William Morris book design determines undergraduate reading habits (Rousse)

Now that the degree results had been published it was time to prepare for the graduation ceremony on campus at the University of Birmingham. Of course, TPR would be in the audience as usual, and I invited my nephew P and niece A as additional guests. I assumed that everyone else in my year had also done well and would also be taking to the stage to pick up their certificates that afternoon.

But what about MT? While TPR was in the pub, I peered into her study bedroom next to mine to see if I could find any evidence that she would be graduating too. We’d been neighbours when children and she’d been better known at primary school as a “good fighter” than as a scholar. It was quite a surprise that she’d gone on to higher education, and as things turned out she’d barely turned a page to study as an undergraduate. Unless granted the “exemptions” that she bleated on about on a regular basis, H, S and I could not imagine that she would ever collect a degree on the same day as the rest of us.

By the time TPR got back from the pub (a failed visit – the only others there were far too shy) we had only 15 minutes to reach the ceremony. I now had second thoughts about taking him along with me. With his long hair, unshaven face, and tatty clothes he really was far too scruffy to sit amongst all the proud parents and robed graduands in the Great Hall.

Instead we ended up in the main library on campus engaged in a long conversation with two of the staff. They first approached us to tell us off for talking, but became more friendly when they saw that I was wearing a black T shirt from the Swedish School of Library and Information Science at the University of Borås. While the woman deplored the continued closure of library schools up and down the UK, I admitted to the man that my choice of reading material was always determined by book cover. Anything that merely hinted at the arts and crafts movement in its binding was soon in my grubby hands. Indeed, most of my reading material as an undergraduate was based around a set of random texts I had assembled from the new book display in the library entrance. All that these publications had in common was that they featured William Morris designs across their front covers.

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