Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 15th may 2020
Hello to you all, at the end of another week of remote learning.
One difficulty facing many of us is our inability to get a change of scene. We are often told that doing and seeing new things is good for our mental health, or we are offered the cliché that ‘a change is as good as a rest’. For many people at the moment there is not much rest, and there really isn’t very much change. This is for very good reasons, of course. But looking at the same walls day-in day-out can clearly get rather irksome. We won’t be able to travel very far, or very easily, for quite a while to come. This can present another challenge as usually we can look out at rainy weather while thinking ahead to a time and place with a bit more sunshine. That won’t really be an option for a bit.
But all is not lost. There are various ways that we can escape from the British drizzle and the more difficult aspects of our current lifestyles. The most obvious way, and the way I am sure my colleagues in the English department would like me to promote, is to get lost in a book. Ideally this would be a book where your imagination can take you to a different place, a different time, perhaps a different universe. This might even be a cookery book with dishes from your favourite place somewhere else in the world – in which you can read the ingredients, look at the pictures, and imagine you are sitting outside sampling exotic cuisines. Your body might be limited in its movements, but your mind can still run free. The American author Henry Miller argued – when talking about travel – that ‘one’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things’. Reading empathetically can easily lead to a new way of seeing things, even if we can’t see, hear or smell a new place in person.
Another form of escapism is to read about, or to watch, other people’s travels. You can see different cultures, art and architecture, even if you can’t necessarily taste the food. On the iPlayer at the moment, for example, you can see Simon Reeve travelling along the Tropic of Capricorn, crossing South Africa, South America and Australia. You can see some ‘Great Railway Journeys’ or some natural history around the world in David Attenborough’s ‘Seven Worlds, One Planet’. I am particularly enjoying watching dramas set in countries other than England, partly because I am tired of dramas in England, and partly so my mind can escape elsewhere for an hour or so. And if my mind can escape somewhere that the sun shines and the food looks so fantastic you can almost smell and taste it, then that’s even better.
So my challenge to the boys this week is to find a book, or a radio or television programme, that helps their minds to wander beyond our all-too-familiar walls. And, as always, please do send us in pictures of them doing this. We are putting together as many resources as we can to mark this period of history. It is not a particularly pleasant period of history, I concede, but then not many periods of history are. And the more we can do to get ourselves through it and safely to the other side, the better.
Have a good weekend, full of imagination and escapism.