It is shocking, I know: the first time I ever thought that doing a doctorate had a certain charme was at the party following the viva of a Syro-Malabar agriculture PhD from my hall of residence.  Days were spent preparing Arabian delicacies all over our shared kitchen. Colleagues and friends stood outside the examination room with laboratory implements most suited to making an awful noise by slamming them together: actually producing quite a cacophony when time drew on, clamoring so that the poor examinee might be released – at length, the proclamation of a very good mark – the thank you speech of the new doctor, starting, against all convention, with, first: God; second: his parents, unfortunately not being able to be there – and me thinking: this is rather fine.

Forward some six years, and it’s my turn.

And, quite interestingly, this throws up a whole  issue of feasts and hospitality. Some colleagues of mine speak of not thinking their finishing their PhD being such a cause of celebration. Be it a PhD, or a birthday, or similar occasions, I think there is quite a danger of misunderstanding: Is it about ME, or is it about me being grateful to all those people who made those years I worked on that thesis, those years I lived on this earth, such a splendid time? For to be honest, hosting a party is often quite a stress. But is it not, at its core, a way of saying ‘thanks’ to people who did us good? I, at least, have often enjoyed parties given by friends (birthday, wedding, PhD,…)  of friends most intensely. How selfish not to offer this to ones friend! This feeling of impropriety of feasts ‘about oneself’ must have its roots in some severe notions of Puritanism or Pietism.

As it is, my own notion of personal feasts are those of a Polish Wedding (if I get Berenike right; sorry if not), though possibly with somewhat less strong drink: Invite everyone you know, provide food and drink for a multitude –  good quality, though not fancy – rejoicing in all your friends from different parts of your life  meeting, enjoying themselves. Being paranoid, however, I always feel it quite an imposition to invite people I know less well: I would like them to come, of course; I would hate them to be offended at not being invited; still, they might think it impertinent of me believing them to be quite that interested in my goings on [Aelianus would probably say: How hard it must be to be a German. It is, I assure you.] So today I got an answer e-mail from the person I was most obsessing about having been impertinent to: it was the most cordial e-mail I ever had from her! So that’s for you, paranoia!

One really has to make the utmost of being Catholic, at all times, I think.

[Plus learning, that, not only, one’s University’s rector being called ‘Magnificence’, but also one’s faculty’s Dean being called ‘Spectabilty’ in the course of an ordinary SCIENCE conference – MUST give one quite some buoyancy, even after having re-re-read Gaudy Night…]

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