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Friday, 29 March 2013

The Graduate

You know how sometimes what people say can become extremely annoying. To such an extent that you just have to switch off.

"Pointless" is a quietly amusing quiz game, with a quirky raison d'etre . To win you have to get the lowest score. With Alexander Armstrong as compare and Richard Osman as the invigilator, they potter along pleasantly, making funny quips in between the rounds. Contestants are in pairs and after a series of knockout rounds the final pair have an opportunity to win a underwhelming pot of dosh.

It was, for me, a harmless way to pass half an hour, except......I became aware of Alexander's and Richard's habit of commending almost any answer given by the contestants. The constantly recited ""Very, well done" and the equally "Great answer, Beryl" or who ever they might be started to get my goat. And you know the more I listened out  for those annoying expressions the more I discovered. My pet hate became the "Very, very,very well done" exclamation from Osman, if anyone so much as got within a gnat's piss of getting something right. Oh and Armstrong's "You both played brilliantly" when a couple of tossers managed to scrape through into the next round. It's got so bad that I'd listen out for the expressions and swear at the TV. I reckon at least 50% of the programme is spent on these worthless phrases.

Although I was relieved to see that one couple managed to win £24k at the beginning of March. Well it was getting rather embarrassing.

Which brings me to the subject of deserved praise.

Last Monday I attended the Principal's Concert at my old alma mater. I joined the alumni society 43 years after I left. Having attended a friend's alumni do a year or so back and greatly enjoyed it, I thought I might be missing out.

The concert was held in the college chapel - I don't recall ever having been there when I was an undergraduate. Having never gone back since I graduated I found the experience quite disorientating. The large marble stair case and the huge entrance hall looked vaguely familiar: I now remember going through it on the way down to the student bar, the refectory was off to the left I think. The chapel was on the second floor.

When I arrived there were lines of grizzled faced folks: we'd all been given identity tags. I was Barry Coidan Maths/Physics 1969 - the year I graduated. Others were Dr this and Professor that and Sir and Dame something or other. I did feel having  slightly underachieved.

We were there to hear the College Choir and Orchestra perform Mozart's Mass. We were ushered in to the chapel,  seated and then the choir and orchestra entered. Rows upon rows of extremely young looking and very beautiful men and women, entered, all in black with a self prepossession I'd have died for at their age.

The Principal got up and spoke about the history of the college and  the value of the alumni - especially if you're dead and have left money to the college. Apparently, our gifts enable the college to offer scholarships to the less well off - I felt a warm glow at that point.

We were then addressed by the President of the Students' Union: a History graduate with a long political life ahead of him. He was confident, articulate and extremely well dressed. In my day he was dirty, drunk and long haired.

And onto the music. Mozart's Mass rocks - especially this production. It was fabulous. Being 6 inches away from the orchestra helped. One rather disconcerting thing happened. There was a rather fetching oboist, who was really swinging. She seemed to always be looking in my direction and smiling.

This generated a number of conflicting emotions. First, the dirty old man syndrome - OK I'm 65 but I've all my hair and it's a sexy grey and I keep myself fit. So she fancies me. Next the guilt - I am a dirty old man. Then the reality check - she's looking at someone else behind me, what an arrogant idiot I am.She was - her parents were directly behind me.

Luckily my attention was taken by a statuesque soloist, with a divine voice and an even more divine body. I was beginning to see why these concerts were so popular with the older alumni.

After the concert we were invited to drinks and canapes to chat with our contemporaries and today's undergrads. I met one contemporary, except he graduated the year I went up. After I described the green eggs we were fed in digs and he described having to stand to eat supper  in his digs we had nothing else to share. I spoke with a woman and her husband. She graduated in music in 1986 and he in Maths the same year. On the walls of the reception room were Maxwell's equations for electromagnetic  propogation; neither he nor I could remember their detail.

I began talking to a few of the current undergraduates. They were all music scholars  - which meant that we, the alumni, had helped pay for their education. None frankly looked or spoke as if they needed any financial help. One of the soloist, a very striking young man with a deep voice, when asked about why he was doing music explained that he had been a chorister at St George's Chapel, Windsor and had sung at Charles and Camilla's wedding. He was off to do an MA in singing at the Royal College of Music.

Foolishly I asked another scholar what grades he'd had to achieve to get into the Music Faculty. Two A's and a B. He'd taken five A levels including Maths and Latin along with Music. Now, he said ominously, you'd need 3 As or 2 As and A star to even begin to be considered.

It's only after I left that I recalled I had been on the second floor once before.

My parents were away when I received my A level results and I had a girl friend in Brighton. My grades were enough to get me into the university and the Brighton College of Technology to study computer sciences. I took the opportunity of my parents' absence to reject the university place and accept the Brighton offer - so I could be with my girl friend.

When, on their return,  my parent discovered what I had done they went ape shit. A letter and series of phone calls to the university resulted in a trip to London and a visit to the sub dean of the Science Faculty. An examination of my grades, general intellectual capacity and a guaranteed grant from the East Sussex Education Authority saw my rejection of a place overlooked. As a result I spent the next 3 years in London and my hot relationship with my girlfriend in Brighton burnt out.

Life's funny that way. She married a police sergeant - my Brighton bird. That could have been me, running the police computer service and walking the dog along the promenade. Makes you think, doesn't it.


Steve said...

A swinging oboist? Now there's an entry for my bucket list. As for Pointless... such unthinking pleasantries are the bane of such shows. I can remember Jim Bowen on Bullseye in the 70's telling a contestant who had just answered the question "so what do you for a living" with "I'm unemployed" his week-in week-out catchphrase: "Ooh that's smashing - great".

Anonymous said...

Or you could have ended up as a dirty old man flashing what remains of your manhood on the Brighton front.....

Marginalia said...

Dear Steve, 70's TV: if there was ever a subject for a PhD, that is it.

Dear Anon,not in this weather!😁

Bojo said...

Very, very, very good piece.

Marginalia said...

Dear Bojo, an excellent comment.

louciao said...

Very, very, very well done! Or as every parent in North America now exclaims to every action or inaction on the part of their under-10 year old child, "Good job!"
(eg. "You peed on the carpet but you missed Mummy's shoes. Good job!!!")

John Medd said...

And yet I find myself drawn to it. Glasses man was at the Boat Race today such was the BBC's haste to scrape the bottom of the barrel in their banal 'run-up' to the 'main event'. Apparently he learned to say 'very well done' at Cambridge.

Marginalia said...

Dear louciao, too much praise not enough birch: that's what's wrong with today's under tens.

Dear John, thanks for dropping by.Serves him right: Oxford eon.

Nota Bene said...

If you'd arrived in Brighton as a student, you would never have is full of people who did that.

Marginalia said...

Dear NB, the thing was I lived in Brighton (well Hove actually) with my parents.I suspect they were also keen to get me out of their hair for a few years.

Bojo said...

Great place for a dirty weekend and putting your spade in the bucket.

Marginalia said...

Filth. I knew nothing about that sort of thing. Certainly not in Hove.