As I sit in my Study in School writing this on Friday morning I am looking back of what has been a tremendous week in so many different ways both for me and for the School. It is true that I am now faced with the job of packing up my possessions from the room which has been an extension of my home for 7 years to make way for Mrs Leach (I am fortunate to have Mrs Carlysle [the Honorary Librarian] with me today to help ~ having already packed up the Library) when I would rather be sleeping in, but this is just the price-tag one pays for having a wonderful send-off week and particular a real ‘Day of Days’ yesterday when I said good-bye to the School.
Monday was a delightful evening spent with the members of my Leadership Team in Pizza Express, although they had got my hopes up that it was going to be McDonald’s. It was wonderful to spend some quiet social time with the people who have helped me make our School the unique and successful place that it is today, and to share memories of the various things we have worked on over the years. As you will know I am a great fan of teams. I think that they allow us to win together and lose together; teams celebrate together and grieve together and this means that defeats are softened and victories sweetened. I have been very fortunate to have been able to recruit such an able one.
Tuesday saw the second run of Mr. Bignell’s surreal comedy Madness took me which played to a sold out audience. Although still true to the original version, this performance had been re-imagined slightly to reflect one or two aspects of recent school life. It was as great as ever with tremendous performances from all the actors. More in detail in the next issue of More In Depth but what I can say is that it was a great way to say goodbye to the Head’s role in relation to Drama.
Wednesday evening was the annual Officers’ Dinner. This is a black tie event hosted by the Chair and Vice Chair of Governors to thank the School Officers for their service to the School’s community during their year of office. This is a special occasion at the best of times but particularly this year as the present UVIth were the first Year Group I truly admitted as Year 7s. It has been my privilege and my delight to see them grow into the fine young women that they now are.
Thursday was a ‘Day of Days’ for me. It started with the opportunity to welcome the girls in the morning for the last time, followed by our Penitential Service at St Mary’s which, as ever, was built around the Stations of the Cross and wonderful Easter music from both the Senior Choir and some composed and performed by the girls themselves. This was followed by an opportunity for me to talk to my girls and Staff one last time and the text of what I said has been reprinted below at the request of a number of parents. I was then completely taken aback by a series of presentations from the School. I received a framed version of the last School Photo with everyone’s name included; a wonderful painting of the front of the School done especially by one of the girls (Millie R); a special cook-book which had been constructed secretly by the girls and Staff, with each Form making suggestions as to what might included in ‘Mr. Carlysle-friendly’ menus; a card signed by the girls; and a bear which was constructed from a uniform blouse, jumper and skirt and came complete with a sign requesting me to ‘please look after this bear, thank you’, a 60th Anniversary badge and membership of More’s Household. This was followed by the Talent Showcase which was best I have seen yet and featured a song modified for More House, some wonderful drumming and piano playing, a great version of ‘the cup song’, several acoustic and unaccompanied duets, a religious medley and a solo singer accompanying herself on the piano. As usual I found it almost impossible to find an order of winners which made sense and therefore I decided that we would award prizes to all performers. The girls’ performances were followed by the Staff music video and then a brief farewell video that Mrs Carlysle and I had put together with the help of Felicity. The day was rounded off by me saying good-bye to my senior girls as they left and then joining my Staff to say good-bye to them so. They were very kind in that they gave me a new cooking knife set ~ as I remarked one has to be a very secure Head not to worry when the Staff get the knives out.
This is the text of my farewell address to the girls:
This is the last time I shall have the opportunity to talk to you formally when we are all together I shall be with you until the end of the day, but I would imagine that this afternoon, with the Talent Showcase, is likely to be somewhat hectic and noisy ~ and I wanted, for the last time, to share some ideas with you.
Life, it is said, is a journey, a pilgrimage if you will. Our lives are constantly on the move. We travel through time, from one instant to another, living our lives a moment at a time but always conscious that where we are in that instant is shaped by where we have been and where we hope to go; we travel through space physically, moving from one place to another but influenced by our physical surroundings ~ the level of comfort we experience, the beauty we see; we travel through our own physical growth becoming first stronger, surer, more resilient and then less of all of the things; we travel through our emotions, experiencing more, being shaped by it, learning dignity, control, love, fear, loss, defeat and victory understanding what these things are and how to put them into perspective; and we travel spiritually, laying down our moral, ethical, and philosophical framework and discovering more of what it is that our God expects of us and what He has given us.
We are tourists in our own lives, and like all good tourists we need a guidebook something to prepare us for what we might experience, what we could see, to tell us whether we can drink the water or not. The only difference is that we carry our guidebooks to life in our heads and our hearts and we are constantly updating them, writing notes in the margins based on what we have seen, experienced and come to believe. A good school, like our school, writes advice and guidance in that guidebook all the time. Some of those notes have been good and some bad ‘I can do that and I never thought that I could’; ‘Don’t ever do that again’; ‘That applause felt wonderful’; ‘that was wrong and I’m sorry for it’; ‘that was right and I am glad that I did it’; Your teachers, your friends, even your enemies, have, in different ways, been your guides through this journey we have shared together since you came to this school. And what a journey it has been ~ think of all of the things we have seen and shared together as a school community.
Our journey changes us day by day, month by month, instant by instant and I sometimes think that this scares us. What also scares us is the constant uncertainty our ever-changing lives presents to us. We cannot know specifically what lies ahead for us some of us embrace that, others are terrified by it. No matter which approach you take, or any of the shades in between these two ends of the spectrum, the reality is that we are children of God and our destiny is to change constantly and that is what makes our world so terrible and so wonderful, because it lies within our grasp to make each instant into what we want it to be. We have the freedom of choice to decide whether that moment will be good or ill, right or wrong. That is where the guidebook and the guides come in. Even though they cannot remove the responsibility that we, ultimately, have for ourselves and our own decisions, they can help with the quality of the decision-making and perhaps most importantly, help us find our way back when we lose ourselves.
Thus we have every reason to be confident. We are all created inherently good, kind and strong rather than evil, spiteful and weak. If we practice following our own inner nature, finding and drawing upon that which is of God within each of us, then we will be OK no matter where our physical and spiritual travels take us. I know this as one who is about to embark on the next part of his own journey. I have always believed the truth of what I have told the UVIth Leavers every year that you can take the person out of More House, but you cannot take More House out of the person. All of you have been so very special to me, and I suspect that you always will be. I will miss you all. It has been both an honour and a pleasure being Head here but I can leave knowing that you are in the safest of hands. Try to remember what you have learned here and never doubt your ability to cope ~ people have phenomenal capacity. Strive to do the right thing and to be happy. Be brilliant ~ I know that you will.
May God bless you all and may He bless our School.
And finally: I wish you and your daughter the very best for the future, as does my wife.
With best wishes until we meet again.