"It was bizarre. . like a Masonic ritual"
". . like a secret society"
". . Harry Potter-esque"
Let's take a break from shoes, away from the series of shoe posts. Last Saturday, I embarked on the 2+hr journey up to Cambridge for my graduation. Why am I telling you the journey time. . you'll understand later. It was an insane time, and so painfully ludicrous I cannot help but laugh.
Characters of the day
Alright, we STILL are going to look at shoes. Can't help it. This was the first time D met Denise. . I was quite excited because this would be the first time D met any of my long-time friends, and this is my best friend. He was shaking his head in disbelief at us both dramatised and insane and taking photographs incessantly.
We who camwhored throughout the day-- Denise all psyched and happy with the front camera on my iPhone. She showed up in a gorgeous red cape and her 5-inch heels. Oh God. I was dead jealous that I couldn't be in shoes higher than 2-inches. Nevertheless, for photographs and for tromping down the streets of Cambridge, I still brought my 4-inch heels. D asked me, "Why didn't you bring your cobalt velvet shoes?", thinking I had brought a few changes of shoes. Well, the weather report said it would rain. And so saw the evanescence of our dreams of having Indian food on a punt. But the day was all bright and sunny. Murphy-Sod making me their poster girl, as usual. Denise also came in a gorgeous Nun Dress, stuck on amazing falsies ("because we're gonna take photos!") and curled her hair beautifully ("I woke up two hours earlier to do that!") whilst my haphazard ten-minute curling saw me burn my neck with the tong. I won't bother you with the long list of What To Wear And What Not To Wear-- like I told Kris, it is the one day you feel like a real ascetic nun. I was a little panicky even though I'd borrowed 'muted, 2-inch heels' from her; because my only white shirt has translucent sleeves, you can't wear a black shirt with a black skirt, your dresses must be dark and long-sleeved, you need permission to wear trousers. . I was giving up hope when I found my vintage chiffon dress. Purrfect.Tottering across the cobbles of memories. . .
We walked around the town taking loads of photographs-- it was Denise's first time in Cambridge after all, and she was more excited than I was, I was positive she would graduate on my behalf if she could. D and I had left the town with odd feelings attributed to unsavoury experiences so I was glad Denise was there as my cheerleader. I remember buying the leopard coat from Bebé before I left Singapore, thinking I'd wear it often, until The Mother pulled me aside and said I might get mistaken for a hooker and referenced Pretty Woman, and it was quite funny. Soon I realised that it might be a little too flamboyant for Cam (I made sure the leopard print looked expensive, not cheap) so I thought I'd reserve it for London. But you know how much walking you do in London, meaning 4-inch and up are no-nos (until the day I get a private chauffeur in my own stretch limo) which means the coat wouldn't look good with it. . which means, I never wore in once in England till the day I was going back to Cam, perhaps for the last time. Although I'm sure I will wear the coat loads in flamboyant Brighton.
We stopped by our favourite bookstore in the market where he excitedly picked up an Engels number and we went home with yet more books!
Our meticulous photographer insisted that all photos had to be taken in the sunlight. . and to his credit, they turned out wonderful.
Whilst shopping for a black winter coat with D, he asked me suspiciously. . "Why are you grinning like that" and I told him he looked like The Source Of All Evil in Charmed. I'm sure he was only looking at the gorgeous witches because he had absolutely no recollection and I tricked him it was the man in the hood without a face and he got a little. . unhappy. Before going, "It's the hot one after him! Cole!". Cole, whom I ogled at all throughout my adolescent years when Charmed was running. So, D went as The Source of All Evil, looking all mean in black. But later when he bought his umbrella, I decided he channeled Oscar Wilde, my favourite writer ever. And I proudly told Denise that I helped pick out his shoes and coat and she happily told him, "She's taking credit for your clothes". That was supposed to be between me and her!Her gorgeous, gorgeous shoes. Which D now owes me. Willingly. One more reason why I adore him so much.
We also stopped by a few stores (had to shop!) and went to pick up my hood.
I loved this vintage ambulance. . the 'for sale' notice somehow looks like 'crusade' in this configuration. . and this is the dear ol' alley that we used to take to and fro the college.Robing!
Talk about unconventional graduation shots. . . Nude pantyhose isn't exactly flattering but what choice did I have due courtesy of the To Wear list lest you are barred from graduating (and then no one would refund me my train tickets if so).
