Friday, 19 July 2013

Do Different


So today was Pascoe’s graduation and as I sat clapping faintly for the hour-long ceremony, I fixed on the University of East Anglia motto:

“Do Different”

2013 is the anniversary of a university which came into being only fifty years ago and really kicks ass.  UEA opened with tiny numbers of undergraduates in 1963 and two of them were back today – my idol Rose Tremain is now the Chancellor and John Rhys-Davies, at 6’2” the world’s tallest dwarf (Gimli in Lord of the Rings), was receiving an honorary doctorate.

Graduation is exactly the kind of large set piece event which can easily descend into farce.  The sure sign of this is that some of the mums were wearing hats – if an occasion is sufficiently formal for hats then it can slip on a banana skin.

But it didn’t: UEA “Did Stylish” and the ceremony was smooth, pacey and unpretentious with an elegant drinks reception afterwards.   My favourite part was the speech by Rhys-Davies.  It was a distillation and fusion of my two favourite speech genres: the Successful Old Boy’s Prize-giving Speech and the Old Actor’s Anecdotal Speech.  In a matter of seconds we had slid from “You should plan where you want to be in ten years’ time.”  (Successful Old Boy) to “My poor friend, John Denver, died because he was flying a plane he wasn’t used to.” (Old Actor’s Anecdotal).

As far as I’m concerned, today UEA demonstrated its ability to “Do Brilliant”.

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