The Head's Blog

Saturday 21 May 2016

Verse 4

'Twas on a Saturday morning

our lives were looking up

at last the gas has been restored

for breakfast, lunch and sup,

we've managed well, that is for sure

but now we're on the ball,

we're grateful for the food we eat

and that the gasman came to call.

Chorus

Oh at Abingdon

A crisis sees us at our best!

Special thanks to Peter Hadfield and the catering team and Martin Mckenna (Director of Estates). A lesson in how to feed well over 1000 people three meals a day (and the rest) without the gas!

Friday 20 May 2016

Verse 3

'Twas on a Friday morning

repairs were in full flight

a mobile kitchen's on its way

to make us food to bite,

hot water flowed for boarders' showers

(thankful we are for that)

a lunch of meats, pasta and bread

ensures we're not unfed.

Chorus

Oh at Abingdon

A crisis puts us to the test.

Thursday 19 May 2016

To the tune of "The Gas Man Cometh", Flanders and Swann (sort of):

Verse 1

"Twas on a Thursday morning

the gasman came to call,

a leak in School House basement

was eeking through the wall,

we excavated down to cut the gas supply right off,

and contemplated how and when

we'd next have food to scoff.

Chorus

Oh at Abingdon

A crisis puts us to the test

Verse 2

'Twas on a Thursday evening that

the Prep School did its bit,

tomorrow's meals were all prepared

to feed the multitudes,

coronation chicken, gammon steak and veggie tart,

the Boarders had a Barbeque,

so felt they'd played their part. (not so hard …)

Chorus

Oh at Abingdon

A crisis puts us to the test.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

There are perhaps three recurring themes in my blogs: the English weather, food, and the dog. Today all three make an appearance as I observe this scene: being Wednesday afternoon, 6th formers and lower school boys are out on the lawn at Lacies Court playing croquet. I've always wondered if the boys have ever realised that the concept of a "level playing field" does not apply to this lawn. Although it has yet to become a habitat for moles and the associated mounds of dirt, the undulating ground means this is probably the least desirable place to play a calculated game of croquet. Mallets thud the wooden balls which set out on a clear path to the next hoop, only to deviate frustratingly when the goal is in sight, to sit in a dip. This does not deter the boys who re-calculate next steps and the competition ratchets up. It is at this stage in the game that I take the boys a plate of cakes to top up energy levels. Of course, the heavens open, down pours the rain, the younger boys simply disappear, snack in hand, but the older ones persevere, taking their turn darting out from the shelter of the patio. Just as quickly, the sun suddenly comes out, and play begins again in earnest although everyone is saturated – but another deterrent presents a new challenge. A dog is sitting in the sun, right in the line of the next shot, clearly not intending to move…

Education Committee. This governor/staff committee always has a certain buzz, not least because we always have dinner afterwards at Lacies Court where the debate continues. Linda Gaskell, Head of the Early Years Foundation Stage, sets the tone with a brisk and informative presentation on EYFS at Abingdon Prep. Academic reports are received from Graeme May (Deputy Head Academic) and Crispin Hyde-Dunn (Headmaster, APS). We look at the academic section of the Foundation Development Plan and review policies. It's the discussion that's always interesting on this committee for the education of the boys is why we're here, and the debates are well-informed and stimulating.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

For some weeks the back of a painting propped up on the inside of a window in the Art Department has caught my eye as I've walked over to the drive. I'm not sure if it's there intentionally so that a message painted in bold black letters can be seen from afar, or if the windowsill is simply a convenient place to prop up an abandoned painting. It states: "I Dream My Painting and then I Paint My Dream". I quite like that. I resolve to find a moment to go and see what's on the other side.

Monday 16 May 2016

I hand over my passport and driving licence for checking to the police at the North Gate of Buckingham Palace. I'm here for the Diamond Anniversary Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. There are 8,000 people here! It's all fantastically well organised, huge coloured balloons (is there a balloon theme this week?) are dotted all over the expansive lawns with numbers on and we all gather in much smaller groups. Up strikes the band, the tea tent is doing a brisk turnaround of tea and just the best shortbread ever, before the national anthem and a brief silence before the event proper begins. Three members of the royal family are doing the rounds today and the Duke of Edinburgh visits our group. Award holders are presented with their certificates and Mat Dempsey, who runs our DofE scheme, Oliver Phillips (OA 2014) and I are presented with a special plaque for the School. Ainslie Harriott of TV cooking fame is the guest presenter for our group and keeps everyone entertained until the Duke makes his way to us. There is a festive air all afternoon as we celebrate the achievements of the gold award holders and also 60 years of the DofE scheme. That's quite an achievement.

Sunday 15 May 2016

I hear long sustained hisses emanating from outside so I look out of a second floor window at Lacies Court and there, hovering at eye level, just behind the trees on the other side of Roysse's Alley and over the lawn at Austin's House, is a large hot air balloon. Could it possibly be landing in our grounds? Is it in difficulty? Gradually, after more frantic hisses as the heated air fills the balloon, it lifts above tree level and takes itself up over Lacies Court and Bath Street. It seems that there are three people in the basket and the sound of animated snatches of conversation drift downwards. Finally it is properly and reassuringly airborne and the journey continues only to descend again to perilously low levels. This continues for 20 minutes or so as the balloon bobs along very low to houses. I can't see where it eventually lands but I'm assuming that it has. I'm sure that the boarders have been following its rather unpredictable course over the rooftops of Abingdon.

Thursday 12 May 2016

Lots of boys up for Head's Praise today, which is always good to see, ranging from reaching the final of the IFS National Investor Challenge to success at regional and national competitions in Sailing, Chemistry, Linguistics and hockey.

Retiring HMC Heads from all over the country gather at Magdalen College for a special dinner. There are quite a few stepping down and beginning to look over the parapet. Plans for September are varied. Some have already signed up for other roles which will mean September is as busy as ever. Others are building up a portfolio of commitments: serving on school boards, the inspectorate, a little consultancy. Others still are owning up to taking a holiday – a very long holiday – and well deserved too. Most Heads have served a good number of years and going on holiday in September when everyone is back at school does have its attractions – holidays in term time: rather in vogue at present. There is, though, a slight tinge of sadness and apprehension in the conversations. Where has the time gone? What will life be like after years of the rhythms, demands, challenges and the pleasures of school life? One Head tells me exactly how many days are left until the end of term!

Wednesday 11 May 2016

What are the risks facing an organisation such as Abingdon? With governors, we keep a very close eye on risks and how they might impact on what we are trying to do at Abingdon. So the termly ARC (Audit, Risk and Compliance) committee meeting, chaired by governor Olga Senior, is always a serious and thorough look across an ever-changing landscape of external and internal factors which keeps us all on our toes.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Only our OAs would persevere with golf at Frilford in rather dismal rain. Spirits are not subdued though as this group of regular devotees do their thing on the golf course. Yes, it's the annual golf tournament. David Blomley is responsible for the draw and generally organising everyone. Certainly, a competitive spirit lurks but goodwill always shines through, particularly as we assemble in the rain for the photograph. I shall miss this annual get-together with the OAs.

Another last time event: being on the inside of what really happens at prefects' meetings as revealed at the annual prefects' dinner. The awards always tell the inside story including "the bacon butty" award, the "should have been head boy" award, the "I'm so so sorry" award and… the award for being drunk on the job (?!) Mr Dawswell is presented with a new notebook to add to his enormous archive, which records in detail the minutiae of everyday life at Abingdon. Now that would be revealing if only I could get my hands on it!

Earlier posts