Friday, 2nd February 2018
It was announced yesterday that Stephen Darlington’s replacement as Organist of Christ Church will be Steven Grahl, the present organist of Peterborough Cathedral. Before he held the position at Peterborough he was the assistant organist at New College so he knows all about the Oxford scene. He impressed me tremendously during the auditions and was very popular with the boys who had to sing for all the hopefuls. He was the second candidate to appear and was therefore known as Number Two. One of the choristers, keen to make his views known to the committee, held up with a flourish the 2 of spades as an indication of his preference! I am quite certain that he will prove to be a worthy successor to the great Dr D. I will write more about Dr D later on this year but it is a very strange thought to imagine the Cathedral without him. His tenure of the role has been truly “epoch defining”! There will be very many events to celebrate his 33 years at Christ Church over the course of the next term and a half; I hope very much that you take the opportunity to attend some of them. Details can be obtained from the Cathedral. Dr Darlington has been a truly magnificent organist and one from whom all who have the privilege of serving under him have hugely benefited. Interest in joining the Choir is at an all-time high, as was evident on Saturday when 35 hopefuls came along to our Chorister for a Day – a testament to Dr Darlington’s tenure.
On Tuesday we were visited by two wonderful guests, Mary and Piper. Mary is a remarkable woman; for most of her life she has led a very normal life but in her late forties she started to lose her sight and then one day in the supermarket she hurt another person badly by bumping into them. She realised then that her sight had deteriorated very significantly and, before long, she had become completely blind. At first she found her way around with a white stick but pretty quickly she realised that she wanted a guide dog. Piper is her second guide dog.
Mary and Piper visited the School for 40 minutes. The pupils learnt a great deal from them and were desperate to ask Mary questions. Piper’s memory is phenomenal. Mary once said that she had gone to London on the Oxford Tube and Piper had managed to direct her back through London to where the bus went from. She says that guide dogs can understand more than 40 words. I was very struck by the way in which Piper was able to guide her round the school, stopping the moment that Mary came to a step. At the end of the session I took her out onto Brewer Street and off the two of them went to catch a bus on St Aldates, bound for Thame where she had come from. Initially I felt irresponsible allowing her to go out on her own but as I saw Piper steadily helping her down Brewer Street I knew all would be well.
The particular reason for their visit was the fact that the school’s charity this year is The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. We are now planning how exactly we should best raise the money. The total cost of a guide dog for the duration of their active life is £56,000 so it is a very expensive business. The cost to the person who needs a guide dog is just 50 pence. The rest comes from donations. I look forward very much to seeing how much we can raise for this wonderful charity. The most memorable thing that Mary said to us was the following: “When you think of all the things that can go wrong for people, I consider myself quite lucky”. I spoke to the boys about this the following day and pointed out how touching this was and that they, with their full sight, had even more reason to consider themselves lucky. To count one’s blessings is the best way of finding them.