Friday, 26th January 2018
I am writing this letter from my sickbed. The worst thing about being ill is the sudden loss of contact with the comings and goings of daily life – the sense of isolation which very quickly takes hold; the world out there seems to be at a distance. Suddenly I begin to wonder how the normal things I do every day can be at all possible. Even the thought of walking up the street seems almost unimaginable. It does make me realise what a blessing decent health is. How much more difficult it must be for those who have long term health issues to contend with and indeed how heroic so many people are who live busy and useful lives, while battling with long term health or physical difficulties. I have made a vow that I will never take for granted the good health that I do have. Those of us who are fit and able should really make the most of all the opportunities presented to us – it may be that we won't always be in such a fortunate position.
In the Lake District there are 214 mountains (or fells as they are known) which I have always been keen to climb. However, I have never made a particularly determined or systematic effort to climb them; instead I have preferred to revisit old favourites and go to the ones which are more convenient or more exciting. I have always had it in mind that there will be time in the future to climb the rest. But actually I am coming to realise that the future doesn't stretch forever and that it is probably worth making a real effort to achieve the feat, something that requires a certain systematic approach. Those people who know what they are doing will make sure they plan routes carefully, altering ascents to take in nearby peaks and thereby being able to tick off a number of fells on one expedition. Organisation, determination and clarity of purpose are key. In future I will be more determined and organised and perhaps I will be one of those who can claim to have climbed every fell in the Lake District! I feel this particularly strongly when I learnt recently that the Sub Dean has done all 214 twice!!
One of the reasons I have not worried too much about not having achieved this feat so far is that I know that once one puts one's mind to it, it can be achieved fairly swiftly. In fact one extraordinary sheep farmer, Joss Naylor of Wasdale Head (at the foot of England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike), managed, at the age of fifty, to climb all of the 214 peaks in 7 days, 1 hour and 25 minutes, clipping half a week off the existing record. He said at the time: "I would have done it in six days, but I had trouble with my feet," - that is, the flesh on both his ankles was cut through to the nerve! Though I suspect I will not be able to achieve it in quite so short a time, it is remarkable what can be done if one puts one's mind to something and it is always worth remembering what can be done if one is determined. I have always found this realisation inspiring and I believe it to be central to an understanding of what we can achieve educationally. So much can be done if one's attitude is positive. If we can ensure that our pupils really do believe that they can achieve so much of what they desire, they will almost certainly achieve it. All my working life has been spent in education and as every year passes, it reinforces my belief that it is attitude rather than natural ability which is the dominant force in determining what people achieve. This has to be inspiring as it means that most things are possible if they are sufficiently desired and worked towards. Almost all ability has a very profound element of aspiration. I will continue to ensure that pupils at CCCS understand the importance of determination.
Very sadly my bed-ridden state means that I won't be able to attend tonight's ceilidh. I very much hope that as many people as possible will attend given that it is a splendid combination of PA, pupils and teachers, with Mrs Green providing the music. I will much look forward to hearing from Hannah all about the excitements of the evening and the more colourful the dancing the more vivid her account will be so please try to get there and, once there, dance with abandon so that I can enjoy the event to the full – even if vicariously! Tomorrow is our Chorister for a Day – 35 hopefuls are coming which is hugely exciting - and all the boys attending will get to sing with the Cathedral Choir at evensong. It's tremendously reassuring to know that there is still great interest in this wonderful way of life.