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On Saturday I found myself surrounded by a room full of high achievers. The event was my Open University’s graduation ceremony in Birmingham. If I’m honest I wasn’t convinced that it would be that great an event. 90 minutes of clapping other people, punctuated by a brief walk across a stage to shake a hand didn’t sound too exciting. But my wife, who already has 2 degrees, convinced me that I would regret not going to it, so I signed up and booked my gown.

My parents came down to stay with us for the weekend, and my sister came up for a family lunch. After collecting my gown we popped into the new Library of Birmingham to take some photos. As an aside I would definitely say that a trip to the library is well worth it. There has been quite a lot of controversy since the decision to build the new library was made, but whatever you think of it there is no denying that it is an impressive looking building inside and out. As another aside, I can also recommend Purnell’s Bistro who offer a £20 set menu 3 course lunch. The food was fantastic there, and the service spot on; attentive but not overbearing. The waiter also quite obligingly took some family photos.

The graduation ceremony was held in the Birmingham Symphony Hall. Us graduands (I had never heard this term before) were all sat in degree and alphabetical order in the stalls and our guests filled up the balconies. The OU’s vice-chancellor gave a really entertaining speech which included a short video showing how previous graduates had chosen to cross the stage to collect their award. From those who chose to run, dance or in one case doing the ‘caterpillar’ there was clearly an expectation that the event shouldn’t be a sombre or stately affair. Families were also encouraged to make as much noise as possible, and most took up the challenge with gusto to the delight, and in some cases embarrassment of the graduates.

It was great to see that Professor Jim Al-Khalili was also there to receive an honourary doctorate. The speech introducing him took ages as he has a lot achievements to list, by the end of it I did think about quipping “is that all?”. I’m assuming that if you live in England you have seen one of Jim’s science programmes. I try to listen to his ‘Life Scientific’ radio programme on a Tuesday evening. The guests are always really fascinating people who are experts in their field. It was a bit of an honour for us to hear his speech, and it being in the middle of the ceremony, made for a nice punctuation between all the clapping of each graduate. At the end of our ceremony (I didn’t caterpillar across the stage in case you were wondering), we got another inspiring talk from the vice-chancellor who sent us forth into the world with a spring in our step knowing that we had achieved something significant.

The weekend was topped off nicely to find that some of my photos had been used in an article that my wife had written for the Sunday Times. this was her first commission for the paper and three of my photos accompanied the piece. if you have a subscription to the Times, you can read the article here.

All in all I was pretty proud this weekend.

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