I can't believe its over. I have waited so long to graduate, finishing my degree last year, booking up Ely cathedral for my graduation ceremony and looking on my calendar as the day grew ever closer ... And now its gone!!
It was such a wonderful day. The Open University organised everything so well. There was not a moment when I didn't know what to do or where to go and the volunteers in Ely were friendly, enthusiastic and reassuring.
My husband dropped me at the cathedral where the tents of a small fete nestled on the grass in the shadow of the huge old building. I made my way to the first of two marquees and registered, then went through to the robing area.
It was there that the enormity of the day hit me. A lady handed me my academic gown and hood,pointing me towards a gentleman who was there to help me dress correctly. As he placed the gown around my shoulders I felt the tears began to fall. I couldn't speak and I couldn't see. As he attached the blue hood he smiled "I hope those are happy tears ..."
"I'm so sorry" I managed to sob "Its just been such a long time coming ..."
He was so lovely, making me smile with his understanding words and suggesting I now do my Masters ... "You have got to be kidding!!". I stepped out into the cathedral grounds and found a quiet corner where I turned my back on the thronging crowds of graduates and let myself have a quiet weep.
And then I phoned my husband, who obviously told me I was a complete wuss and laughed at me! Fair enough I thought! So those were my final tears. From that moment I decided to enjoy every second. I had almost forgotten to have my official photo taken - so busy was I with the whole crying thing!!
For my official photo I wore my mortar board and I assume those photos will turn up soon. When they do I shall post them! Fortunately I wore waterproof mascara so I am hoping I don't look too tear stained! The photographer made me laugh so I think I probably look happy.
I met up with my husband and boys and headed off for refreshments.The Open University had organised sandwiches, water, crisps and fruit at the Hayward Theatre. You could also buy champagne and strawberries so my man and I had champers and my boys had strawberries and cream. Yum!
In the cathedral I found my seat, just behind the people who had gained Masters. My family took their seats a little further down the aisle. It was just lovely to see so many people - all ages, dressed in their academic gowns, gathered together, excitedly awaiting their big moment. Some had taken 3 years, some 6, some 20, but all had juggled home, work, family to achieve their qualification and now the moment had come when they could have their work publicly acknowledged.
I sat next to a very nice lady who also had teenage boys with her and we giggled about the trauma of teenage children. We gasped in amazement when a man was presented with his PhD for a work on something so complicated we couldn't even understand the title of his thesis, never mind what was in it and decided he must have a brain the size of a planet!! We felt really quite thick at that point!
Then came our turn. We were ushered up to the stage while Alumni helpers sorted out our gowns and gently moved us into position. Lord David Puttnam, the Chancellor of the Open University stood on the stage, beaming with happiness and as my name was called I stepped up and walked across to him to shake hands. I was determined to take my time, look him in the eye and smile, and that was what I did!!
My lovely new shoes were like comfy slippers and although I don't often wear heels I strode across that stage with confidence. I smiled and smiled and smiled and as I shook Lord Puttnam's hand and he looked me in the eye I thought "Yes. This is it. At last!" I nearly wobbled then, but took a deep breath and smiled again. As I walked down the side of the church back to my seat I went past my family and I don't think I have ever seen them look as happy or excited. I did a quick jig and waved my arms in the air and then off I went.
Every single person who went on that stage was met with thunderous applause, some cheers and a massive smile. Lord Puttnam was fantastic and the whole ceremony was something I will never forget. The cathedral is a stunningly beautiful place - definitely worth waiting for.
We left the cathedral, walking into bright sunshine. Typically most of the photos are on my husband's camera so I haven't been able to upload them yet, but I will.
I am so grateful that I have been able to do this. I would not have done it if my sister in law had not pointed me in the right direction.I have had support from friends both online and in the real world. And I could not have done it if I hadn't had the love and support of my lovely, lovely husband. He has put up with my doubts and fears and he has encouraged me every inch of my journey. He has given me time and space and hasn't taken me too seriously when I have had melt downs!! I am a very lucky woman.