Friday, 2 July 2010

From Doctors to Dame V: a glitzy graduation

Today, my dearest ‘little’ sister and her lovely fiancé graduated from King’s College medical school, below. They are now, officially, qualified doctors. With many, many letters to follow their name. They have survived and conquered the crazy, gruelling ride to 'Doctordom' that you or I can only begin to vaguely imagine. And, after six intense years of far too much work and not enough play, they deserve enormous congratulations for this awe-inspiring achievement and a very special graduation... which is exactly what it was.
King's College London
Arriving after the main event in the stunning Southwark Cathedral (2 guests per Grad quota), I waved and watched as photographs, laughter and seriously smouldering heat filled King’s courtyard, a lovely leafy oasis off St Thomas’ street. The surrounding red brick buildings enveloped graduates and their families within an ostensible aura of history, academia and success. Perhaps only when you have been out of education for some time, does the thrill (even romance?) of learning and endless possibilities appear so seductive. Remembering a visit to the similarly red-bricked Harvard, below, while holidaying in Boston, I recalled a similar feeling. 
Harvard University, Boston
Perhaps this architectural fascination goes back to my own Exeter university years: where stunning landscaping was sadly coupled with 1960’s/1970’s concrete blocks, masquerading as "sources of creativity". I would agree with the Guardian’s Stephen Hoare who said: “buildings need to inspire”. Isn’t it fascinating, how a building can turn back the clock, just as food/a fashion item/piece of music can evoke memories. Anyway, back to the main event... 
Emilio Pucci, Fall 2010-11

Surveying the lively scene, I was increasingly aware of many fashion-forward families, waving at ‘their’ new doctors. A display of handbags to rival Selfridge’s entrance hall, joined bright silk dresses skimming the (luckily) spotless pavement. Perfect for King’s summer ball a few days before and certainly on-trend with A/W 2010-11 collections (perhaps not quite as daring as the Emilio Pucci dresses above, but you get the idea...). Surely though, you are not supposed to outshine the grads? 
Vivienne Westwood graduation gowns, Kings

As I soon realised, these fashionable families would steal no thunder. For King's graduate gowns, now descending from the bleachers before us, had upped the fashion stakes to a level that perfectly fit the prestige and gravitas of the occasion. Designed by none other than Dame Vivienne Westwood herself, the material was structured and robust, the colours attractive (no grey, nor potentially-clashing pairings of colour), the look was smart but no painfully-hair-pinned cap was required and King’s lion emblem detailing was striking. These gowns looked good. Worthy of their wearers' long but rewarding journey.

After a little research, I discovered that Dame V has designed the gowns since 2008 and every year, a catwalk show unveils the colours for each school. Now does education seem that little bit more seductive? 
Vivienne Westwood, King's College

The graduation celebrations continued as we meandered through nearby Borough Market for lunch at Black and Blue (see my mini-review on the left). If you have visited, you’ll know that Borough Market is brim-full of worldwide foods; where aromas, colours, textures and tastes are so good, you will find it difficult to do anything else with your Saturday mornings thereafter. 
Porteña empanadas, Borough Market

From brownie bites to cheese cubes to paella in pots, you can taste your way round the market and enjoy a fabulous feed before you’ve even contemplated lunch. A truly historical, eclectic London experience, it's one of my favourites. But be prepared to ‘lose’ a few hours more than you anticipated. 
Monmouth coffee bags, Borough Market

I am due to return for some further ‘tastings’ but until then, here are a few of my current 'top' traders:
  • Monmouth Coffee Co: some of the best coffee I've tried in London. Many beans and brewing methods to choose from.
  • Applebees Fish: perfect for taking home the freshest fish of the day, or for an extremely fish fillet-in-tortilla-wrap lunch.
  • Hobbs Meat Roast: walk past with early signs of hunger and your tummy will soon be rumbling. Delicious roast pork, turkey or beef served in a warm baguette.
  • Porteña: Argentine street food that really hits the spot. Empanadas, to Chimichurri sauce (how great is that?), to sweet "sandwich cookies" filled with Dulce De Leche.
  • Flower Power City Bakery: most simply for their renowned, melt-in-your mouth brownies. Their bread is also very fresh. Share with some friends and cheese from many of the nearby dairy stalls.
Flower Power City Bakery brownies, Borough Market

Images: 1) & 2) from University websites, 3) & 4) my own, 5) King's College, 6) Porteña, 7) Monmouth Coffee Co, 8) Flower Power City Bakery


  1. you have such a nice, informative bend to your writing! this was so interesting - and I can only wish that black sack I had to wear for college graduation had been designed by Westwood.

    funny story: we don't have a single picture in my graduation gown because I was too interested in showing off the dress underneath it as soon as the ceremony was over. ha

  2. Thank you so much Sam for your lovely comments! I wish my graduation gown had been designed by Westwood too! x


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