As I write this on the train back from London, after yet another of the many Big Smoke meetings that seem to infest my diary these days, I realise that it has been quite a while since I last posted a blog. Well before half term, in fact. We've been busy and time has passed remarkably quickly.
Half term, our first ever two week half term, was a joy. Especially, for my family, the second week, spent doing caveman impressions in Cornwall: hacking down a hedge, stoking up the incinerator, mowing the lawn, barbecuing mussels on the beach, fixing gates, baking bread. A far cry from desk work, and very welcome indeed. It does seem that the longer break returned our community in better heart to the second half of term. And much has already happened since we reconvened.
In the first week after the break we hosted about 50 prep school musicians for our String Day. The final result was excellent - a well-rehearsed and thoroughly musical little concert for parents in the Woodard Room. I'm delighted to report that Mr Albery has agreed to repeat the event for brass players...and quite right too.
That weekend we hosted the annual OA reunion at King's. Guest of honour was Chris Holmes, who retired from teaching last term after a long career in the music department. Movingly, a good number of his past pupils came back to sing the grace before supper, a piece he had written himself some time ago. The tenor solo was sung, beautifully, by the same person, who had sung it as a pupil, when the piece was first performed. Many of the OAs came back for the Remembrance Sunday service the following day. As always this was a deeply moving service. The list of OAs who died during the wars has been updated, thanks to the excellent work of the Archive department. They have, too, published a Book of Remembrance for those who died in WWI - available now for a small fee from the Archives. To round off a busy weekend we enjoyed the Amici Choir's beautiful singing of Faure's Requiem that evening in the Chapel.
The next day we were subjected to our biennial CCF inspection. With cars banished from the front square it returned, briefly, to its role as a parade ground. We had a pretty good turnout of uniformed officers to inspect the troops, ably and sensitively led by Colonel Garth Manger. One of those questions I'll probably get round to solving too late in my career: what does the Headmaster do while the uniformed ones are carrying out their thorough inspection of all three CCF sections? I hovered. With intent. The boys and girls, as usual, did us proud, and the feedback from the inspection team was very positive. We still don't know the decision of the MoD on whether it is going to stick to its absurd proposals to charge independent school CCF sections a fee in future. If they do, they are at serious risk of losing all that expertise, enthusiasm, tradition and excellence - all very evident at the inspection.
Also last week I enjoyed hosting a table at a dinner in the media centre at Lord's. That's the white spaceship you see at the Nursery End of the ground. Guy Lavender (CEO Somerset CCC) interviewed Jos Buttler and Marcus Trescothick - who were on good form. Lord Archer auctioned off some interesting lots, and made almost £10k for the sports hub appeal. A very successful and hugely enjoyable night.
On my way back the following afternoon (another return train journey from London = more meetings) I received an excited text message: our girls had won the regional U14 hockey tournament. That is an extraordinary achievement. They are the top team in their age group in the West of England and will represent their region in the national finals in February. Coming soon after our girls' footballing successes this underlines just how strong our girls' sport is at King’s at the moment.
The school's wealth of singing talent was on good form at the vocal concert last Thursday. It was great to see new singers emerging - some wonderful voices and strong performances. It must be said that the Chapel is a good place to sing. If ever you need a lift sneak into the Chapel, stand near the altar and belt out your favourite song. It is a gloriously flattering acoustic.
My son Oliver and I did some sneaking on Saturday: we snuck off to Twickenham to see England playing South Africa. A great match, and the right result, though it was close. We attracted some puzzled looks: Oliver was wearing his white England shirt, I a Springbok baseball cap. It is a visceral experience, sitting in the crowd at that great temple of sport. Lord's and Twickenham in one week - good times indeed!
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