Friday, 15th June 2018
Headmasters have a varied life and yesterday was certainly one of those days. I woke early and drove down to one of the country’s most southerly places, a tiny slither of sand sticking out into the Solent. It was upon this razor thin piece of land, surrounded entirely by sea, that the Form 8s were having their residential. I arrived in time for breakfast, an occasion at which the boys were clearly present physically if not mentally. Fortunately for me, the more elderly members of the party, Mr Dickinson and Mr Cotterill, were very much alive and full of energy. Following breakfast we went to the accommodation block where the party, minus Mr Dickinson whose heartiness at breakfast had clearly exhausted him, prepared themselves for kayaking by donning their wetsuits. It was when we got to the enormous Second World War ex hangar that someone suggested I should go kayaking too. Having been so thoughtfully put forward I couldn’t really decline and before I knew what was happening, I was sitting in a kayak, clad in a baggy wetsuit and life jacket and was heading off down the lagoon with the Year 8s and an extremely competent Mr Cotterill who clearly had not wasted his youth. All the boys were fantastic and the whole flotilla cruised across the exposed reach of water being buffeted by the rough seas, eventually making landfall on the marshes at the other end of the lagoon. Threading through the marshes are narrow channels of water which we all navigated our way up until our leader, intrepid guide and Head Boy, Joe, got stuck in the mud. It was then that we turned round, beaten but unbowed. It was three hours of pure delight in the company of some delightful young men.
And then, following a brief return to School, I again got into my car, this time with my eight-year-old son, Henry, and headed off to Boars Hill to join the Forms 3 and 4’s camping at Youlbury. Youlbury reminds me of a Ladybird Book experience. No sooner had we arrived than it was tent pitching followed by foot-ball and rounders. Though there were some classy moments to the football match it did not have quite the same status as the other great match played yesterday. After hot chocolate and flapjacks it was marshmallow cooking over the fire, a fire incidentally beautifully constructed by Mr Watson who had brought a garden saw, an axe and other specialist instruments to construct this fire to end all fires. And so many a marshmallow was cooked, an event which led to widespread digestive pleasure. Following a sing-song round the fire, Mr Green juggled in the dark using fluorescent balls, something which caused an almost magical effect.
And so now here I am, lying in my tent at the end of an extraordinary day, wondering how many more hours it will be until the dawn chorus bursts forth, heralding the arrival of the sun and the sound of the happy campers.
Not many hours later …….
It is now 4.30 am. Last time I went camping it was with some secondary school pupils at St Edward’s. It was, as it is now, the middle of the summer and I was woken up then by the harmonious sound of bird-song. On this occasion things are very different. All I can hear now is the sound of animated conversation.
On balance this is a very good life ….. though I’m not sure much of it was in my job description.