Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From 'Graduand' into a 'Graduate'

Quite why Ali's university (Kingston) wait 8 months from the end of the school year to hold their graduating ceremony is beyond me but its January 2012 and therefore time for Ali to don gown and mortar board and receive his diploma.  And of course we all aren't going to miss this for the world.

I found a short stay apartment in Lancaster Gate in a great spot opposite Hyde Park, ideal for that early morning run if you felt so inclined.  Also near the tube station so well located for public transport (and I do think armed with an Oyster Card, London is one of the world's great cities to get around in using nowt but public transport).

I had a meeting in the City and was able to rediscover the wonders of walking through the City when its not raining.  Interestingly we had lunch at a slightly up market greasy spoon (no longer run by Cypriots or Turks like when I used to work in the City in the 1970's and 1980's) that provided beer and wine instead of the traditional cuppa of my day.

Things have changed but not that much which is what I noticed wandering aimlessly back afterwards past Leadenhall Market (where the Lamb still looks good), past St Paul's (where the 'Occupy' whatever people have a tented village -- I think I recognised some of them from CND rallies, past Glastonbury Festivals and the like.  However as it was day time, nobody much was around for whatever reason.  Next down Fleet Street and past the Olde Cheshire Cheese.  Just a wonderful way to reminisce.

Great city and I do like Boris' bikes.  The blue for Barclays works well for Boris but I wonder if Red Ken gets back in he'll sell the branding concession to HSBC whose corporate colours are red.

The graduation day was something though.  Obviously Kingston treat it as a military expedition in its organisation and use the entire town really rather well.  The gowning facility was the main church in the centre of town.

Ali and his "helpers and advisors"
The ceremony was held in the Rose Theatre with each student having his or her 30 seconds in the limelight.  What struck me was the multi-ethnicity of the student intake.  This was all business students but the Dean said Kingston had 122 countries represented in their student intake.

30 seconds of fame
For those who rail at the UK being class ridden and racist, this is a telling practical counter argument and which will of course never reach the media as it supports no political agenda of any sort.  This is one of the Great things about the country -- despite all the pathetic pandering of left and right, colour ridden bigots and religious fanatics, it just gets on with it and does what it thinks is right.  I just wish the country would give praise where praise is due and not pander to what is PC at the moment.

Apparently up until the moment of the formal handshake, Ali had only been a 'graduand' -- someone who'd passed the exams but hadn't formally graduated.  From that moment on, he became a 'graduate'.  We're all thrilled for him of course.

An ex-graduand, now fully fledged graduate

The rest of the day for Ali at least was a blur with formal photos, farewells and no sleep being the order of the day ... at least for him.  For us we had lunch at Alex's favourite Kingston spot -- Nando's chicken -- and got ready for the big evening dinner.

Both Ali and Alex had met Massimo, the maitre d' at Gary Rhodes' brasserie at the Cumberland Hotel, when he'd been working in Bermuda.  Alex called Massimo and things had been set when our friend Debbie, also an ex-Bermuda and Australia hand, joined us as well.  

Massimo greeted us with some Prosecco which was nice of him and ensured we had a great dinner.  This was my first time at the hotel and it is now firmly on my list of really nice places to eat at in London, for it really was very nice indeed.  Thanks for taking care of us Massimo.

I'd been able to contact my brother Jan and all of his children, 2 of whom had been in Montenegro with Ali and I during the summer.  This time his son, Rupert, would be joining us too and he did with fiancee Tally in tow.  

The major assembly point was a couple of pubs in the West End followed by some mussels from Brussels at Belgo Centraal in Covent Garden, a great and fun place to meet, eat and drink 300+ Belgian beers.  I overheard someone asking for a Heineken to which a waiter replied as patiently as he could that there was no room for non-Belgian beers in their beer warehouse.  

The correct way to eat mussels

When Jan lived in Amsterdam back in the 1980's he'd often headed into Belgium for the mussels and said that recently the Belgians were far more likely to want to speak English to you than the Dutch who'd recently become more nationalistic.  Evidently some sort of backlash to being taken advantage of having generously opened their borders to less fortunate refugees and asylum seekers who now had become more and more active and virulent within their adopted refuge.  I can only see this sort of thing increasing and wish there was a rather more robust attitude taken in England as well.  The radical cleric issue of the moment is particularly galling and reading in one daily paper of other radical muslims turning up at all sorts of secular public meetings taking You Tube videos of participants threatening their persons and families is just the sort of thing politicians and police should deal more robustly with.  This threatening behaviour is tantamount to a denial of free speech.  Pussy footing around issues like this is one of the less desirable attributes of the country.

However it was great to catch up with everyone again.  Last time was at least 10 years ago.  I hope it won't be so long before we next meet up.

But we're off to Las Vegas now but don't expect too many details for what happens in Las Vegas, stays there!

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