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Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Graduate

"Née" is not something one comes across that often. In fact, unless you're a registrar, a vicar, priest, a genealogist or someone in the legal business, I suspect most of us wouldn't see a "nee" from one year to the next.

So imagine my surprise when I went to register at my old College's Alumni Weekend last Saturday. There was my name tag:
(Née Nelson)
 Mathematics & Physics, 1969
King's College London. "

As I collected my name tag from the absurdly young post doctoral helper, I mentioned my surprise but declined their offer to delete the "NN", as I thought it might be an ice breaker when meeting equally aged alumni.

The thing was I'd picked up my name tag rather late in the day. This was Saturday early evening and I'd already attended a couple of events being held that weekend.

On Friday, the missus and I had joined a group of fellow college grads on a guided tour of the British Museum's "Pompeii and Herculaneum" blockbuster exhibition. Frankly, it's not up to much and as we'd done the two sites and visited the Naples museum where many of the exhibits hailed from there was little that was new. Our guide - a Professor of Roman History at King's - described the exhibits in a tone of constant disappointment and frustration. We found out why meeting up with him after the tour. 

The whole thing was most unprofessional. The guy who'd curated the event wasn't even a expert in the field - the organisers hadn't even bothered to involve our professor who was an expert in the field of Roman homesteading. It was amateurish and rather vulgar. Who, in their right minds, would try to describe a Roman villa as if it were a Wimpey home. It was just too much. And where were the slaves - nothing about them - yet Romans were surrounded by the blighters, you couldn't move without tripping over them. No, it was all rather disappointing.

On Saturday, in the afternoon, I went to the Physics Department's Open Day - more 3/4 hr actually, but that's  relativistic physicists for you. 

The Physics Department was on the 7th floor with fabulous views across the campus leading to the Embankment and the Thames. All glass and airy, nothing like the poky, dim labs we inhabited back in the Dark Ages. They were fabulous hosts: physicists like to drink. There was wine aplenty and it was taking a good thrashing from the 20 or so alumni there. I arrived a few minutes after the start by which time most of the guests and staff were pissed. Try talking to an inebriated 70 year old about quantum tunnelling and see where it gets you. 

After that, a friend and I met up for "Opera in the Chapel". It was then I retrieved my name tag. The chapel at King's is High Victoriana - a cross between a bordello and St Pancras station. We were entertained by the King's College choir: I have mentioned them in a recent blog mainly because of their youth and beauty. My companion was entranced by it all. I was abashed to have mistaken a "young" woman as an alumni when in fact she was there with her daughter who was studying at King's. She had been born the year I graduated!

Which takes us to Sunday and a pre-recorded performance of Richard Strauss's " Ariadne auf Naxos" - no, I'd never heard of it before. We booked two tickets and a vegan hamper - as the recording was from Glynebourne we felt we had to get into the spirit of the thing.

We found ourselves in the old Anatomy Lecture Theatre, with steeply banked seating which meant that everyone had an unobstructed view of the action. As my friend pointed out that was much better than the opera house, and at a fraction of the cost. 

Directly in front of me was a familiar face. No name, nor where I knew that face from, but he was familiar. I asked whether he'd been in the Treasury or the Ministry of Justice. He replied the Ministry of Justice just as the lights went down. 

After the first Act, we had a break for our hamper: except they didn't have one for us! The very helpful, young and extremely attractive post grad helpers rustled up a non vegan offering which my friend couldn't partake in. She had to be content with the bottle of sparkling wine. After eating (me) and drinking (she) in the chilly outdoors - well, we were virtually at Glynebourne - we headed back to the warmth of the Theatre and the second act. And met up with the recognised face. In the interval, I'd placed him. He was the lawyer who advised us on judges' pensions in the far off days of 2004 -6 when we spent endless meetings trying to figure out how to give the judges a wad of dosh without upsetting Gordon Brown, then the Iron Chancellor. 

We briefly exchanged anecdotes about the joys of working in a lunatic asylum - he, I discovered, is still penned up there. He wasn't an alumni of King's but his wife was having done some post graduate work whilst bringing up a family and stroking hubby's furrowed brow after a long day at the office dealing with the judiciary.

The opera was excellent. And King's came up trumps. As we left my vegan friend was presented with three pieces of fruit and a freshly made salad. 

The whole Alumni weekend was great fun and I wrote to the College thanking them for their efforts: hoping that they'd remember my kind words when they start devising next year's do and provide me with free tickets to the President's Lunch in the Inns of Court.  


Steve said...

"...a cross between a bordello and St Pancras station" - hmm. Some kind of business opportunity there methinks.

Bojo said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge of bordellos. Always got a bad press.

Anonymous said...

No doubt your knowledge of physics equipped you well to sort out the beaks' pensions. PS very gallant of you to change your name on marriage

Jack the Hat said...

Operate under an alias? Useful down some parts of East London.

JoJo said...

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the student and tutor reunion
Is only a motion away, oh, little darling of mine

Marginalia said...

Dear Steve, yes I thought it might fit nicely in my "Sin and Sex in London" tour.

Dear Bojo, I'm more familiar with St Pancras actually.

Dear Anon, it's more compound interest and mortality rates than coefficients of viscosity but fun all the same.

Dear Jack the Hat, the sex change helps as well.

Dear JoJo, you're wasted at No 10. You'd do better in the schoolyard.