Monday, 20 August 2018
Headmaster's Blog Summer Holiday 2018
Apologies for the lack of blogs in the last few weeks of the Summer Term; suffice to say that the last three weeks went by in a flash of heat and dust. Memories fade fast, but I can still remember the Shells camp in the woods, plays both from the Form 2s – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the Shells – As You Like It, as well as a professional Midsummer’s Night’s Dream which kicked off the second half of the term, organized by the Parents Events Committee; many, happy short stay pupils from France, Italy and beyond; bronzed Top Year pupils returning from their surfing week in Polzeath; Scottish Dancing with them before they left; a very happy Parent Pupils Sports Day and yet another excellent Art and DM Exhibition in the Front Hall. The hot weather put everyone on top form and meant a particularly positive vibe coursed through the Co-curricular week and brought us all to the end of term with a smile.
As always the teaching staff finish their report writing before I do and reach that land of imminent contentment while I am battling with my end of term speech alongside reading and writing everyone’s end of term reports. This year I couldn’t quite get them finished before the last day of term and they went out during the following week. This was not helped by a dart down to the Royal Regatta at Henley on the Wednesday before we broke up to watch my eldest rowing for his school. To our delight we were able to go back on Saturday, the day after prize-giving, to watch them again in the semi-finals. And that really set the tone for the first weeks of the summer – blistering heat and sunshine, and a Britain living like it was 1976; every day hot, the evenings a delight to sit out in; shorts and t-shirts, ice creams and swimming, and a general feeling of casual relaxation and happiness.
What can I say? Even though, as I look out of the window now in early August with drizzle floating down from the grey skies, I have to record that this year is going to be one to remember for a long time to come. Like everywhere else Abberley has not looked this brown and crispy for decades. On the South Terrace lawns one can see where the rose beds used to be; cracks have appeared in the lawn and the pitches are far more uneven than usual; I have filled a dustbin full of lovely, dry, rotten wood, which I should be able to use in my smoker for bee-keeping for at least two more seasons; the school garden has been producing lots of ripe tomatoes and courgettes (Miss Dobson has been watering and picking); and everything is terribly early: most of the fields have been harvested – I bumped into a parent at Lords on Thursday, who had finished his combining the day before; the autumn raspberries at the bottom of our lawn have started – two pickings in already; and they are usually ripe in early September just as we go back to school; and the blackberries have been enormous and glorious, particularly down by the school bees. I am a little frustrated that we are away again this coming week, when I could be blackberrying and extracting honey. I do hope that there is still something to go at when we get back in a week or so…last year the poor, wet weather in August meant that the bees ate almost all their stores so that there was little to harvest at the end of the holidays.
The school has been full and busy, occupied by our new tenants XUK, for the last five weeks and will be for one more. In this day and age making the most of the school’s facilities is very important – we cannot afford the luxury of shutting up shop every holiday and dusting off three days before the beginning of term. Of course this brings its own stresses and tensions – an adjustment is needed in order to respond positively to an inquiry of “Who are you, and what do you want?”, when you live on site and have grown rather used to thinking people know you are! However, if you can put yourself into others’ shoes, it is entirely understandable. Thank you to our Swimming Club members, fishermen, badminton players, and members of staff used to moving around site freely, for compromising on normal routines and routes. Thanks too are owed to the support staff keeping our visitors fed, watered, clean and tidy, not least our new Catering Manager, Paula.
Human nature is to be greedy. We have had much, much more hot weather than we could possibly expect and certainly more than we deserve, but now that it is over (or is it?), one wants it back. Camping is a different experience in dry conditions, and I have been blessed to have several wonderful nights in Herefordshire this summer, some when there was no dew at all. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t resist having another look at the Met. Office weather forecast in the probably vain hope that the sun will be back soon. Mind you, playing rugby on the pitches as they are would be like playing on concrete right now. So perhaps three weeks of rain would not be the end of the world.
One last thing – I kept meaning and failing to include in the weekly blog reference to the school cat. A cat has adopted us, in fact two did. It has acquired a name (Mr Scott seems to be at the root of this) - Larry, and it is looking healthier than it first did. I spotted him/her last week, so the summer holidays have treated him well and I expect he is looking forward (if only he knew) to the return of the children and the increase in adoration and interest this will bring.