lift fell somewhat flat...
Sitting on stage throughout proceedings was something I'd rather have done without. My father sat with me and I was very glad for that. I was half afraid if he sat in the audience he'd risk falling asleep and missing the cue to push me across the stage! And he'd not be blamed for falling asleep - there were a huge number of people collecting degrees.
And I think that's one of the things I like the most about being a member of the International arm of London University, even if I am not actually International. The sheer range of cultures, subjects, ages and styles were wonderful. It was a real reminder of what a broad and special world we live in. Even, as Deb pointed out, watching the different ways people walked across the stage - striding confidently, hurrying self-consciously or, as in my case, wheeling whilst looking like my hamster had just died. One of the things I value about my degree is its all encompassing nature - art, architecture, literature, history, sociology...the whole shebang. And it felt appropriate, sitting there, the only student in the afternoon session receiving a degree in Classics, surrounded by fellow students from the four corners who had studied science, law, english, history, computing etc. The world doesn't change. It is eternally varied.
We got home in surprisingly good time, and Deb and I thoroughly crashed. But we're now over a week on and recovering well. The memory of the pain fades and leaves a pride in being part of such a huge thing. It's not something we're likely to replicate in the future. It's something we'll always remember and treasure.