This week the internet has been all snarled up with politics – and not the classical kind. So it’s probably time for me to re-state my commitment to having an apolitical website. No party politics, no opinions on Brexit, no views on current electoral issues will be expressed here. My political convictions are my own, and I have no intention of inflicting them on others. Some people might see this as a cowardly position to take. But tough – it’s not their blog. This is a politics-free zone.
[Unless of course politicians decide to use Classics to make their points: I can’t resist that kind of temptation!]
This week I’ve been trying very hard to get lots of work done, with limited success. Some of the interruptions have been of the pleasant kind, however. Yesterday, for instance, was mostly given over to the OU Gateshead graduation ceremony at the impressive riverside venue of The Sage. True, the ceremony itself only lasted an hour or so: but the members of the Platform Party have to be there two hours beforehand for a VIP lunch (!) and the process of getting dressed up, and then we stay afterwards for the mingling and drinking. And then of course there’s the recovery from the mingling and drinking…!
(By the way, in case you’re wondering what to talk about at a graduation… one of the major topics of conversation is robes. It’s acceptable to stop total strangers to ask them what their robes signify. It took me twenty minutes to get from one end of the balcony to the other, because of the number of people asking me about my robes; you wouldn’t believe how many people have robe-stories. It temporarily supplants the weather as the leading conversational ice-breaker.)
There weren’t any other classicists there: but for some reason almost everybody seemed to have a Classics-related story to tell me. Here are my two favourites of the day:
“My daughter learned Latin at school, and was going to study it at university. I bought her a tea-towel with all the declensions on it. Then she changed her mind. So I took my tea-towel back.”
“Classics Professor X [I won’t use his name, but it’s someone I’ve met!] was called in to see his child’s headteacher. The Head said, ‘I regret to inform you, Professor, that your child will be advised to study Classical Civilisation. In translation.’ He never smiled again.”
A big shout out to the two BA (Hons) Classical Studies graduates of the day, Deb and Suzi – both of whom have put up with me for far more years than anyone should have to!
It was an event which reminded me of how great it is to work for the Open University. There are the students, of course, who make it all worth it, and who face all kinds of challenges over the years it takes to get their degrees. Then there are the staff. I was talking to two colleagues – one aged 79, the other 84 – who are both still teaching and still fabulous (one of them recently got married, too). I want to be like them when I grow up. Then there are the inspirational speeches. This year’s honorary graduate encouraged us to ‘shake our own cheerleader pompoms’, because nobody else will do it for us. Wise words. Now I just need some pompoms…
So here’s my annual call to all OU students. You don’t have to attend a graduation ceremony: it’s optional – but please, do it! Let your friends and family see what you’ve achieved. Or come on your own, and feel like part of a family – because you are. An OU graduation is the warmest, friendliest event: it’s a real celebration. And rightly so, because OU students are special. People cross that stage in wheelchairs, or with assistance, or carrying babies, or with children and grandchildren yelling from the back of the auditorium, and the support from the audience is tremendous because everyone there knows what it means to gain a degree when the odds are stacked against you.
This week’s links from around the internet
British Museum and stolen goods – The Guardian
…and the British Museum on returning stolen objects – British Museum Blog
Achilles at the British Museum – The Times
New Vindolanda revelations – The Chronicle
Reviewing Britannia season 2 – The Guardian
Comment and opinion
The murky provenance of the newest Sappho – Eidolon
Sallust’s silent Cicero – LSA Classics
Roman dodecahedrons – Boing Boing
Advice to aspiring academics – The Edithorial
Thusnelda – Ancient Herstories
Cracking an ancient code – Pursuit
Thales of Miletus – Novo Scriptorium
Lucian of Samosata – Modern Stoicism
Coins of Agrippa – Time Travel-Ancient Rome
Papyrus theft – Eidolon
Podcasts, video and other media
Vindolanda – History Hit
The classical underworld as memoryscape – Research English At Durham
Online Trojan women – Kosmos Society