On Sunday afternoon, on a whim, I decided to drive out onto the Levels – or as far as I could get – to see the flooding and to take some photographs as the sun went down. Oliver, my younger son, came with me. What an extraordinary sight that area is at the moment. An inland sea, with village islands surrounded by miles and miles of water. We live in a very strange world at the moment, a peculiar dampish atmosphere pervades all that we do; and it never seems to stop raining. I work to the constant rhythm of rain drops falling down the zinc gutter outside my office window. A melancholy sound.
There are bright moments: I took my U14C hockey team to play Millfield on Saturday afternoon. We waited for our slot on the pitch in a howling gale and the odd lashing of rain. Luckily we could take shelter in the very smart pavilion. The hot drinks dispenser was feeling generous and we warmed ourselves on copious mugs of hot chocolate. When we finally got onto the pitch my boys were fantastic. We have that unusual luxury this year: three (and more) teams’ worth of players at U14 level all of whom seem to know what they’re doing and can play hockey. In the world of U14C hockey that can be a devastating prospect for the opposition, and so it proved: we won 8 – 0. Team of the week. Manager of the Month, I would hope. The bravery and dedication of the parents standing huddled on the touchline leaves me in awe. I salute you, brave men and women.
Last week I was away inspecting another school. For the first time I actually enjoyed the experience – it was good fun. It may just be old age and a growing tendency towards dull conformity (fight it, fight it!) but I felt that my fellow inspectors and I were doing a good and worthwhile job and that the inspection system works pretty well. It is still, to my mind, heavily dependent on the character of the lead inspector, but I’m not sure there is a better way to do these things. And the chance to rummage around and get under the skin of another school is a real privilege. I came back with lots of ideas. The staff here are dealing with a barrage of new, and possibly daft, plans spewing out of my office. Some may be worthwhile.
On Friday we’re hosting a meeting of all the local prep school heads at King’s, which is a wonderful opportunity to show the school off. The visitors are in for a treat: a morning spent playing with the kit in the Design and Technology Centre. We have: a laser cutter, which cuts plastic and thin wood to astonishing accuracy and complexity, guided by a computer; a plasma cutter (the same again, but beefed up to cut quite thick steel sheeting) and a car hoist, recently acquired, which makes taking the bottom gubbins out of a car a thing of ease and comfort. I am proud of the fact that our DT courses major on making things. At the end of the process the pupil has a coffee table or a guitar stand or a make-up box to show for his or her efforts, not just some elaborately produced folder of designs (although they have that too). And the emphasis is on quality in the making as much as it is on quality of design. The stuff they make is extraordinary; I hope the heads are impressed and send us all their budding engineers and designers as a result.
I understand that the inaugural philosothon last week was a great success, much enjoyed by the eight visiting schools. The contestants debated, among other topics “can machines think?” and “would we do good even if we were invisible?”Well done to Wells Cathedral School, who won this historic first event.
The forecast is not helpful for the days and weeks ahead. The astonishing thing is that as I walk about the school I still see pupils and staff smiling and going about their business with a sense of purpose and even, it must be said, enjoyment.
“The rain falls upon the just
And also on the unjust fellas
But mostly it falls upon the just
Cause the unjust have the just's umbrellas”
Cormac McCarthy The Stonemason
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