Relaxation By Degrees

Here in the office we’re still watching colleagues vanish for a week or two, then return tanned, glowing and full of anecdotes, whether of holiday hiccups or memories to treasure. Some weeks ag I took a week’s holiday to do my favourite thing of the year, though I didn’t travel anywhere. As part of Dundee’s University choir I attended the graduation ceremonies in the city’s Caird Hall. The choir sang the well-known “Gaudeamus Igitur” as university and city officials processed in, and then sang a piece before the end of each ceremony.I love it. For three days we have the privilege of watching onstage, so the best seats in the house! as hundreds of young and not-so-young people celebrate the result of years of hard work. Row upon row of nervous, excited faces look up at the dignitaries and lecturers, including Lord Patel, chancellor of the university, Dundee’s Lord Provost, and the university rector, actor Brian Cox. Above and behind them, filling the hall, are family and friends, providing a colourful backdrop to the academic gowns.The ceremonies run like clockwork. Row by row, the graduands file up at the side of the stage before their name is called and they receive the ceremonial tap on the head with the blue Dundee bonnet. They cross the stage some nervously; more than a few wishing they had chosen more sensible footwear; some confidently waving to family up in the gallery. One young man a few years ago was so nervous he crossed from one side of the stage to the other without waiting for Lord Patel to administer the tap!It’s wonderful to watch them. Here are the world’s future doctors, scientists, teachers. We can reflect on the years of study, of application, of friends made and no doubt student high jinks, too! All culminating in this one ceremony. And radiating down upon it all is the pride of those watching parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, partners. It’s impossible not to be caught up in the joy.When the ceremony is over the choir retires, hands sore from applauding, outside into the packed city square, which is filled with sound of bagpipes as the new graduates are reunited with family and pose for pictures, if the Scottish weather has been kind to them. For us, there’s time for a quick bite to eat before the next ceremony.It’s not everyone’s idea of a perfect summer break, but I find I return to work rejuvenated and thrilled at having been permitted to share their special day.