The sun was shining. I had a work free day so decided to take myself off to Durham.
It’s not far so a morning wandering around the old streets lured me.
It’s a beautiful city of which Bill Bryson said, when he first visited ” why did no one tell me about this place ?”
I parked by the river , a car park which, for that time of day, seemed surprisingly active , and headed for the cathedral.
As I wandered along the cobbled streets I became increasingly aware of the number of , what looked like parents. And smartly dressed too. And here’s me thinking uni was done for the Summer. And then they started appearing . . . The graduation gown clad students. Let the Grad Watch commence.
As I walked towards the Cathedral green I could see that obviously this was the focus of proceedings. The marquees set up for collecting gowns, having the obligatory photo taken and parent’s ticket collection were busy. The green outside the grand old house of prayer was full of proud families taking photos of their offspring. There were parents there who barely spoke the language as their child had decided to fly to the other side of the world to study in one of arguably England’s finest universities and today was their one chance to visit this fine old city.
The weather was warm so Fathers’ suit jackets were already abandoned and the glamorous but impractical shoes on the Mothers were proving wrong for Durham’s cobbled streets.
The graduation robes were long, black and warm but that didn’t matter at all as the excitement built as they waited in line to file into the cathedral for the second ceremony of the day.
I approached a steward to ask if mere mortals could get into the cathedral and was directed to the tradesman’s entrance. This took me to the beautiful cloisters, and walking through them I immediately felt like a muggle extra from the Harry Potter film that was shot in there, as black robed cathedral staff and graduates swooped past me.
The whole of this small but perfectly formed city took on a feeling of muted celebration as cafe after cafe was full of robes and their parents. The expensive clothes and shoes and accessories on the older generation could not detract from the look of finality on their child’s face as they realised that that’s the end. The end of those days of studying, partying, rising at noon, wearing shorts and flip flops all day, not really answering to anyone in your uni cocoon and spending all your time with friends. The graduation ceremony with all it’s splendour , pomp, historical ritual and dressing up was the end. Tomorrow a new page is turned and Durham will become a memory.