luckily to avoid jail in the seven years since I started at uni, I was allowed to go back up there last Saturday and collect a free MA. This is some Cambridge scam but I'm not complaining. As my friend Alex quite rightly pointed out, because we'd already got Master of Engineering degrees when graduating the first time, surely a Master of Arts degree would make us Masters of the Universe! Most people tended to disagree.
Anyway, the whole day is about a pretty strange freemason/Priory of Sion-esque ceremony and I thought I'd demystify it with the aid of some Lego men. Maybe you're about to go through this collecting-an-MA malarky in which case let me tell you some of the tips I picked up...
You've eaten your lunch at college, you've caught up with old mates, you're all wearing ridiculous outfits hired from Ede & Ravenscroft and worked out what all the different gowns and hood colours mean. After an age the yeargroup is lined up in fours about to parade down Trumpington street. They check your socks now...
Tip 1) Earn yourself a pair of plain black socks free of charge. Because you're not allowed to wear socks that have any type of logo on display in the Senate House, wear your favourite Simpson's ones and College will give you a pair for free. They certainly won't want them back after you've worn them! Actually don't do this because it's just cheap. Tip 1) is actually bring a packed lunch of your own or eat out!
You've paraded down Trumpington Street. Now for the main event.
Below is roughly what it looks like in the Senate House. The yellow thing is the kneeler. The Praelector (Lego cabbie), Vice Chancellor (astronaut) and Proctors (policemen) are all in those positions more or less.
Tip 2) Don't drink too much at the college lunch. You may have to wait for a while, especially if your name is something like Zack Zeppelin. David Butler is not so bad.
Tip 3) EBay your guest ticket. Parents usually go to your main graduation. MA graduation sees far fewer parents and we all only got one ticket each anyway. Tourist demand for a seat at a Cambridge MA ceremony may be high... who knows!
When it's your row of four about to face the
music Latin, the Praelector reaches out his hand and each person in the row takes a finger with their right hand and some Latin is said.
Tip 4) Do use your right hand! Using your left hand is definitely an offense that will incur a fine. You won't have to pay anything personally but the college (so I've been told) coughs up a bottle of red wine for each fine that goes towards the Proctors' party.
Your name's been called out and you're kneeling down. You have now to put your hands up in a prayer-like position, then he puts his hands around yours and says more Latin.
Tip 5) Look at the old geezer's eyes. If you look too humble, any photos of this moment may depict you staring at his crotch. Also raise your hands high, you don't want him to have to stretch too much, and feel around your groin for those prayerful hands.
Tip 6) Get up carefully as you're about to bow. MA gowns are a bit longer than the ones worn at graduation the first time around so try not to trip.
Tip 7) There are two little steps between you and the door so as you leave after taking the bow, again, make sure you don't trip up!
Your photocopied degree (no expense spared) is given to you at the door. That's it! See the photos here.