Headmaster's Blog Archive

End in Sight

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 by Richard Biggs

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no country on earth more beautiful than England in June when the sun is shining. What an extraordinary passage of glorious weather we have had. And how lucky we are to live and work in such gorgeous surroundings here at King’s. I have never seen the school looking better. Our garden is a paradise, the grounds are pristine and green and immaculate.

We’ve made good use of the amphitheatre. Three services in the past two weeks and an assembly this morning. The latter went well, and emphasised for me what a special facility that is: what remains of the school (ie three year groups) fits in easily and it is no effort to speak to all of them from the middle. And much more intimate and relaxed than the rather stuffy assemblies we have in Chapel each week.

Two weeks ago we held our first Eucharist in the amphitheatre. Guest preacher was Father Richard Peers, Headmaster of Trinity, Lewisham, a Woodard-affiliated school. He admitted to a severe case of amphitheatre-envy! His sermon was brilliant; at one point he pedalled around the altar on a bicycle – making the point that the air in the tyres was important for smoothing out the bumps in the road. He spoke about mindfulness and we spent a few minutes in silence thinking about our breathing while we basked in the sunshine.

Much has happened and time is flying by. We break up at the end of next week, which is a scary thought. But not unpleasant – the break will be very welcome for pupils and staff alike. Between now and then, as ever, lies a programme of events and activities to test even the most energetic.

Highlights: the 1st XI play Millfield at the County Ground on Friday, as the curtain-raiser to the (less important) T20 match between Somerset and Essex. Our first team are playing well. Neil Brand looks set to become the first player in King’s history to make 1000 runs in a season…and we wish him well in that little enterprise.

On Sunday evening we have our termly sung evensong. This will be the last time that Chris Holmes conducts the choir of staff, parents and friends as a member of the school Music Department: he retires at the end of this term. The music he has chosen is superb, and includes the last two numbers from the Messiah. We will make a valiant effort to do it, and him, justice. Please think about coming along to what is always a lovely service…6:30pm in the Chapel. Drinks afterwards.

Today is Induction Day for next year’s third form intake. I welcomed them to King’s this morning and said to them that they were the future of the school – what it became depended on them, so this was as important a day for us as it was for the new pupils…our first chance to see them together as a group. They look as cheerful and as eager as ever. It must be daunting, though: a large campus, lots of large, confident pupils around the place, a non-stop stream of advice and information. I hope they soon realise that this is actually an enormously welcoming and friendly place and that it isn’t nearly as complicated as it seems. We are very much looking forward to welcoming the group back again as fully-fledged King’s men and women in September.

The biltong box has been an unmitigated success, and this has surprised me as much as it has my family. It really works. I’m onto my third batch already – and the box has not stopped whirring away for three weeks now. Delicious. Unfortunately the biltong seems to disappear about as fast as we can produce it. Next project – to make bacon from scratch. How difficult can it be?

Biltong and Buttler

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 by Richard Biggs

The half term break has come and gone and we are sliding rapidly towards the end of of another academic year. My holiday was most enjoyably spent doing as little as possible. One or two stunning walks in the Quantocks, a bit of tennis and the odd dinner party or two. And...time spent in the workshop. Building a biltong box. Biltong is a South African delicacy which is basically (look away now if you are of a squeamish disposition) dried raw meat. Every South African I know is addicted to it and craves it and is prepared to pay exorbitant amounts to feed their habit. Our charismatic Zimbabwean jazz piano teacher, Bruce, told me some time ago that he made his own, using a biltong box - a ventilated cupboard with a light bulb at the bottom.

Well, I now have my own biltong box. It turned out rather larger and grander than intended. I made it so that if the biltong side of things turns out to be a rancid flop it could easily be converted into a rather fetching folksy kitchen cupboard. Oddly, Mrs Biggs didn't seem all that excited, either by the prospect of limitless quantities of biltong or by the prospect of a new cupboard smelling of old dried meat. Anyway, one half-price lump of silverside and a bit of pickling and spicing later we now have the box whirring away. I took a belt and braces approach and added a computer fan at the top as well as a light bulb at the bottom. And it seems to be working! Nothing's turned green yet. The meat is looking, with each passing day, more and more like the real thing. This could be the start of something very special. Form an orderly queue by the back door if you want some...

The opening of the amphitheatre was an unmitigated success. We were lucky to have struck just about the best day of the spring so far. It was warm and still and absolutely perfect. Professor Outram declared himself delighted to see that it was a genuine amphitheatre - properly circular rather than the faux semi-circular affairs so often put forward, quite mistakenly, as the real thing. The large audience fitted in easily (we now think we could seat 300) and enjoyed a wonderful performance of mostly classical theatre, punctuated by a few musical interludes. It was all absolutely wonderful and certainly one of those memorable King's events that will remain with me always.

This second half of term is definitely the best time of the year as a teacher and, to be honest, as a headmaster. It's huge fun. Half the school disappears on study leave for a while, there is time both to teach well and to enjoy the many and often quite different activities on offer. A spelling bee on Thursday. The staff charity concert next week (do come along...you'll be surprised at how musical some of my colleagues are). Warm, lazy afternoons of cricket and tennis. When it isn't raining. For me, it all passes far too quickly before we break up.

We have our annual Meade King Cup swimming competition on Friday evening. I understand that this is an historic event: the oldest inter-schools quadrangular match of any sort in the world. Or something like that. (If I'm wrong our excellent Archivist will come knocking... and I'll issue a correction immediately). I wish our boys and girls every success in the pool.

What an extraordinary weekend we have just had for for OA sports stars. Jos Buttler finally made his maiden international century with an astonishing knock for the England 50-over side on Saturday. He can't really have done more to get his name onto the test selectors' table. And his altercation with Sri Lankan side yesterday has kept his name in the limelight. No bad thing (though the dismissal was a disgrace). And Maddie Hinch was very much in evidence too: she is the England hockey goalkeeper, and is playing in the (televised) tournament in Holland. That's not bad for a small school - two recently-left world-class performers making an impression on the same weekend.

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