I was so grateful Denise was here. . as she meticulously helped to dress me, putting a safety pin here and a bobby pin there expertly, teaching me how to adjust my robe. I have no idea how I did it the last round last year except for vague memories of a friend helping me. Together, we huddled under a stairwell in my college and robed, as I hobbled out of a restroom with no lights. It was rather hilarious as we took this photograph, felt a little spooked out by the place and left saying, "What if it's haunted". It really felt eerie there.
The pigeonholes where I'd get loads of notices for all my parcels that had arrived. .Teatime
Really, the fare was tragic but we'll not get into that. As no loud jewelry was allowed, these were the rings I wore as a compromise to myself; but had to hide frantically when the proctors came about to inspect during the ceremony itself.Rehearsals
Now, herein begins the bizarreness. This was rehearsals in the chapel, where photography was allowed. You assemble in rows according to an earlier-delineated order, loads of Latin is chanted, go forward row by row, hold the finger of the Praelector, more Latin is chanted, your name is called, you step forth, kneel down, have your hands clasped. . even more Latin is chanted, you step back, bow, and voila. The entire proceeding within the dimmed chapel just felt bizarre, kind of like the way Matriculation felt.
Due to all the activity going about and the numerous rounds of rehearsal (lest the college gets fined), some of the photos were blurred, and Denise comforted me in her usual optimistic manner, "Don't worry, we can still see your cheekbones!". You have to laugh when you hear stuff like that.
Following which we had some spare time, and we took more photographs. Because we were both in black and looking rather menacing (or so I'd like to believe), I felt like I was channeling Phoebe during Cole's Coronation as the leader of the Underworld (complete with a Catholic priest in the background). But of course we know what happened to Cole and to them, and I don't want D to suddenly be vanquished to a wasteland. . .(And if you watched Charmed, seriously, I always thought Coop was too goody-two-shoes.) Okay, back to real life, then began The March To The Senate House (as they call it) which really felt like a run. The tights I wore were slightly slippery, and before long, all the people I was supposed to be with in the contingent had marched me by. In the cold of the autumnal evening, my frozen toes felt like they were breaking.Congregations of the Regent House
Many of us were quite upset that our college's graduation was in the evening, when it was all dark. In some sense, it is difficult to take photographs then unless you have loads of pro equipment around; but the guy standing next to me was telling me it was too late his young child needed rest so they left for Oxford and he was left graduating alone. I didn't dare to complain about photographs when I heard that. A procession marched solemnly into the Senate House, in the same fashion as they did since the University's inception. It is a good 800 years old, and there were proctors and constables wielding fancy-looking staffs. A little like a Catholic procession during a major ceremony in the Vatican.
I was all delirious and so grateful when Denise proudly presented these photos to me. Because the only shot you will ever get is yourself taken by some automatic box, there is no guarantee it'll turn out good. . . but anyway I still parted unwillingly with £40 for my 'official shot'. Which has yet to arrive.
Here I look like I am shimmering away. It's a Charmed life! Whilst watching the ceremony, Denise was pointing out cute guys and 'felt the chair next to me shake'. Because D was sniggering at her. "What am I supposed to do?", he said. Pretending to be all prim and proper and not-insane huh? Tsk tsk. Whilst she told me later, "Look at all the funny faces you both keep pulling each other! It's damn funny! I would have imagined him to be a very serious man for his age". Thank heavens, no. And back to the subject of cute guys. . we were both agreeing it's a good thing we have similar tastes in shoes but not in men. Whilst I pointed out that I keep sending D pictures of hot gorgeous women and the only gorgeous man he sends me is himself. Not fair.
It was Full Moon that night-- my favourite time of the month, thus compensating for a nighttime graduation. I wanted to take photographs with the full moon resplendent in her regalia in the background, against Great St Mary's Church and the Regent House, but as Murphy-Sod would have it, dark clouds had to obscure the moon by the time I had finished queuing up to order my official photograph.
The day before, D asked me, "So, how many meals are we gonna have?". "Three!" I went. "What? In that short span of time?". Yup, that's my life in Singapore, I remarked. (Actually I used to eat at least seven meals back home). So three it was, meaning I didn't go with red lips because I was planning to eat like a savage. Dim sum for lunch, tea reception and a hearty Italian meal at night.
