21 October 2014

October Vignettes, Day 21

Newman University has worked out. When I left Malaysia last year, I was terrified that I had made a mistake again, gambled again on an unknown quantity and taken too many chances with my fragile, newborn career. Newman: nobody really knew anything about it. The first day I drove the hired Vauxhall Corsa there. Every day since then had been good in its own way. I have been saying all year, in a hushed voice, 'Touch wood, it's really been good for me, I really like it here.' And today, I sat through two graduation ceremonies, wearing the suit I was married in and Zara plimsolls I bought at Midvalley Mall in Kuala Lumpur and my Open University PhD gown, which makes me feel Marxist and proud. Knox College, University of Birmingham, the Open University, now Newman University. All institutions I am proud to represent in a small way. Watching the Muslim families cheer their Muslim daughters and sons across the stage, you can see how catholic (with a small 'c') Newman really is, even the Cardinal in his robes and institution: he reached out as a friend passed in the processional line. It's so good to see you. Stories of John Paul the Second eating dinner with friends, talking about poetry. How lovely this whole thing has turned out for me, sitting in the most beautiful space, surrounded by friends. How lucky I was that night in November last year, that the tiny Skype image of me made its way here and guided me home. All warm embraces, these families watching mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters graduate. The first ever in our family — no one had dreamed of this before.