From Jester To King LXXXIV
By Simon Barget
My graduation was a topsy-turvy affair, all a bit awry. In the moments when I was supposed to be receiving the degree, I was still in the midst of doing it. For example that never-ending history coursework and assignment I’ve previously spoken about; I was in the classroom and they were handing it back and lo and behold they’d given me a 5. I had no faith in the intellectual rigour of this university and this is why I’d not taken them seriously. There was no way I could have got a 5, I’m terrible at history, and what a cop-out just to mark things out of 5 anyway so you only had to award one of five marks – presumably nobody got a zero – and it’s not to say I wasn’t delighted and was actually intending to draw their attention to the mistake, but I felt that it didn’t have the weight I hoped for and was pretty much moot. And when they handed it out there was another piece of unclaimed coursework just lying on the desk, no name on the front, and it was as if this unnamed person was confirming my suspicion that the grading was suspect and that he was going to vote with his feet by refusing to receive it. I kept looking at the 5 to check it was really on my paper, and yet every time I looked it was there, a delicious 5/5 crowned in a pencilled circle. But you see the abiding message of this marking palaver, the abiding feeling I have as I write this is that all the marks and the courses, the assignments and the grading, they were just an excuse for coming closer to people, for chatting and laughing, making jokes, perhaps even flirting, and I felt so apart in that classroom, I was so immersed in the work and the marking, that even if I’d wanted to mix more with my degree group, I wouldn’t have known how. And it was as if in confirmation of this sentiment when one of the teachers came up complaining of my behaviour in German -- she didn’t like the way I interrupted and answered too quickly, not giving anyone a chance -- basically she was saying I was a cocky little arsewipe, because when she said it I knew it immediately to be true, I felt so ashamed, and I suppose I’d thought that the behaviour had gone unnoticed, or that I’d been given a pass because it was amusing or affected, but not at all, and here was the upbraiding and another reminder of how I’d not settled in with my cohort, how I was not able to connect with them, and I felt sick and in shock and just wanted to erase it. And that’s pretty much when the graduation happened. We all filed out to the courtyard for the photos, but by the time I’d managed to gather my senses and see what was happening, by the time I’d managed to pick up the coursework after having looked at the mark one final time, the main core of the group had disappeared and by the time I reached the photographer I was the only one there. And how was I supposed to conjure up a happy demeanour, one befitting of the university graduation, full of promise and good cheer and hope for the future, how was I supposed to do this cast out on my own, down in the dumps, all lost at sea, how was I supposed to do myself justice? But I step up to the rostrum and the lone photographer, an Indian gentleman, offers me either the ‘sitting for £20’ or the ‘standing for £50’ and though I’d inwardly decided to go with the cheapest no matter the bells and whistles he claimed came with the £50, something made me reconsider, something telling me that I could be good to myself no matter what they said or thought about me, and so with gritted teeth I step up to the platform, and I don’t remember him taking the photo, but I feel I’d at least done myself a moderate good turn.