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Monday, 4 September 2017

Headmaster's Blog Autumn Term 2017 - Summer Roundup


The final days of the Summer Term now seem a long time ago. The sun was shining hotly; there were tears from the Top Year as they said their final farewells; the grass was brown, the mood high on the back of a very happy Party on the Lawn, and the relish of a long summer holiday stretching ahead.

Where have the weeks gone since then? The holidays have played their usual trick of starting slowly and then galloping by. Just like a fat wallet, when it is full one feels that the money will last forever, but before you know it you are worrying whether there are enough notes left in it to pay for the final taxi to the airport.

It has not been quite as hectic as usual at Abberley this summer, though we have had a Summer School staying over the last two weeks and have another group arriving later in August. Next year we will be back to ‘normal’ with a large Summer School having booked the school for five weeks – a long term relationship we are hoping.

After two fantastic weeks up in the Lakes I must say that I felt thoroughly refreshed. This year we were blessed with good weather and barely had any rain at all. I managed to swim outdoors, either in the lake, a tarn or in the beck every day of my stay, and to my delight a good deal of walking was fitted in too. When I think back to last summer, which was dominated by a trip to hospital to get a new hip, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be back on top of the fells – Helvellyn, High Street, Place Fell. In another era I would not have been lucky enough to still be enjoying these wonderful spots. Nonetheless the onslaughts of age cannot be denied. Walking with my own children is proof enough of the advantages of youth over experience, not to mention the groups of D of E students laden with their back packs, however blistered, quite clearly a long way from being beaten.

I have just returned from a fascinating working trip to mainland China and Hong Kong. This was very kindly set up by a current parent with excellent knowledge and contacts in that part of the world. Abberley on tour in China – surely worth a blog in its own right?

It was a new experience for me to visit the far east. So it was with some trepidation, not least concerning the extremely high temperatures I could see were to be expected, that I set off from Worcester Shrub Hill one Saturday morning. Looking out of the train window took me back to my youth when I spent a fair bit of time travelling on trains. I have done far less of that in recent decades, and the experience of train travel has changed a fair bit, I should think, but staring at the blown and blousy late July countryside as we chugged towards Reading, did not seem all that different: willow herb and brambles all along the tracks; fields of barley, wheat and oats, some part-harvested; dust, hedgerows and a strange lack of people. Just like the beginning of the holidays, time did not seem a factor to be considered, the land seemed at ease with itself, even waste land and abandoned sidings did not look too sad or hostile.

Well, a couple of bus journeys later and the usual airport processing, I was sitting on a plane heading over the North Pole towards Hong Kong. Once there our feet hardly touched the ground; two days in HK, two days in Shanghai and two in Beijing. We met agents, parents and Chinese investors interested in the education we offer in the UK. Everyone I met was extremely courteous, professional and positive. China is clearly a country that is looking forward, not backwards; there is a great sense of optimism and drive and self belief. It was quite a lesson on how we operate in Britain, and perhaps an insight into the era when British society felt similarly energized, emboldened and hungry to push itself forward. It is too early to say what fruits may be borne from the trip, but several seeds were planted, which I hope will come good.


Back in the UK the weather took quite a dip, and one had to resist that feeling that autumn had arrived early on August 7th, and stop one’s mood going downhill along with the weather. I was saved by the bees and a trip to the Gifford Circus. The school bees were in good order on first inspection on my return from Asia. The queenless colony had clearly superceded itself and a new queen was laying eggs like a machine gun – fantastic! That colony had been particularly nasty and aggressive the last time I had gone into it, but they were much happier now. What’s more there was definitely honey to be collected; Ruaraidh and I could hardly lift one brood box up to the top of a stack.

A large family trip to Gifford Circus to celebrate a big anniversary was a great success – something for the six year old and the 76 year old, and everything in between. The day was rounded off by a superb piece of fillet beef bought from Griffiths, Leintwardine. After the Chinese dumplings as well it was definitely time to return to the Warrior diet.

Britain, for all its decadence, cannot be beaten in the autumn. However, at a story-telling festival in the Brecon Beacons last weekend, the man from the Usk Astronomical Society assured us that officially the British Summer continues until September 21st and only then is it autumn. Save up your star gazing until then and enjoy the first three weeks of term still on summertime mode. So I will rephrase, Britain cannot be beaten in the late summer. This year seems particularly abundant: plum trees laden and dripping with fat, sweet fruits, the bramble bushes have shared their berries for weeks and weeks and keep coming, likewise the sweet peas and Mrs Walker’s raspberry canes at the bottom of our garden. I can’t keep up and we have made less jam than I would have hoped. What a year; I hope we will start the new academic year with the now typical warm and dry autumn we have had in recent years.

Well, the holidays ended on a fabulously sunny and warm bank holiday weekend. We have had a useful and productive two days of staff training and meetings, the pitches are looking lush and inviting, and we are all looking forward to a happy and busy Autumn Term; see you soon.

Will Lockett, Headmaster

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