We might as well talk about matriculation, which happened last Saturday. Unlike high school, where we “matriculated” at the end of 12th grade, first years matriculate at Oxford to become full, official junior members of the university. This meant that we had to put on our subfusc – white shirts, black skirts or suits, velvet ribbons (women) or white bow ties (men) – and our gowns and carry mortar boards in our hands.
It meant walking down to the Exam Schools (the usual venue, the Sheldonian, alas, is closed for repairs) led by the famous translator of Anselm and the Desert Fathers, Sister Dr. Benedicta Ward, and being lined up like sardines inside the large writing hall (carpeted floors, powdered blue ceilings, the single portrait of Sweden’s favorite king trapped behind a projector screen) to await the ceremony along with the thousands of other first years who trooped into the hall in shifts.
The Vice Chancellor came in, we peered over shoulders, he waved his cap at us, recited a few lines in Latin – hocus, pocus, quanta, esse, universitas, matriculam - waved his hat again and then addressed us in English, primarily to say that this is not in fact a sardine packing factory but a dignified “rite of passage” where “you are now what you were not before”.
And then we trooped outside to catch hypothermia waiting for photographs of us looking like cold penguins and then inside for a brunch. And – I met my new friend Lois’s mother, who happens to be the lovely Angie Sage, writer of the Septimus Heap series which I read in college. A red-letter day!