This year Bristol University suddenly decided to give me an honorary D.Litt. I was quite astonished, since I knew that such things have to go through a whole set of solemn committees composed of the kind of people (like professors of science and Bristol businessmen) who don't believe that fantasy – particularly when directed at children – is worth more than a contemptuous snarl. I was slightly afraid there might have been a mistake – some other Jones perhaps?
But no. It turned out that the person who nominated me was a professor of science, a bio-chemist no less and Japanese into the bargain, and I was assured by the Dean of Arts that everyone on the committees said 'What a good idea!' unanimously.
Times have changed. Even businessmen like fantasy these days.
Anyway, you have to picture me, dressed in a robe of geranium scarlet and salmon pink with a sort of purple hood – regalia worthy of a Chrestomanci dressing gown– plus a wide flat floppy hat. They rammed said hat on my head and showed me the result in a mirror, whreupon I immediately tried to tilt it to an angle that didn't make me look like a clown and they cried out, 'Only an inch! You can only move it an inch!'
Luckily that inch made all the difference. It was a baking hot day. I was quite dizzy with it all as I processed to solemn organ music into the University hall behind a beadle dressed in a maroon gown and a mortarboard, who kept doffing the mortarboard to dignitaries right and left. Then all I had to do was to stand there while the nice Japanese bio-chemist told everyone about my life and my books and the Chancellor (in gold and black) kept leaning out of her carven chair to twinkle grins at me. I didn't even have to say thank you – which felt strange, because I did rather want to thank them all for turning me into Doctor Jones.
Some of my family was able to be there – although my two younger sons evidently thought I was joking when I told them about it and both arranged to be on holiday at the time. But my granddaughters turned up with their mother and father, looking very splendid in new outfits, and sat there looking somewhat bemused by it all. Their father said he grinned at me just like the Chancellor did, but I was feeling so dizzy that I didn't see him. Shame. And they bought me a teddy in a mortarboard and a bunch of flowers afterwards.
Copyright © Diana Wynne Jones 2006