Instagrammers Anonymous: A Disjointed Week

It’s been an interesting week. A very odd week. But it appears that I still only need to ahve my phone with me for the Instagram addiction to continue. So here are three totally disjointed photos to represent it.

There is the on-going ‘Theme: Britain’ merchandise. Everything is red, white and blue. Including our kitchen roll. This, I’m sure you’ll agree, is completely unnecessary but also quite wonderful.

Jubilee kitchen roll

It’s rained pretty much all week, but there was a brief (and I mean very brief) glimpse of sunshine on Wednesday. Summer? What is this summer you talk of?

Edinburgh Castle

And finally it was Grad week in St Andrews (in case I hadn’t mentioned it enough), marking one year since my own leaving. We all got rather nostalgic and realised how much we miss the people that are scattered around the globe. This is my desk calendar from Nov. 2011, it now sits on my windowsill, I can’t bring myself to get rid of it.

St Andrews railway poster

There was also this fantastic graduate address from Tuesday morning’s ceremony. If you have any connection to St Andrews I suggest you read it. And possibly have a box of tissues to hand…


St Andrews +1: Was Graduation Really A Year Ago?

Who could believe it. An entire year has passed since I was doffed on the head with the graduation cap and the irrevocable “Te ad gradum Baccalaurei Scientiae, cuius rei in symbolum te hoc birretum impono” was uttered. I simply cannot believe Grad Week was a year ago. It just cannot be.

And yet, it so clearly is. This week gowns will billow and hoods will flutter in the St Andrews breeze as another gaggle of graduands traipse up to Younger Hall and process out as Graduates. They will enter the esteemed group of individuals that I am proud to say I am one of, a group 600 years in the making. And many congratulations to them.

Being a student is not, I fear, quite as many stereotypes would have you believe. Yes, it must be based on an element of truth somewhere, but I don’t think that particular ‘where’ is St Andrews. The problem with such an eminent institution is that from matriculation to graduation there is an expectation placed firmly on your shoulders. You’ve beaten (about) 12 other applicants for that place. You’re pretty damn smart. You WILL come out the other end a successful, well-educated, motivated, fantastical citizen of the world. Now try having that sitting on top of each and every deadline and piece of work you do. It doesn’t leave much scope for watching Countdown.A year in photos, St Salvator's, St Andrews

I say that it’s a problem, but really it’s not. In fact I think it’s quite the opposite. Yes, I found the idea an abhorrent distraction at the time, but now, using the wonder that is hindsight, I see that this pressure is also quite useful. I think it was – indirectly – one of the biggest motivators that not only got me through my degree, but it made me push myself to go that extra mile on every piece of work and every extra-curricular activity I did.

When you are surrounded by a group of your peers that are some of the cleverest in the country (if not the continent or the world) you have two options: you lie down and accept that they will always be better than you, or you push yourself to get to their level — and then beyond. The latter is the St Andrean mindset, of that I have no doubt, but it also helps you to prepare for the big bad world. A straight-talking, no-nonsense attitude that also makes you ask yourself some pretty tough questions and allows you to make enormous decisions — and that is invaluable for those who this week find their occupation going from ‘Full-time Student‘ to the slightly less glamorous ‘Unemployed‘.

I left St Andrews jobless, and had pretty much no sensible option other than to move back to my parents’ house. It is hard. If you disagree, then how would you cope when faced with an economy in the worst state it’s been in for decades, where graduates are ten to the dozen and there are a hundred people applying for the same job as you? Suddenly getting into St Andrews starts to look like it was a piece of cake. A truly terrifying thought. Yes, some people will have jobs lined up, but a large proportion (if not nearing the majority) will not. It’s a hard fact; but a fact none the less.

If I look back, I had a pretty crap time last summer. No matter how many jobs you apply for getting a rejection letter/email (or worse still, not hearing back at all) does not get any easier. You can tell yourself that ‘it’s their loss‘, but they have still just told you that they have found someone better than you. And that hurts.

