Sunday, 22 July 2018

Raising our hats (and a glass or two) to all the students who graduated last week

Last Thursday, at 10.30 in the morning, I got a telephone call. Nothing unusual with that you might be saying, but I was asleep at the time. Sound asleep some five hours after I normally wake up. On the Wednesday, I had been to the graduation ceremonies of students from my former School at the University. It was wonderful to see the joy, happiness and pride on the faces of the students, their families and friends. I was allocated a seat on the back row of the stage, which felt somewhat strange. However, I was also proud to see the new guard present the students and I was also glad to see two of my PhD students collect their doctorates. 

It was a beautiful day weatherwise and after the last ceremony, I joined my former colleagues and friends for a celebratory drink. It was great to catch up, share stories and have fun. But it turned out to be a very long evening that stretched into the early hours of the morning. Hence the non-attendance that morning at the #earlyrisersclub.

The following morning I felt every year of my age as I cautiously made my way through the day, and had just about recovered when it was time to attend for us to attend the University Graduation Dinner. It was like Groundhog Day, with celebrations again going on into the early hours of the morning. Friday’s morning roll call for the #earlyrisersclub came and went as I lay fast asleep for the second day running. Although it wasn’t such a late start to my day, I once more struggled somewhat to get through the day. 

Of course you may be thinking that my pain was self-inflicted, and to some extent I couldn’t argue with you. I’m in the generation that should know better!  Men between the ages of 45 – 64 continue to be the largest group who tend to drink more than eight units of alcohol in one sitting. Whilst there is a trend for many younger people to eschew alcohol in favour of healthier options, women aged between 16 – 24 are more likely to consume the same level of alcohol in one sitting. Young men are more likely to drink beer, lager or cider whilst young women are more likely to drink spirits, alcopops or wine. 

The commonest reason given for why young people (particularly those still at school) drink alcohol was that it made them look cool in front of their friends. However, and encouragingly, since 2003 secondary school pupils’ attitudes towards someone of their own age drinking or getting drunk have become less tolerant. I say this trend is encouraging as alcohol-related health issues continue to give rise for concern. The latest figure available (2017) show there are nearly 400,000 admissions related to alcohol consumption. 61% of which are men. Blackpool had the highest rate with 1,160 per 100,000 population. My younger brother Mark will be pleased to find out that Kingston-upon-Thames had the lowest rate at just 390.  

If one includes all admissions that involve some link to alcohol consumption the figure jumps to 1.1 million admission a year. This represents 7% of all hospital admissions, and consumes much in the way of time and resources. 85,000 people were treated for problematic drinking alone. Sadly it’s estimated that there are nearly 7,000 deaths directly related to alcohol consumption each year. The Sheffield University’s influential Alcohol Research Group predicts that this is likely to rise. Their research predicts that alcohol misuse will lead to 63,000 deaths over the next five years, with the NHS having to find some £16 billion in treatment costs. They also predict that 32,000 of these deaths (the equivalent of 35 deaths a day) will be the result of liver cancer and another 23,000 from alcoholic liver disease. Please excuse my pun, but these predictions are very sobering indeed. 

Now my two missing mornings were entirely due to my own over indulgent behaviour. Thank goodness graduation comes just once a year. Hopefully there will be no lasting damage done. I have taken to drinking alcohol-free wine these days, and I ‘try’ and only indulge in real alcohol at the weekends. As well as thinking about my health (and my wallet), I have another incentive for keeping a clear head just now. Grandchild number 11 is due towards the end of July and J and I are first on call to drive across and babysit Carys, who is grandchild number 10. And yes, I do have a bottle of fizz ready to wet the baby’s head with – but all things in moderation from now on!

My favourite story from Graduation 2018 involved JD, an Associate Dean from the Business School. He appeared at our first ceremony. I was surprised to see him and asked what he was doing there. It's simple he said. Earlier in the year he had major life saving heart surgery. The first person he met when he regained consciousness was a student nurse from the School. She cared him for the first days of his recovery and during that time she told him she was due to graduate this July. He promised her that should he survive, he would come to the ceremony and applaud her with as much vim and vigour as he could muster. He survived, and he came as promised. JD didn't smoke, never drank alcohol, ate well and was a keep fit fanatic.