Can I say this first?

It’s been a pig of a fortnight.

In an effort to guard against random colds and the infectious slurry that comes with working in a school, I put on my big girl pants and got a flu jab. Normally, this means that my shoulder gets swollen and sore for a few days, and I get a nasty case of the sniffles.

Not this time.

Cue five days or more of every variation and permutation of flu symptoms, culminating in the worst cold sore outbreak I have ever experienced. I looked like Heath Ledger’s Joker for a week, before morphing into crocodile mouth, complete with green scales. Yech.

Who wants pictures of the most important moment in your life?

Not me. Get that camera away from me. I’m going to go hide under this rock. Just stick the mortarboard and hood on this rock, and don’t take any feckin’ pictures. I don’t want to be remembered as the graduating crocodile. Put that camera in my face and I’m gonna slap you silly. Christmas tree shot? No thanks. Selfie pose with the family? Nuh-uh. Piss off.

With this poor frame of mind, I attended graduation. And everyone was there, looking fabulous and glamorous with lovely hair and clear faces and rocking legs – and that was just the guys. Every moment of smiling – which¬†physically hurt, tearing through the scaled scabs at the corners of my mouth, shredding the delicate healed edge of my top lip – was an eternity of agony, and a reminder of how ill and sickly I looked. Add to that the monster-mega-PMT that latched on like a demon, and I’m ready to curl up under that lovely rock I saw earlier. In a fair-sized chapel with high ceilings on a cold rainy day in December, how warm do you think it could get? Think sauna, and you’re getting close. Add wool robes and a mortarboard perched on your head, and you’re getting closer still. Add in the Phantom Farter who must have had a toxic stew of garlic, onions, curry AND chili, and now you understand why I was ready to faint by the end.

Feeling photogenic now? Hell, no.

Is there a happy ending to this rant? Not really. No shuttle bus back to the car park afterwards meant having to trudge uphill through the windy darkness with cramps and crocodile mouth and a refined sense of dread about my behaviour over the last two hours.

No happy endings. But there were happy moments dotted throughout, when I could forget the miasma and bad burny feelings:

Hearing the department’s successes over the past year – to which I contributed, and got a mention – in the Vice Chancellor’s speech. Hearing my name announced and making that long walk to be welcomed to the MA. Seeing my good friends enjoy themselves, and receive their degrees and their recognition, seeing the joy and pride of their families in their achievement. Hearing my son say that he’s proud of me (in an oh-so-quiet voice with which I am familiar). Seeing the look of quiet pride of my husband’s face, but only now realizing that he has that look on his face pretty much every time he looks at me (unless I’ve just made a terrible pun, or am teasing him about the laundry). Introducing my family to my tutor, and getting that one picture (the ONLY picture) I really wanted of me with the three most important influences on my writing life.

So, no happy endings. But one good picture, and a pretty decent video of the walk.

After a pig of a fortnight, I think that’s the best I could ask for. (Along with the MA itself, and my very own graduation bear… because, well, BEAR!)

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