Doctor of Letters

Having, just last week, stepped over the threshold of Goldsmiths College for the first time in 50 years, yesterday I had the considerable pleasure of reacquainting myself with the University of Hertfordshire, where I studied for a BA in English in the early 1970s.

In those days, not yet a university, it was Hatfield Polytechnic, and I studied for my degree part-time over a period of four years, travelling down the A1 on Wednesdays and Thursdays from Stevenage, where I was teaching English and Drama. Anyone who has attempted any serious part-time study will know that it isn’t always easy, the demands of the one’s day job and the course being followed often conflicting. Fortunately, the teaching was so good – inspiring, even – and the companionship of my fellow students so rewarding, that I enjoyed almost every moment of the time spent.

It was especially pleasing, therefore, to find myself in the impressive surroundings of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban, invited there by the University to receive the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters, joining a roll of honour which includes one of my heroes, the jazz pianist, Stan Tracey, the writers P. D. James and Pat Barker, and, more recently, the centre-back and captain of the Arsenal Ladies and England football teams, Faye White.

Anyone wishing to catch a glimpse of me in my rather fine purple robes, can do so via the University of Hertfordshire web site ; if you fast forward to the 17 minute mark you will catch the final sentences of the citation read by the Dean of the School of Humanities, the conferring of the degree by the Vice-Chancellor, and my – brief – speech of thanks.

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