It is here that the St Andrews mentality is completely and utter invaluable. That tough shell can take the rejection, bounce back and sit up until 3am filling in that next application. It can look at the grim reality of the job market and sniff out that elusive opportunity. And most of all it knows how to compete with the very best. How to put on a smile at a networking event when what you really want to do is cry, how to write fluently about how it really wants that job with the temping agency when the notion really fills it with dread, and it knows it has what it takes to see the battle through, however long it takes. It is a lifeline, one years in the making.

I remember the address from our Honorary Graduate – well, the hero that is David Attenborough is not something I’m likely to forget – where he congratulated us, but I recall also the graduation address from my ceremony – one year ago today – and being told that life was tough, but that they knew we would pull through and go on to do a great many things. No two of us would take the same path, but a great many of us would reach where ever it was we wanted to go. That was hard to believe during the months when yet another email popped into my inbox with a merry ping and the first line of ‘We are sorry to inform you…

Yet, the shell held. A year later I am gainfully employed in internet marketing — where I want to be — but I am one of the lucky ones. There are many more who are still struggling to get exactly what they’re looking for. And I am by no means where I intended on ending up; but I am most certainly now on my way.

I am also reminded of something I heard in February of my fourth year — which was requoted during that graduation address — the words of the future king and fellow St Andrews graduate: St Andrews is by “far and a way the best university in the world”. And whilst I would never claim to be anything less than utterly biased, I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree.

Congratulations Class of 2012, you have doubtlessly earned the honour you have been given this week.

Enjoy this week, it will fly by. It is a time of great joy, as well as a parting of ways. But if you take one thing from your time in St Andrews let it be a statement — one you won’t yet fully understand, one which I have only fully understood the significance of since leaving —  put into words by Prince William that windy February day: “St Andrews still has that uncanny knack of feeling like home.”A year in photos, st andrews, sunlight


A Year in Photos: Saturday – Black and White St Andrews

Today is the final post of A Year in Photos, ending a week of posts celebrating the first birthday of Contemplating the Clouds. Throughout this week we’ve had cakes, Munros, ice skating, lobsters, buildings, gin and snow (to name but a few); but now we’ve reached the final part of the saga – my love of black and white photos, and of St Andrews.

Having lived there for the majority of the time I’ve been writing this blog St Andrews has, unsurprisingly, featured with great regularity. Black and white photos have also appeared fairly constantly too, so in honour of this (and because I really like these photos) here are the final two photos.

The first of the photos was taken on the day of the Procession, in April, however, I used it in the post before, so it could stand alone. St Salvator’s was published on the 17th April. St Salvator’s Chapel – or Sallies Chapel, as it’s more commonly known – is the oldest surviving building of the University and is located in the main quadrangle, off North Street. The chapel tower, one of the tallest structures in the town, is a notable landmark on the town’s ever welcoming skyline.A year in photos, St Salvator's, St Andrews

Our final stop on this whistle-stop tour of the year comes from the 20th June and The First Few Days. This post represents one of a series (the only continuous series I’d done, before this week) about graduation week. This series follows my friends and I through our final days together in the Bubble. Doing various things around town we’d never got round to doing, the final days before we graduated, our graduation, and the end of an era, when we were no longer undergraduates of by “far and a way the best university in the world” (HRH Prince William, Feb 2011). Somehow I had never got round to climbing St Rule’s Tower (in the grounds of the cathedral) during my four years of studying, and so it was one of the final things we did. This photo is taken looking North west from the top of the tower, out past the cathedral, to the castle and West Sands, the golf courses and the mountains in the distance. It is one of my favourite views of all time.St Andrews, A year in photos

And there we have it. Those are twelve of my favourite photos that have appeared on the blog. I chose them from the 400 odd that have appeared here over the past twelve months for fairly selfish reasons, but also because I think they are a fairly good representation of the last twelve months. I hope you’ve enjoyed the seven posts of this series as much as I have and that you approve of my choice of photos. If you want to see any of them again there will be a special page with all twelve ‘A Year in Photos‘ photos on it as of tomorrow. If you like what you have seen, then I hope you will come back and read more of the blog soon (there’s a link to subscribe on the right hand side, near the top).


