A perfect day for an opening
Friday, May 16, 2014 by Richard Biggs
The weather has, no doubt in response to fervent prayers and much finger crossing, turned out absolutely perfectly for this evening’s official opening of the amphitheatre. It is hot and calm; we have rather riskily declared “summer weather” (risky because we usually find that in a guarantee of rain) from tomorrow.
It wasn’t like this last weekend for the Ten Tors event. I did manage to get up to Okehampton on Friday night to see the teams and to have supper with them. It was pouring with rain and blowing a howling gale and bitterly cold. Typical Ten Tors weather, in fact. And I did spend the night near Okehampton. Not, this time, under canvas, but rather in the warmth and comfort of the nearest Travelodge. I’m getting older. Sleep matters. I was back at the camp by 4:30am, skillet in hand, and saw the troops off with a large cooked breakfast. As always, the spectacle of the start was hugely moving. The cannon fires, the 2,500 walkers pour down the hill in great good spirits and within minutes they are swallowed up by the moor and all is quiet.
It was a tough event this year, and not all of our team completed. But the spirit shown by the boys and girls was as impressive as ever. The 55 mile team, having carried a stricken comrade to the next tor and waited for his evacuation off the moor, then had their work cut out to finish in time. They made it by 5 minutes. A brilliant achievement.
The weather improved marginally for the prep school athletics festival on Sunday. Not enough to allow us to entertain visiting Heads in our garden, as we usually do, but sufficiently to allow a quick glass of champagne on the terrace, bundled up against the biting wind. That’s a shame, because our garden is looking more glorious than ever this year, thanks to the expert eye of Mrs B and the splendid efforts of our gardening team.
We also had our annual Benefactors’ Day last week, with around twenty or so OAs and Friends joining us for the day and in particular for a service of thanksgiving in the Chapel. They spent the rest of the day wandering around, visiting lessons and watching some first-rate sport (cricket, tennis and swimming were all on show). One or two found the swimming pool a particularly attractive post-lunch venue and there may have been the odd nap stolen, but that is mere conjecture.
Exams have started in earnest this week. For some (including eldest son) this has not come soon enough. All the waiting is over and the end is in sight. I do get the sense that the pupils are well engaged in revision. Mostly. The library is absolutely packed every evening, which is probably a good sign.
Today is an own clothes day, in which our pupils donate £1 to a chosen charity, in return for wearing mufti. We had a very good presentation in Chapel this morning from eight 6.1 pupils who are going to cycle to Monaco to raise money for SSAFA - a charity which provides support for the armed forces and their families. I am so proud that our pupils feel moved to do this sort of thing, entirely off their own bat. It’s a long way to Monaco and I wish them every success, easy riding, a tail wind and lots of fun.
And so to the amphitheatre opening. We are grateful to the Head of Archaeology at Exeter University, Professor Alan Outram, for coming along to open the facility. His academic interest seems to be in the archaeology of bones, marrow and fat. Perfect for our purposes of opening an amphitheatre based on classical design: an expert in ancient grease. It promises to be a memorable, and warm, evening.