Commencement – London in January

This blog was supposed to begin life in early January but had stiff competition from other time consuming pursuits namely those related to work and to the annual early January obsession with gyms and aspirational new life styles. There was an added note of urgency to the reigning in of my hedonistic passions this year as I wanted to attempt to look a little younger at my graduation ceremony on the 23rd January in the Rose Theatre, Kingston. It was to be the culmination of two years of part time study and travel between Kerry and Kingston, enduring the claustrophobic confines of Ryan Air and late night angst as the dissertation deadline loomed.

It was also a triumph of folly over reason, of spirit over reality. The first two weeks of the new me were difficult but were showing results. I had waved a fond farewell to the Chablis and Sancerre in the early hours of January 1st aided hugely by aversion therapy after massive overindulgence over the season. I promptly turned up at my local gym BTS fitness and was put through my paces by the very fabulous Silvia, whose toned physique and boundless energy got this devotee of lounging to spend a few hours a week hauling kettle bells and donning boxing gloves. I had also given up the consolations of consulate, the menthol friends that have been a constant in my life.

Naturally, by all the laws of nature , I was a little lighter and a lot fresher as I boarded the flight to London Luton accompanied by my mother an the afternoon before graduation. Despite gloomy predictions of snow blizzards and arctic conditions from weather reports and of course Sky News, we arrived with ease to a bitterly cold but snow-free Ebury Street, Victoria. This is a great location for a sojourn in London and I can’t recommend the Lime Tree Hotel enough, located as it is next to a fabulous bistro, The Ebury Wine Bar and on the doorstep of Elizabeth Street with its designer shops and rarefied village appeal. The Hotel is a little gem with really helpful staff, a taste of Made In Chelsea for those of us without trust-funds, ideal for myself as I do like the champagne lifestyle on a beer budget.

When my sisters flew in from Dublin that evening and arrived at eleven to the hotel, I allowed my hedonistic self to re- emerge and nourish herself after the gulag of the previous few weeks. There was nothing for it but to run around the corner to Boisdales Of Belgravia, one of my finds over the course of my studies. A couple of cocktails later and I was singing along with the jazz band and even worried in the manner of a stray dog’s effect on sheep, a young musician from Queens New York. I kept repeating that I knew the area well, as if I was google earth in human form, albeit that very delectable form that I feel after one too many hendricks. It came to pass that my vision of waking on the graduation day- performing a few sun salutes, then meditating for twenty minutes on the meaning of Art in life, then dressing and resembling Dita Von Teese -didn’t come to pass.

Instead I found myself in Clapham Junction wearing snow boots with my new body-con dress, also accessorised with a camel hair polo neck and a very loud leopard print coat. The rest of my gear was carried in a black holdall, not unlike a kit bag. The dream of floating effortlessly to Kingston in my high heels and a clutch bag was not to be. Instead I shuffled through the cold station with the swagger of a blubbery inuit on the frozen Alaskan plains. After queuing for caps and gowns and other discombobulating stuff in the JG building, I was plucked from the misery of walking to the town for lunch by Dominic Bury, one of the young boys from my class. This dapper poet transported me in his mini-cooper to the restaurant where I was meeting one of my tutors for lunch. Climbing out of the mini and waving goodbye to the bespectacled hipster definitely made me feel a lot younger.

After a glass of bubbly with Rachel Cusk, combined with interesting discussion, I emerged to take my place at graduation. It was a really special day and I really enjoyed the upbeat and positive talk given by Wendy Perriam who received an honorary doctorate that day. Graduation speeches are extremely important and set the right note and are always remembered by the graduates afterwards. My all time favourite commencement address is by the inimitable David Foster Wallace in ‘This is Water’.

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