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Friday, 27th April 2018

 

Dear Parents,

Being the Headmaster of CCCS has so many joys; yesterday I was able to attend the memorial service of Colin Dexter, the writer of the Inspector Morse series, the man, as the Dean put it in his eulogy, who has turned Oxford into the murder capital of Europe. The service took place in the Cathedral and so the choir were asked to sing, which they duly did in their incomparable way. The service was such an uplifting one because it was a very warm celebration of a remarkable life. Jonathan Crowther, the setter of the Observer Azed crossword, told us about how brilliant a crossword writer Dexter had been, while Kevin Whately, the actor who played Lewis in all those many TV adaptations, told us about how difficult Dexter had found it when he first performed one of his cameo roles in the early days, having to take on the role of a college porter who was supposed to both walk and point at the same time. He soon mastered such complex actions and appeared happily, if briefly, in all the subsequent films. We heard also from the Chairman of The Housman Society who spoke of Dexter’s love of the poetry of A E Housman, the 20th Century classical scholar and poet whose collection, A Shropshire Lad, has so inspired those who love the beauty of the English countryside. The poems have shocked people with the poignancy of their sentiments which are so cleverly at odds with the simple vocabulary. The Chairman chose the poem which Dexter had discovered as a teenager, one appropriate for both him and his creation, Morse:

Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
And faith, ’tis pleasant till ’tis past:
The mischief is that ’twill not last.
Oh I have been to Ludlow fair
And left my necktie God knows where,
And carried half way home, or near,
Pints and quarts of Ludlow beer:
Then the world seemed none so bad,
And I myself a sterling lad;
And down in lovely muck I’ve lain,
Happy till I woke again.
Then I saw the morning sky:
Heigho, the tale was all a lie;
The world, it was the old world yet,
I was I, my things were wet,
And nothing now remained to do
But begin the game anew.
 

I suppose one of the other charms of working at CCCS is that the effects of malt such as those described by Housman are not something I have to deal with amongst our pupils. I have always loved the Morse books and the subsequent television series even when their filming, as it did recently, caused Brewer Street to be closed! What a privilege it was for our school to be part of such a joyous and important celebration.

Talking of events in the Cathedral, I hope you will be reading this immediately so that you are reminded by it to come to the concert in the Cathedral at 8.00 pm this evening when the Parents Association get together with the College Music Society of Christ Church to produce an evening of remarkable music. Of course some of the undergraduates at Christ Church are amongst the foremost musicians of their generation but our boys who perform alongside them come across so well. It is another occasion upon which one counts one’s blessings and I am particularly grateful to two parents, Maki Sekiya and Susanne Mundschenk, for organising it all.

How good it is to be back. I spent a bit of time in the holidays in the school. One’s footsteps echo around the empty corridors, the playground is a big motionless space surrounded by walls, and the place somehow lacks life and purpose. But when I entered the building on Wednesday morning I could hear, as I approached the front door, the melodious combination of sounds which heralded chorister practice and then, standing on Brewer Street, up came the procession of cars, with doors opening and the enthusiastic faces of our pupils popping out. Behind me I could hear Mr Dickinson’s enthusiastic greetings and the smack of the occasional high five - a Dickinsonian greeting often in evidence. At assembly I picked out of a hat a Mary Poppins song for each house to sing at the House Music Competition…. There was one title that was made up from a hugely long word that I could hardly read – but all the pupils seemed to know it! At breaktime, as I worked in my study, I could hear the characteristically high-pitched buzz of our boys reconquering the playground and, at lunch again, pupils putting me through my paces - “Sir, do you really think that Dan Brown is a good writer?”. Well, now there’s a question which perhaps I would be better not to answer publicly.

What a wonderful term it’s going to be and I look forward so much to seeing you all over the course of it. I told the pupils that a summer term in Oxford was a blessed time and one that they should make the most of. They would look back upon such terms as amongst the most glorious episodes of their lives. I’m sure we will all find it so.

Mr Murray


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