Friday, 23rd November 2018
At the beginning of the month, a large number of parents accepted an invitation to come to the Christ Church Picture Gallery; it really was the most wonderful occasion and there was not a person there who wasn’t stunned by what was on offer. We were shown around by the Gallery’s Curator, Jacqueline Thalmann, whose enthusiasm was infectious. She spoke enlighteningly about many of the important works, including the Gallery’s most important painting, The Butcher’s Shop by Carracci, the Italian Renaissance painter. This is the first known depiction of a scene of this nature in art, being neither overtly religious nor a portrait of a leading family. Its huge size and daring colours, with a soldier bursting in on the scene, provoke the viewer into wondering what the picture is supposed to signify. But for me the highlight of the event was when Dr Thalmann carefully donned a pair of white gloves, went into a back room, opened a safe and brought out some of the drawings for which the Gallery is particularly well-known but which are not often on display. The drawings that we were privileged to see - we were only a foot or two away from them - were some Michelangelo sketches. On one scrap of paper was the most exquisitely drawn torso, Michelangelo’s distinctive style immediately recognisable. On top was scribbled in his writing “It is raining and so I will not come tonight.” Can one get closer to one of the greatest geniuses than to see such a touchingly domestic object? Another drawing was partly ripped - probably a sign that the artist was not happy with it - but to my amateur eye looked as extraordinary a masterpiece as a miniature sketch could be. Such wonders are here at Christ Church and, as parents of the School, we are able to benefit from such gems. It was lovely to see some of our staff on the visit, too.
As I have said many times, being a parent at Christ Church is to be part of a remarkable community and I hope that all of you will benefit from it as much as possible. Ellis Lloyd Payne, our new Chairman of the PTA, which supports the School and puts on various entertainments throughout the course of the year, is very keen to make it as lively an organisation as possible. He and a number of other interested parents have put together a wonderful programme for the Punch Party, which is held after the Carol Service on the final day of term. Entry this year is free and there are some wonderful stalls set up by parents. There will be a wide variety of food and drinks available. Would you please do everything to support the venture and come – it is an important event financially for the PTA, raising funds to support a number of school projects, and a lovely way to end the term. The children tend to enjoy it greatly.
We’ve just completed Exam Week; I was very impressed by the way in which the pupils got on with the task in hand. A huge amount of hard work had been done and boys definitely took the task seriously. I had the privilege of scribing for a couple of boys and I was fascinated to see what they knew and how their minds worked when approaching the questions. Young minds never cease to amaze me; so much of our future depends upon these tiny organs lodged in people’s skulls. I was having dinner with a novelist earlier this week who is spending this term at one of the Colleges as the Creative Arts Fellow. She had arranged a number of lectures for the students. At one, a leading brain surgeon had said that the more he knew about the brain, the more he was in awe of it and the less he really understood it. As teachers, we really are so privileged to be helping to shape young minds, a fact which we must never take for granted.
I hope that most of you read the Oxford Times. It may be that local newspapers are not everyone’s cup of tea but I always find it an interesting and instructive read and Oxford is, in its own way, a fascinating city. Do have a look though, especially at this week’s edition. We have a monthly slot where one of our teachers writes a column about the place. This week you will find an article written by our new Head of Modern Languages, Mme Loyer, who writes about the many innovative ways in which she is endeavouring to excite our pupils about speaking and appreciating French. I have no doubt that her brimming enthusiasm will have a far-reaching effect on our pupils. I am sure that, in a post-Brexit world, those boys who have been educated with us will be able, through their excellent linguistic grounding, to keep diplomatic channels open between this nation and our closest neighbour! Education at CCCS should be transformational and I know personally how profoundly positive experiences in the classroom can transform one’s life.