In stark contrast to my Welsh homeland, and my last post, Winchester simmers in the heat. It feels as though the city is approaching the apocalypse. I feel stupid carrying around my heavy black “millionaire jacket” as my friend calls it, whilst everyone else is in the bare necessities of clothing. Women are splayed across the grass, men are topless and if I wasn’t in the grounds of the cathedral, I would be too. Unfortunately I’d rather not risk the wrath of God on this particular day, unless of course, it was a flood. That would be lovely.
The cathedral is beautiful in the sun, a constant vociferous reminder that in five months I’ll be standing inside, wearing a stupid hat, and shaking Alan Titchmarsh’s hand trying my hardest not to fall over. The cathedral isn’t just a righteous over-compensation, this building signifies the end to my golden years. Knowing that Jane Austen is buried in there is like walking into a parent-teacher conference when I’ve failed a homework assignment. I have no idea who Alan Titchmarsh is, and like everyone at the university I long for the days when Colin Firth was rumoured to have taken the role of chancellor instead. He graduated from my university with an honorary degree in 2007. Smart move, Winch. I imagine a team of people around a conference table discussing how to get more students, when one woman says, “If we had hot men graduating that might work.”
Another goes, “Ooooh yes, I love me some Colin!”
And that is how Mr Darcy found himself on the grave of his creator, graduating with no effort whatsoever from The University of Winchester.
I sit on the grass eating McDonald’s with my boyfriend on the Lawn of Impending Doom, and I listen for the millionth time about how he’s going to laminate his certificate and use it as a table mat.
“-because, you know, why not?”
“For the millionth time I know! Maybe I just have more respect for education than you do.” And for once I think my irritation has a point. Jane Austen lies 500 yards from us, having fought to be accepted as a female writer in a time when she was not allowed to be educated. When men thought women were incapable of being rational, or running, or writing a book. She’s in that cathedral because she proved that we can do it. Without her I might not be graduating at all.
The cathedral from the inside is enormous, but it’s still difficult to imagine 200 students and their families squeezing into there. Compared to the brazen heat outside, it’s freezing and I can’t keep myself from shivering. I left my jacket outside with my boyfriend, and being very conscious of the fact that I smell like McDonald’s, I slip outside of the startling quiet onto the buzzing grounds. Babies are everywhere, tottering about on flailing limbs, dogs lay quietly by their owners, too hot to play. We grab a cool drink in the cathedral café, a surprisingly modern terrace with glass and sophisticated waiters.
‘The cathedral shop doesn’t sell lighters,’ the woman adjusting a display of coasters told me, glaring like I was filthy for even asking. I had to run around the corner and buy one from Sainsbury’s, where the man asked me for ID and handed me a tropical flowery clipper, strangely perfect for me, blooming into the real world of work.