Friday, 15th September 2017
Amongst the boys there has been a great deal of interest in the hurricanes which have smashed their way across the Caribbean over the past few weeks. Weather storms the size of England with terrible destructive power are indeed fascinating and boys tend to have an interest in the monumental. I take Form 5 for a weekly lesson on current affairs and we talked about the fact that in England almost everything seems to be in moderation. We do not get the terrible weather phenomena of the Caribbean or Mid Western United States; we do not get earthquakes or volcanoes, nor intense cold or ferocious heat. Instead we live in a world of relative natural harmony. Of course the down side is that we don't get much Mediterranean heat in the summer and we don't get generous snowfall in a bleak midwinter very often but, by and large it means we can live lives which are basically predictable and safe. I'm certain that this has contributed to our ability as a nation to produce stable political systems (in the main...) and decent social institutions. It has also contributed, I believe, to our ability to make wealth and to be a magnet to people from elsewhere, hence the glorious variety of nationalities who live in Oxford. This puts us in a very privileged position and it is sometimes necessary therefore for us to play our part in alleviating suffering in other parts of the world where they have more destructive natural phenomena. I am very pleased to say therefore, that on Friday 22nd September the School is putting on a concert to be given by a number of pupils in aid of the relief campaign for Barbuda which has been all but destroyed by Hurricane Irma. I believe that 90 per cent of the island's buildings have been affected. Pupils will be performing and afterwards there will be a cake sale. All parents are welcome and I hope very much that you will help by creating or encouraging your children to bake cakes and then by attending the concert and donating generously. Generous cake consumption too would be a good thing. I often feel that our house is too full of rubbish and possessions but that's so much better than having nothing or a twisted pile of debris where once your life was neatly arranged around you.
On Friday 29th September the PA have organised a wine tasting in the William Walton Hall. Last year this was a well-attended event which was both entertaining and instructive. The wine too was delicious. For me it was an occasion which was good for my soul as I failed to identify Chardonnay, one of my favourite grapes, one, indeed, which I would pride myself in being able to recognise anywhere – I was well and truly humbled! This is always a good thing. One should never be allowed to become complacent or to imagine that one has everything sown up. I learnt two important lessons, firstly that the world is a much more complex and interesting place than one might have imagined it to be – Chardonnay comes in so many varieties – and secondly there can never be any end to the amount of practice that one should undertake if one truly wishes to master a subject. ... what a drag! At any rate, I hope that as many of you as possible will take advantage of the opportunity to practise your skills in this department further! It is also a lovely opportunity to meet fellow parents.
Last weekend was the Open Doors weekend; the centre of Oxford was teeming with people visiting many of the city's nooks and crannies, many of them places where one is not normally able to visit. The more one lives here the more one discovers what an extraordinarily colourful and interesting place it is. There is no end to the treasures that Oxford has to offer – there is an Italian saying - "Roma non basta una vita" – "For Rome, one lifetime is not enough." And to my mind, perhaps in a more modest way, Oxford too has this quality. I can't help but think that this infinite variety is a good thing for our pupils as they constantly come face to face with an environment which is not only beautiful but which offers, like Shakespeare's Cleopatra, "an infinite variety". Of course one of the things at the heart of true education is the notion that the world is a place of infinite variety and fascination, that there is no end to the world's delights and that a receptive mind will ensure one has a life of perpetual fascination. No wonder our pupils have such a hunger to learn.
I attended the Cathedral Choristers' first service of the year last night. I asked one of the first year choristers how he had enjoyed his first service as a full chorister. "Awesome!" he responded. "Awesome" indeed!