There’s just one last thing. This series wouldn’t be quite complete without my favourite photo of all. It is, of course, my header photo. I waxed lyrical about it in the 100th post back in August, so if you’d like to know the details please look there. Otherwise, just sit back and contemplate the clouds with me…Me at Stella Point, Mt Kilimanjaro

The End of an Era

So in this hypothetical/time delayed world of the mini-grad-posts it is now Thursday morning.

Thursday was an interesting day, but very photo-poor, because I was working. Ushering Chapel, ushering morning graduation, ushering afternoon graduation, totally not crashing the garden party, etc. Then the end of another era – the final BioLash (biologist get-together – because we’re that cool) and the final trip to the Lizard (obviously my favourite place in the world…). It was all very fun, but not resulting in any photos. Sorry.

Friday, oh Friday. Friday was for lie-ins (not to be confused with lions – totally different). Friday was for a few more goodbyes, for ice cream with old flatmates. For going to BESS and buying a new diary so I can pretend that I’m still a student next year. For popping into the office to say a few more goodbyes. For collecting my Honorary Life Membership to the Union. For Grad Ball.

Oh Grad Ball, oh Grad Ball. Possibly the best night ever; possibly the worst. I’ve never been a fan of saying goodbye to people (who is?), regardless of whether I’ve talked to them on a daily basis for the last four years, or only occasionally, so there was a lot of emotion in the air. In spite of all that, it is undeniably a huge amount of fun – even if it does pass so incredibly quickly. And the last song? Our enduring memory? Well, it couldn’t be anything other than Mr Brightside now could it? Of course not. Dancing about like an idiot one last time to the song that has followed us through our university careers with some of the most important people from that time. Perfection.

What could possibly follow this? What could make it better? Well, I’ll tell you: some of Mel’s blueberry gin; then going to West Sands to watch the sun rise and then going for a wander to the pier. That is how you make an evening like that even better.


Te ad gradum Baccalaurei Scientiae, cuius rei in symbolum te hoc birretum impono

Erm… So… Erm… we did what?


Te ad gradum Baccalaurei Scientiae

For better – or for worse – I am no longer a student [note to self: update about me…]  It was a pretty incredible day – as I am sure it will be no surprise – although the actual moment is a bit of a blur. I remember being at the side of the stage, then I’m kneeling on the graduation desk having latin spouted in my face (I got the whole latin spiel*, being the first alphabetically, by degree, to get a BSc) before being tapped on the head by the graduation cap and having the hood dropped on my shoulders. That’s it – I am a graduate. Win?

Much more exciting than the usual interesting (but ultimately dull) honorary graduates we surely got the best one possible. Yup, I graduated with Sir David Attenborough. Can it get any better than that? I don’t think so.

Prof Patterson’s (head of bio) introduction – if a little unnecessary – was wonderful and the laudation address was one of the most enthralling things I’ve ever listened to (excluding his talk the previous evening…).

After the ceremony is one of my favourite of the St Andrews traditions – the new graduates join the academic procession from Younger Hall and walk down the middle of North Street into the Quad. And this is where it happened – I met David Attenborough. And got congratulated BY HIM on my degree. Amazing.

The rest of the day was a blaze of garden parties, eating and drinking. All in all a pretty special day.

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That is a very rough, basic, not too informative guide to what happens at graduation. And a quick thanks to my parents for these photos, I was a little too busy to take them.


*If you are so inclined, a little research (it’s what we do, don’t you know…) the latin spiel in question is “Te ad gradum Baccalaurei Scientiae, cuius rei in symbolum te hoc birretum impono”.