I have a long-standing love affair with Bristol. When I think about it, the Wills Memorial Building, which takes pride of place at the top of Park Street, is the recurring motif. When I first saw it, for my interview, to be granted a place in the Law Faculty – sometime in November 1974 – on a grey and chilly day, I was intimidated by its grandeur.
But a place I obtained and, from that moment, the events of this week had a sort of inexorable feel about them. But first a trip down memory lane to a more sepia-tinged age.
What would you say these four people are thinking? Pride, certainly, from those on the far left and right. Anxiety of a parental faux pas from the begowned one in the middle and boredom from the other middle-man. The building behind is obviously grand if a bit stained and there’s some sort of aircon unit stuck on the side. The grass look a tad tired too.
Obtaining a degree in law in 1979 was no mean achievement and rightly celebrated. But back then, as we hurtled from the winter of strikes and discontent into the evisceration of most things on the altar or Thatcherism, the stability of getting a degree was a small oasis of calm. Terrorist had bombed the main stations at Victoria and Paddington, inflation was soaring and the idea of buying your own home something of a pipe dream. 21 people applied for every job available. Youthful optimism was tempered but not destroyed. There was a future, albeit uncertain.
The Textiliste, who appears in the above has never been one to get too het up. The sun will probably rise and then let’s see where we are, would have been and still is her motto. Enjoy the day. Carpe whatever is going.
The year before that old picture above, this ridiculous fop
passed through the same portal on his way to a degree in law with a similar anxiety that his parents didn’t let him down and and an unrestrained optimism that it’d be fine. Whatever it was. You can see the graduations then were sparse affairs with none of the fripperies of today.
Maybe if I’d been more dog, back then…? Mum would have understood. Or maybe it was the Bristolian air that does that to you, brings out the puppy. It has always been inspiring and welcoming, at least I think so. I love going back.
Thursday was therefore a day of contrasts. It was a watershed; a day that marked the end and also the beginning.
The end of trips up and down the M4 with packed cars and maudlin Dog forced to sit in the boot for three hours; the end of reprising my three glorious years of growing up and seeing a different future to the parochial corners of the New Forest. The end of academic holidays dictating family events. The end of children in the pre-gainful employment phase of their lives.
But very much a beginning. The beginning of a new professional career. The beginning of another chapter in our family’s endeavours.
And a mere blip on the continuum that is ‘Dad, can I grab a lift…?’ It remains in the top five questions asked of a parent of the post-tween child, along with ‘What’s for dinner?’ ‘What are you wearing?’ ‘Do you have to dance?’ and ‘What do you mean, you’ll be away?’
The Vet graduated on Thursday
The degree was awarded in the same Great hall where I and the Textiliste received our degrees.
Much was made this time of celebration and enjoyment, whooping and hollering being encouraged. Not so much back in the 1970s. It was a poignant reminder of tradition though.
Vets do things to the max so the formalities continued necessitating an unholy dash across the Somerset countryside to the Vet hospital at Langford where the Vets were admitted to their profession.
They all stood and took the oath, which ends with…
‘And above all my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care.’
No, I wasn’t exactly dry-eyed.
She has lovely friends and we met their parents and swapped stories over strawberries and cream. I did that, in 1978. I sat on the grass as my parents positively glowed and was pleased they were there. I realised they couldn’t embarrass me because their delight was so genuine, so patent.
The Vet hugged everyone; so did I. maybe I overshared but what the heck. The buttons on my shirt were bursting with delight.
We took many photos as you will have seen as you’ve scrolled down this far. This one attempted to reprise the one at the top.
I rather failed to mimic my father in law’s pose. Though the others captured the essence I think. Oh well. He’d have understood; we both could barely keep still so much did we love the moment. One I will remember while I can still remember.