Monday, 16 December 2019
Headmaster's Blog #47
I can’t pretend that it doesn’t feel good to have reached the holidays. It was a fabulous end to the term, but we were all tired, more tired than we realised, I should think. So it’s good to have crossed the finish line. We have left school almost immediately, with an early morning dash for the Lake District, via Manchester airport to collect an eldest child back for Christmas from China.
If one needed a cure - and I think generally one does after a super busy term - a day outside with the chainsaw in air fresher than one is used to, followed by a walk up a fell through a covering of snow with a wonderful sense of space (there is no one else about here at the moment), goes a long way to doing the trick.
I tried to be restrained in the last few days of term when it came to mince pies as well as avoiding the temptation of snaffling one of the many chocolate prizes I was dishing out for Show Ups, or at the Mini-prize Giving on the penultimate day of term. However the Christmas Feast on Friday was the best I have ever had at Abberley. Locally sourced Turkey, sausages and bacon, bread sauce, sprouts galore – the works. The Top Year were in the Front Hall, 100s and Shells in the MDR and Rems, Form 2 and Form 1 in the PDR. The Kitchen Team had done brilliantly well to set up and make everything look special and they had a very efficient system operating so that serving and clearing happened smoothly and quickly. The meal was really delicious and I wasn’t the only one enjoying it. I must say, call me old fashioned, but it was great to see most of the pupils getting stuck into sprouts, bread sauce, stuffing and Christmas pudding – there wasn’t too much fussiness on display, at least not in the Front Hall. I have been more self-indulgent in the past, but it still felt, as I stomped up hill, that the headmaster is not in peak fitness – as Mr Kennedy would say in one of his reports – ‘Work to do, Mr Lockett’. Perhaps rather over-optimistically I am hoping we can do a ‘big’ walk tomorrow, while the dry weather holds. The barometer suggests we will have the right conditions, but day light is short at this time of year. That means an early start (and a head torch as back up).
But to return to the end of term, it really was a cracker (!). Mr Dunham excelled himself, inspiring lovely music all over the school. Forgive me if I get the order wrong, but it started with the Removes play ‘A Christmas Pudding for the Chimney Sweep’, the cast of which nailed their performance. They were full of confidence and projected their lines and the story so well for pupils their age, and the songs and dances were outstanding. This was followed shortly afterwards by the Pre-prep Nativity – not strictly a Prep School event, but one which the Prep School supports with much enjoyment – providing an audience for their dress rehearsal. Several of our pupils have younger siblings in the Pre-prep, and they love seeing them perform. In fact we all love seeing the Pre-prep doing their thing, and it really does start Christmas off, if one wasn’t in the mood yet. They are invariably adorable giving their rendition of the Christmas story. I have missed out the Advent Service, this year on a Monday Evening for the first time. This was a quirk of the calendar, and it meant that only the Top Year were able to join the congregation, but the Chapel Choir were outstanding singing a new range of music. This was just the beginning of their triumphant end of term run. The Palace performed their Christmas Cracker in the Front Hall straight after the Christmas Charity Fair. It had already been a busy afternoon, but they did not disappoint. Mme B-B keeps this to a bi-annual affair, but it is one I particularly enjoy. This year was no exception, with a particularly beautiful rendition of the French carol ‘Etoile de Noël’, and more than a smattering of bad jokes delivered with aplomb.
Our first carol service on Thursday, which was weighted towards the younger end of the school, went off very well indeed and it was super to see every member of those year groups involved either singing in their choirs or reading a lesson (or both). The Removes choir was particularly tuneful, and anything the Form 1s and 2s lacked in intonation, they more than made up for in adorability. The readers were as good as I can remember, particularly remembering their age, or to be more truthful, their reading was as good as I can remember, if not their sitting still in their pew afterwards….Mrs Tarka, was playing the organ and the piano for EVERY piece. I don’t know how she did it, but she did it marvellously, well supported by Janet Hiles on the flute and Mr Taylor and the multi-talented Mr Hiles on trumpets.
It is invidious to compare, but the Saturday service took things up several notches. The Chapel Choir, in my opinion, were outstanding. I have never heard them so good. Often they can be slightly overdone by the time we reach that stage of the term, but not so this year. They were spot on and simply sang beautifully. It was a wonderful way to end the term; a memory to treasure.
I haven’t had time to write about the Christmas Entertainments. Directed by Mrs Dobson Morris and Mrs B-T, squeezed in amongst everything else that has been going on, you never know what you are going to get – it can be a little ‘scrappy’; not so this year. This was definitely one of the classier ones, with a big input from the younger pupils, which is super to see. There were reprises from concerts and plays earlier in the term, a synchronised swimming sketch, bad jokes from the Purchases and Wallace, MPG (more tuneful than usual), videos from the Gaps, Prefects and Mrs Austen’s annual teachers’ video. It was great to see a good number of OAs returning, even if there was not long enough to chat in the interval. All in all, great fun and suitably raucous.