It has been a while since my last blog, and the memory of the last, exultant week of school is slowly fading. But it was quite a week, a typical King's smorgasbord of culture, sport and good fun.
The much-anticipated Masters cricket event completely lived up to expectations. It poured with rain in the morning and early afternoon, but, as if on cue, the sun came out in time to dry the pitch and allow a prompt start to the match between our 1st XI and the Masters team - all ex-test players. The marquee was a lively place to be. And an expensive one, especially with the silver-tongued Mr Clark doing his auctioneering best to prise money out of the assembled great and good. I'm always a sucker for these occasions, and he knows this. So I ended up spending far too much on a weekend with a Mercedes SLK. When will I learn? More on the car later.
The Masters team won the match, but our boys gave a good account of themselves and were not overawed. They certainly enjoyed the privilege of playing against a few legends of the game (Ramprakash – who had a few hearts fluttering in the tent, Trescothick, Hoggard, Caddick…). The event raised almost £20k for the sports hub development at King's, and Leisa Lavender and her team (including a large number of parents) deserve a very big thank you for their efforts. Same again next year?
Our final day of the year, Parents' Day, relies for its magic on good weather, and we were once again blessed with sunshine. Our guest speaker, Deb Criddle MBE, gave a moving account of overcoming setbacks and making a success of life. She is a gold-medal-winning paralympic rider and her down to earth honesty and courage moved us all.
Bob Coupland, who is retiring after a very long career at King's Hall, gave the sermon at the Leavers' Service. Of course a good number of the leavers remembered him well, and fondly. Judging from my own children's accounts of his lessons he is clearly something of a one-off, with a slightly unusual pedagogical approach that seemed to have involved the wearing of wigs and speaking in the voices of a menagerie of imaginary characters. Some of which we met in the Leavers' Service. The final act of that service, as the leavers process down the aisle and out into their new lives as OAs, always brings a tear to the eye, as it should. This year's leavers deserve a pat on the back for making such a dignified and memorable occasion of the final few days. They have been an exceptional bunch and we will miss them all.
After the further excitement of the Leavers' Ball, my wife's birthday party the following day and the small matter of 450 reports (which I seemed to leave even later than usual this year) we were ready for our annual pilgrimage to the sun. I have an old schoolfriend who lives, on the Riviera, the life the rest of us would like to lead. So we join him and his lovely family in his villa in Grasse for a week whenever we can bear the strain. Gorgeous. It was unrelentingly hot. The Med sparkled on the horizon, the ice cold ros é flowed freely and the pool was only yards from our bedroom.
We returned to Taunton and milder, windier, wetter climes and a brace of joyous dogs, and have been pottering ever since, contemplating more local adventures - sailing, I hope, definitely plenty of walking and maybe even some camping. A pilgrimage to visit an aged retired-priest uncle in Gravesend lies in store.
And then there was the Mercedes SLK. I am not, by nature, a lover of bling and luxury, but I think in this case I may make an exception. I collected the car last Friday and more or less lived in it for four days. What a hoot. Remarkably easy to drive, and enormous fun. My sons thought Christmas had arrived early. We tootled through the sunshine and the Dorset countryside on Saturday, support car in attendance (the drawback of a two seater is that you need a proper car to follow you with the rest of the family). I took elder son to Bryanston for the start of his two-week Ancient Greek course in the Merc. At least he will have started off with some cred....what he then makes of it is entirely up to him. He'll be collected in the Ford Focus, poor chap. It was quite a wrench to hand the car back to its rightful owners...and I've set up the Biggs SLK Fund. All donations gratefully received.