Sunday, 3 July 2022

My Graduation Ceremony

 Last Thursday I finally had my PhD graduation ceremony, which was postponed because of Covid. The weather was unstable; it drizzled and then rained but finally sunny spells prevailed. My day started early as I had to be at the London Campus in Reading about two hours before the ceremony started. Everything was perfectly organised and the instructions were very clear and sent in advance. Smart clothing was required, no jeans or trainers, so I decided for navy blue trousers and a blouse with a colourful purple scarf and glass beads necklace with matching earrings. For shoes I opted for comfortable black and grey sandals with a medium heel but I forgot to apply nail polish to my toes. I felt a bit tense but also very proud of wearing the purple gown and black beret of the degree of Doctor in Philosophy. We were supposed to be five PhD students but three chose to graduate in absence.

The ceremony was simple and solemn at the same time. The vice-Chancellor introduced the celebration, we lined up and stepped to the stage when our names were called, doffed our cap to the vice-chancellor and went to take our places on stage. The other PhD student and I sat on stage while the BA students went back to their places behind the audience. We all graduated in English literature, mostly girls or women, a few were Asian or Black and there was also a Scottish guy wearing a kilt. Dresses were covered by the gown, so the most noticeable part of the outfit was the shoes, all high heels or chunky heel sandals that looked quite unstable. No wonder that some of the girls wobbled up and down the stairs to the stage. We all looked excited and happy to see our achievements celebrated. Being at the University of Reading again reminded me of all the work I carried out for my PhD and how much I learned during the course. My supervisors, Madeleine Davies and Peter Stoneley, were super as well as the examiners, Mary Morrissey and Fiona Tolan. Mary was present at the ceremony and congratulated with me at the end. I must confess I feel it is an important goal, something I did at the right time in my life when family commitments were less pressing, and I therefore had more time to pursue my passions. I know that my PhD studies improved my research skills, my understanding of literary criticism and literature and my writing as well. The whole process was so engrossing that now that it is over, I am doing my best to carry on with my studies and my writing.

My plan for the next few months is to write some more reviews and articles on topics and authors I like. I will visit my sons in the north and have a day in London to see some exhibitions and maybe attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. I am planning more crochet works, perhaps a new post-box installation with sunflowers inspired my Maria Primachenko’s flowers and some crocheted mandala, charms and hairpins I am making for friends and family I am going to visit during the summer. I would also like to visit Wisley Gardens to take inspiration from the display of flowers and plants for my paintings.

Last week I also attended two open mics, one at The Lightbox in Woking and another one at the Adelaide pub in Twickenham. Most of the fellow poets of the area were present and some of my friends from the Woking Writers Circle too. We had a good time together, chatting, catching up on our health and family life, and above all listening and cheering each other’s poetry. At the Adelaide they read poems from the Poetry Performance’s new anthology, Poems for Ukraine, which will be launched in September. The poems are poignant and moving and the edition looks superb.

Last Wednesday I met some of my fellow poets at The Keep in Guildford for the Guildford Fringe. The event was Robert Garnham’s performance Yay! The search for Happiness, a brilliant gig. I reviewed his book about a year ago, here is the link:

And I am looking forward to reading his new collection, Woodview (Beatnpress). His poems have an interesting sad undertone but are great fun too and convey great vitality. I joined the Shackalakaboomboom chanting and especially enjoyed ‘Seaside Serenade’, so typically and tenderly English with the lukewarm tea and chocolate digestives. The search for happiness seems simple and unattainable at the same time; maybe it is a compromise with our inner self and Yay! here we are to face life and enjoy it after all. 

The final poem, ‘Be Yourself’, is a celebration of life in its subtle ordinariness expressing a sense of belonging and also the awareness of being part of a community. Here is the link to the trailer of the show: 

and to the poem:

Robert will be at the Edinburgh Free Fringe from the 14th August to the 21st at 8.15, here is the link to book the tickets: 

It was a busy wonderful week full of excitement, rewarding moments and great fun. I am looking forward to my holidays to catch up on my writing, painting and crochet. I long to meet my family and friends and recharge my energies after a year of hard work but also interesting opportunities and new discoveries. 

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