Sitting at my desk in the relative peace and tranquility of an empty school – I say ‘relative’ as Chris Wilkinson is feverishly scraping off the varnish from the woodwork outside my study… – I have the opportunity to look back over the final three weeks of my time as Headmaster and, indeed, the last 7 years.
To paraphrase Malvolio in Twelfth Night – “Some are born to Headship, some achieve Headship and some have Headship thrust upon them” In 2009 I was very much in the latter category. Having said this, I do not see myself as a Malvolio-type character (a self-deluded puritan, intent on spoiling everyone else’s fun) and I hope the boys do not think of me in this way either….
If they knew a little more about Shakespearean plays, it might be interesting to know which character they thought each member of staff was most like…..or maybe not! I say this as Olive (6) has just told Mrs. Knight and me that if we were characters in the Toy Story films, we would be Mr. and Mrs Potato Head….I’ll take that over Malvolio any day!
I believe that the real purpose of Malvolio in Twelfth Night is to show that, even in a perfect world, someone must suffer in order for everyone else to be happy. This is often true of childhood as Ogden Nash writes in the poem ‘Children’s Party’ :
“Their joy needs another’s woe to cushion it,
Say a puddle, and someone littler to push in it.”
I wonder how many times I’ve seen that in the last 13 years of schoolmastering? Other people’s misfortune (standing on a rake etc.) is the basis for so much comedy and it is no different for children; if anything more so, as their sense of humour is often, although by no means always, less sophisticated. You only have to watch a Tom and Jerry cartoon to see what I mean.
As I said to the boys on the last day of term, my heartfelt thanks goes to them for their extraordinary ability to both shock and surprise in equal measure. It is what gets me up in the morning, as I rarely have any idea of what is coming next, and that is what makes this job so wonderful. I will, at some stage, write a book about the shared experiences of my time here; all characters will of course be entirely ‘fictitious’ and any similarity to any persons, living or dead, will be purely coincidental.
When I arrived at Woodcote in 2003 from a career in the Wine Trade, I knew immediately that being a school master is what I should have always done and I bored everyone senseless about the virtues of the job. For me though, it was about wanting to get up and go to work every single morning; not once did I want to bury my head in the pillow and try to forget that I had double English with 4B that afternoon, in the winter timetable, after games…..ok, maybe once.
The criteria that I set myself when I took over from Mr. Nick was exactly the same – was I, as Headmaster, going to wake up every morning and want to take the long commute across the drive to my study? I can honestly say that (almost) every single day this has been the case, and for that I must than the boys and staff for making Woodcote such a wonderful place to work and live.
My final vote of thanks must be to the parents, past and present, who have all been so supportive of the school. Our Junior Mistress often reminds me that ‘apples don’t fall far from trees’ and I know exactly what she means; while the parents also have a tendency to shock and surprise, thankfully they do so with far less regularity than their progeny! I thank you all for the countless cards and letters of thanks which mean so much to Susannah and me.
And so we move north with a mixture of great excitement and nervous anticipation. Whilst we shall be very sad to leave Woodcote after 13 years, it is undoubtedly time for us to move on. We are so looking forward to the taking up the reins at Belhaven and all the challenges that lie ahead but we would like to take this opportunity to wish Woodcote, and all who sail in her, every possible success for the future. It’s been quite a journey…..
That is all…..