Amazing pasta, loads of starters and desserts, and bubbly for everyone. . courtesy of the even-more-amazing D :) , who ensured I ate like a queen throughout my student life in Cam. . Julia joined us for dinner and we had so much fun laughing and chatting about everything from aliens to Sci Fi to art to philosophy to ancient cultures. . God, I love company like this. In some sense, this graduation was a little odd for many underlying reasons. . and then my family wasn't here when everyone else's was. But, I figured that it would be criminal for my retired parents to spend thousands of pounds to fly over for a bit just to see me graduate. I also felt that I had undersubscribed myself and was extremely lazy in the past year-- which I find impossible to forgive myself for, yet in some sense it was a sabbatical year. No mad hectic working whilst studying for me. . it was a break, and with all breaks you get new insights and a deepened understanding of what you really want. But yes, no matter what happened, my family and my aunt made the Cambridge dream possible. So did all the Giants I've met who inspired me all through my life. Thus in contrast, the two people who were missing from my undergraduate graduation ceremony made it to my Masters one.And then, disaster struck. .
The three of us hopped into a cab at before 1115, remembering that trains run to Cambridge from London all through the night without realising that it was one-way. The cab driver sniggered when we said "station" without telling us why. . how unhelpful! And at the station, Denise told me, "P I don't think the guy is taking me seriously, he said the next train to Stevenage is tomorrow". So I went to ask him. Shit. AND, every early Sunday morning, train repairs were on that route. Double shit. Graduation night and all hotels were fully booked. Triple shit. Both our iPhones were having their batteries drained from the photo rampage and social networking we were engaging in throughout the day. . and we frantically turned screen brightness to a minimum and called up as many inns as we could. But to no avail. Quadruple shit. Walked and walked and walked. And then I found a hostel that we had yet to call. Yes! They had spaces for the night! Denise said, "YHA is quite good. . I went there in Melbourne" so I trusted her. I've never dared to put up in a youth hostel. We walked in, parted with good money (D said "we could have just spent a few hours in Fez on drinks") and poor D had to share a room with five other men. Denise and I had a private room which was tinier than my dorm bathroom, and way dodgier. It felt like a real hellhole but we were laughing at how screwed up it was. . stranded in Cambridge on my graduation day. Nevertheless, we were glad for a place out of the cold, where we could research for ways to get home the next day. .
We were also slightly upset that our phone batteries were dying and we couldn't facebook or tweet about it. Talk about technology making us slaves. As I climbed up to the upper bunk, I told myself "I hope D doesn't have to climb up or he'll bump his head" and by Sod's law, he had to. We decided to take the 450am replacement bus to Stevenage and I kept telling Denise not to sleep lest we could not wake up. So we kept each other awake by vicious gossiping (about ourselves) and slapping each other's thighs. I told her, "Let's imagine we've been shot, and if we lose consciousness, we'll slip into a coma". "Stop cursing me", she said. "I'm cursing myself too!". She fell asleep but I stayed awake, as though on some kind of vigil, and then we realised she'd set her alarm to 'PM' rather than 'AM'. And the toilets, were. . oh God, disgusting. Complete with a piece of floating cabbage.
The banality of the situation made us do some 'what is the point of having smartphones' shots. . .When it was finally 415, I was worried that D couldn't wake up but to his credit, he did. We hopped onto the bus, and I was so hungry I felt so delirious and cold. So we made our way into London (on the slow train), walked into McDonalds (the only ones open). . my first visit in about three or more years. Necessary evil. Fueled up, we traveled to London Bridge where there was no direct service to Brighton! Just that week before I had read, "Never travel out of Brighton on a Sunday because it can take you hours to get back" and I smugly thought that would never happen to me. Ta-dah! Whilst boarding the train to East Croydon, we realised it stopped at every single stop. To add insult to injury I had only slept 2.5 hours the night before I graduated because I had things to do-- why is it that for every graduation I attend I sleep so little before then? And then. . . after a good 6+ hours and feeling like we'd traveled to Outer Mongolia (yes I know it doesn't exist but the surrealism makes the Outer Mongolia label feel all the more apt) I tumbled back into my flat. Home sweet home never tasted sweeter. And slept for exactly 24 hours.
Marble ink handbag; Ghost chiffon dress; Nichii tube dress; Charles & Keith signature pumps; Accessorize earrings; vintage rings and necklace