In Birmingham this weekend for Martha’s graduation – well done Martha! I decide I should be vaguely smart for the occasion. I don’t really do smart – too cold, too uncomfortable, too expensive and let’s face it, too much like hard work. I am wearing a skirt – not an issue in itself however this requires footwear people can see and I’ve opted for hand-me-up boots that are cutting off all circulation to my feet and have moderate heels that are thrusting all my weight on my toes – hey who cares – the lack of circulation means I can’t feel my toes anyway.
Problem one, we have now left the soft south and wake up to a severe frost. That’s ok my driver has plenty of de-icer, just a shame it is at home in the garage. Running the engine for about 20 minutes solves that one. Next, a phone call from Martha, Rob has forgotten his tie. This has paled into insignificance because he has also forgotten his trousers. Never fear he has his PE kit. I should explain that this is because he is a teacher and not because Martha has abducted a schoolboy as a husband. We are tasked with buying trousers on our way in to central Birmingham. Plenty of tattoo parlours and pay day loan shops but a distinct lack of trouser buying opportunities in suburban Birmingham at 8am on a Saturday. We spot an A**a and ignoring the protestations of the Sat Nav (‘turn around where possible’), park in Chris’ usual spot – as far away from the entrance as possible. I hobble round A**a looking for the clothing section. Alas this store is not large enough for an adult clothing section. So, unless Rob wants a child sized Christmas onesie it will be PE kit, dirty jeans or nothing. He opts for the middle of these three options.
We were worried about finding parking in central Birmingham and have only discounted the public transport alternative on the grounds that I can’t walk more than a few steps in these boots, oh and there is no bus until Monday. Internet searches suggest it will cost us £12 to park, so we are pleased to find a £4 option, even though this now means that we are parked in a large muddy puddle. Birmingham Symphony Hall, where the graduation is taking place, is impressive, as is the surrounding area. I have been given the responsibility of bringing safety pins. As always I have forgotten to bring a handbag. I’m not sure I can even remember where any handbag I own is. I have therefore pinned various safety pins inside my coat. In the event, these are not needed but if my coat falls open it does give rather a strange impression.
An enthusiastic gentleman representing the Open University Alumni offers Martha a badge and a draw ticket for a bottle of champagne. I comment that I appear to have dropped off the OU radar as they now seem to have no record of my having been either one of their students or indeed lecturers. I don’t take this personally, it is apparently something to do with a fire at HQ. I obviously look trustworthy as the man proffers a badge for me too. Wow, this makes it worth paying exorbitant sums in order to spend two hours clapping people we don’t know and 15 seconds watching Martha scuttle across a stage, trying to look unobtrusive. Not that I would have missed it because she’s done brilliantly to get the degree in the first place and then to brave her un-favourite activity, being the centre of attention.
We take our seats in the auditorium, having deposited Martha at her entrance. We are in the second row of the top balcony. This would give us a great view if the person in front wasn’t standing up. I am sandwiched between this idiot and someone in the row behind who is banging out a rhythm on the back of my seat, not quite in time with the organ recital that is the ‘warm-up’ for the ceremony. There is obviously no requirement for the nearest and dearest of OU graduates to possess anything resembling a brain.
The first group of graduates are presented by an OU big wig who is doing her very best to introduce graduate number 200 with the same enthusiasm as she did the first. This is indeed a great deal of enthusiasm – Joyce Grenfell would have been proud. Martha is near the end and the person introducing her half has obviously decided that rivalling her colleague’s level of enthusiasm is going to be a challenge, so she is altogether more low key. Graduates have been asked to provide hints if their surname is difficult to pronounce. Not thinking that Barnard is likely to present many problems, Martha has neglected to do this. This was an oversight. Martha is now related to that little known French family the Bear – naaards.
Our plan to graduate first, partake of ‘free’ refreshment second, was a good one as the queues have subsided. We avail ourselves of Danish pastries and enormous chocolate muffins. Not content with this, we adjourn to a superior burger chain for more food.