A momentous occasion…

I was planning on writing about the importance of rest and recuperation this week, as I’ve been hit with all sorts in these last seven days, which are all probably due to lack of rest.

Tuesday track felt really hard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always hard – I’m trying my best to keep up with semi-elite athletes (some of the women won the team 10km event at the British Champs last weekend!) and I’m usually found floundering at the back. However, this week felt unusually hard. I then tried to cycle on Wednesday but had zero energy for it, and by Thursday I was full of head cold, body aches and an overwhelming level of exhaustion. A day of rest did help but even with some early-ish nights and no exercise since Tuesday, I’ve woken up today with suspected conjunctivitis.

However, I don’t want to dedicate this, my 100th blog post, to me talking about my lack of rest and general over-exertion. This blog originally started, nearly two years ago, as “Yorkshire to Vienna”. It then quickly became “Yorkshire to…” as I found myself taking up my place at Oxford University, and now building Luna in London.

These are, without doubt, the three most significant things to have happened to me in the past two years; my cycle to Vienna, my MBA at Oxford and now Luna. And this week, to spookily coincide with my 100th blog post(!) they have all collided…

Earlier this week we found out that we have been selected to travel to Vienna at the end of May for ViennaUP. ViennaUP is a community-driven festival in the heart of Europe, shining a light on what the future of technology holds. A 3-day conference for startups, investors, tech enthusiasts, creatives and visionaries. As part of the conference, there are two pitching competitions; one for pre-seed companies (us) and one for seed stage companies.

Unfortunately, Jas cannot make the trip so I will be flying solo and will have to deliver our pitch to a conference hall of 350 people and an online audience of over 2,500! Of all places in Europe that we’ve been invited to go to, it ends up being Vienna, which we all know has a special place in my heart. You’ll definitely find me back at Kipchoge’s run loop on this trip. I can’t tell you how excited I am to go back.

It was this weekend as well that saw me travel back to Oxford for my official graduation. We “graduated” from the Business School last September, but the official Oxford graduation is from your college which tends to be a few months after you’ve left.

Mum and Dad travelled down for the weekend and it was a truly brilliant day. We had the full pomp and ceremony of an Oxford graduation and got to experience a rich history of traditions.

We arrived at my college, St Catz, on Saturday morning and guests were given tea and coffee whilst graduands were given our first briefing of instructions, and our outfits were meticulously scrutinised. If you weren’t wearing the exact outfit, down to your socks and tights, you were not allowed to graduate.

After this, the graduands all paraded into the college dining hall where guests were seated ready for lunch. We filed in with the college Deans and Professors to a round of applause. The Dean of Degrees then said something in Latin (the first of much Latin spoken today!) and we had a celebratory lunch. I was seated opposite Professor Handa, a world expert in vascular and transplant surgery, which definitely felt like a very “Oxford” moment, as when would this ever really happen in real life!

Once lunch was complete, Mum and Dad headed to the Sheldonian theatre and we had another briefing. This time is was about the ceremony itself and the endless amount of Latin and bowing involved. Basically, the rule was “if all else fails, just bow”. And it really was the case. First we had to be presented to the Vice Chancellor and Procters, and our Dean would speak in Latin to them. After which, we were then to bow to each of them individually, more Latin will be spoken and we were to bow again. And probably again, I lost count of how many times were we told to bow!

After our briefing, we paraded from our college through the streets of Oxford to the Sheldonian Theatre. This was a beautifully sunny Saturday afternoon in a very touristy city, so you can imagine the stares we were getting and photos being taken of us, as a group of Harry Potter lookalike students, with capes flapping all over the place, hurried to keep up with Professor Quirrell’s doppelgänger, who was rushing headlong towards the Sheldonian.

Once inside, and seated, with the organist really giving it some welly, the spectacle of the occasion really dawned on me. The Deans, Vice Chancellor and Procters, were all dressed in the most elaborate outfits and then the ceremony began. First in English, but after his opening speech, the Vice Chancellor quickly moved to Latin and that was it for the rest of the event.

We weren’t the only ones graduating; different colleges and different degrees were as well. The precedent meant that Drs and Masters of Science came first, and then everyone else flowed from there. Once you were invited up to do the endless bowing, you then all flowed out of the theatre to the Divinity School next door, where we were helped to put our coloured hood on. Ours was a lovely pink colour, however there was also blue and green and other colours. This made for a really colourful sight, as we were then let back into the theatre through a different, huge, wooden door, to a round of applause and you guessed it, more bowing.

It was quite a process, essentially being “admitted” to our degrees, to then go backstage, do a quick change and be “presented” back to applause as official graduates with our colourful hoods on. Once outside, it was the first time we were allowed to wear our caps as all graduates lined up in the quad and as the Deans, Procters and Vice Chancellor walked past, we took our caps off and bowed again!

After the ceremony, we headed back to college for tea, cake and official photos before heading back to our Airbnb.

Mum had booked a lovely dinner at The Randolph hotel, which was being refurbished for the whole year we were actually in Oxford, so it was a real treat to go there this weekend. The night ended up in “Hanks”, a popular bar in Oxford, but sans parents!

In the English part of the Vice Chancellors speech, he asked all graduands to give a standing ovation to their family and friends in the audience, stating that we couldn’t have done it without their love and support. Which couldn’t be more true.

And so this, my 100th blog post, is in fact not dedicated to rest and recuperation but to my wonderful parents who I couldn’t have done any of this without them, who supported me through some difficult times and continue to do so on a daily basis. When I turned up with a transit van full of my life’s belongings, having driven it up the M1 (don’t ask me how), not knowing what the future might hold, they were the ones that supported me through and so I know, that none of this could have happened without them.

So, over 75,000 words later, my 100th blog post is for you, M and FF. Thank you for everything, love you lots.

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