Don's diary: countdown to Jubilee

May 31, 2002

January: Week 1
Can't believe the university's jubilee is finally here. Hope the jubilee garden is ready for Charlie Dimmock to open on January 22. The poor gardeners are up to their armpits in mud, and it's still raining. I think the promise of a visit from Ms Dimmock is keeping their spirits up.

Couple of interviews with local radio to spread the word - no, it is not just the Queen's jubilee.

Week 2
Charlie's pulled out - but it's Tommy Walsh to the rescue, Ground Force -style. Suddenly lots of female colleagues want to come to the event, but the gardeners and other men here are looking a bit depressed.

Week 3: January 22
The reception room is a mass of blue and gold, and Tommy and the jubilee cake arrive on time. Sun shines on the tour party all the way round the grounds.

Tommy finishes off the brickwork and cuts the ribbon - the downpour even holds off until after the chancellor's speech. Highlight of my day - cutting the cake with Tommy.

March: Week 1
Tickets are selling well for the performance of Mahler 2 by the Student Symphony Orchestra at the Guildhall. Hope the rehearsals are going well, too.

Week 3
The local newspaper says the Guildhall ceiling is falling in. The Guildhall says it's an exaggeration and we can probably go ahead. Having nightmares about plaster falling on VIP heads.

2pm : Inspectors say it's safe for the final rehearsal. Doesn't look as bad as I'd fearedI must see if I can change my ticket to the other side of the auditorium.

10.30pm : What a relief - VIPs and ceiling intact despite loud finale with chorus and organ. Feel quite elated - orchestra and choir did us proud. Hope the ceiling will hold out for the next concert on Charter Day.

Week 4
Copy deadlines for the alumni magazine are looming. Mammoth task collating plans from all over the university for the jubilee celebration weekend in July.

April: Week 1
All hands on deck for charter day events. If I see another canapé menu, I think I'll be sick. Do the great and the good really eat quail eggs? Hope the Guildhall ceiling holds out for Haydn's Creation - could end up being Haydn's Destruction . Whatever happens, I hope I'll never have to do another seating plan for 300 people.

Week 2
Students seem confident about the relay to Buckingham Palace. Is it really a good idea to have the Chess Club president running? I hope the Queen will be in.

Week 4: Charter day
10am
: The runners set off at 4am and are on leg 21 of 50. They got lost on leg 7.

10.30am : Students storm management meeting - the first such occupation since 1974. Fortunately, the v-c was amused by the chorus of "Happy Birthday, University" and the cake, so no need to resign just yet.

1.00pm : As students set a new record for cramming a bus with people, I set new record for nervous coffee and biscuit cramming. Will the phone ever stop? At least no one has yet complained about the funfair and the music.

3.20pm : Runners are an hour behind. One last call to the palace before I go to the Guildhall.

3.30pm : Down to the Guildhall with programmes for the concert later. Hope no one spills red wine on priceless works of art in the reception at the art gallery.

7.30pm : I finally get to sit and put away my "meet and greet" smile. Seemed to spend a lot of time chasing photographers and people for them to photograph.

10.15pm : An excellent performance - even a standing ovation. Wonder if the student runners made it to the palace.

May
Articles to write and pictures to collect for publications. Now concentrating on the July Alumni Homecoming Weekend. All waking moments a blur of tickets, leaflets, mailings, parking, security, accommodation bookings, merchandise. Life will seem so empty after this year.

Alison McQuail is golden jubilee coordinator, University of Southampton.

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