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We live in the strangest of times....

This time last week things were looking grim but school closures were as yet small on the horizon and people were still largely going about their normal lives. Now, as I write, school has been closed for 3 days, the site is largely locked and silent, teachers are setting work online and only a handful of key workers’ children are attending. The streets are emptying, shops and businesses are closing their doors and life seems to be slowing to almost a halt. After probably the most pressurised few days of my professional life things now are moving in slow motion and in odd ways. As History clatters over the points who knows where we are headed next?

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Delaying the inevitable…

Sadly the subject of this week’ s short blog is the viral epidemic that is now increasingly impacting life for everyone both outside and inside school. So far we have no known cases of Covid-19, though we do have a number of boys who are in precautionary self-isolation due to a variety of different domestic circumstances. Together both school and parents are taking an appropriately cautious line, while here at BWS we continue to follow the official guidance very closely. I do understand the difficulty for families who are worried about vulnerable members outside school; we will be sympathetic to absences for boys for this reason as we move into the delay phase of the national response.

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Play for Today…

Last Thursday didn’t appear to be a very prepossessing day to take the whole of BWS’ Year 10 to London to ‘do’ Shakespeare. Macbeth at The Globe on the South Bank awaited, but the rain streamed down from leaden clouds and so damp were the occupants of the coaches that the demisters failed and our driver had to stop more than once en-route to physically remove the accumulated moisture from the windscreen. It was true to say that I had some misgivings about why I had said that I would go all those months ago. It had seemed like the classic good idea at the time, a day out to give some space for thinking and helping a big trip to happen. A lengthy coach trip, a theatre, a downpour and over 100 teenage boys; what could possibly go wrong?!

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Followers of the @BWordsworths twitter feed will have noticed that Thursdays are now marked by the posting of a picture from the BWS archive of photos. Last Thursday, for example there were a series of pictures from the mid-late ‘60s showing temporary classrooms being craned in over the Exeter Street wall and put in place in what was then euphemistically called the ‘Paddock’. Temporary turned out to be a term with a degree of approximation built-in, as the portakabins were not to go finally until 2003 (ie nearly 40 years later). The scenes of the arrival of the modular buildings are redolent of another age entirely, evidenced clearly by the haircuts, the flares and the apparent lack of any health and safety concerns as the loads swung into place.

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Tussle at the Ray Mac

I almost didn’t go last Saturday to the home game against Tiverton. The sun was out and that rare event made jobs in the garden an absolute priority. Several cars and a motorbike to clean and grass to be cut for the first time since October; I got that lot done with a few minutes to spare before setting off to Old Sarum and the footy. I arrived with just a couple of minutes to kick-off, so barely time to sit down before the action started and certainly no chance to read any of my book – that had to wait until the interval. The upside was that just for once I escaped the quizzical looks from other Salisbury fans who clearly don’t understand that odd bloke sat on the terrace immersed in a novel. ‘What’s that then, War & Peace?’ I was once hailed with from higher in the stands, and I suppose I can’t really blame whoever that was…

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A duty to tell the generations that follow…

Last October, during the half term break I realised a long-held ambition to travel to Washington DC. A fascination with American politics in turmoil, with the history of such a new country and the diversity of ethnicity and culture that a population of immigrants guarantees had made me want to see the capital city of the States close-up. I wasn’t disappointed; though we stayed in the more European surroundings of Georgetown, the short metro trip downtown tipped us out into the heart of a very different city, one where neo-classicism rubbed shoulders with plate glass, low-rise and yet imposing. It was great to see the White House, the Capitol, the Jefferson Library and the Supreme Court. We were lucky enough to get into Congress on one of the significant pre-impeachment debate days and the trip through the seat of power of the World’s only super-power will live on with me for a long time. A night time tour through the National Mall will do the same, the stunning memorials to Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln and MLK sear the memory as very few others can do. History feels young, raw and unfinished there in a way that I am not accustomed to in the UK, and it is very clear that the Americans that we met feel the importance of learning and telling stories as their country grows and changes.

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Spring term timeline

After the gathering gloom and incessant wetness of the autumn, this new spring term seems already to have lightened the tone. For the first time in weeks and weeks the sun, though low, is brilliant in a winter blue sky and nature is responding; the snowdrops and crocuses have suddenly poked through the mud and green of the lawn of No11 and the activity and volume of the local birdlife has lifted noticeably. In the same way the post-Christmas period ushers in a wealth of different activities as we both consolidate the current academic year and prepare for the new one to come in September. Last week Year 13 were sitting their mock A level papers in the Sports Hall, and their results (and the associated reports) will appear this side of the half term break. Whether the news is good or otherwise, their sights are now set firmly on the summer. The same will be true of Year 11, as their Parents’ Evening is due this week where the discussions will be split between a post-mortem of the pre-Xmas exams and what comes next.

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130 years and counting…

This Wednesday Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, will be guest speaker for us at our first whole school cathedral service of 2020. It’s great that he is able to be with us, 130 years almost to the day after The Bishop’s School (as it was initially called) started up in the Bishop’s Palace here in the Close. That was more an imperative driven by circumstance than a matter of choice; construction work on Chapel Block was overrunning and presumably the school site was still infested with builders and scaffolding, in somewhat typical British fashion.

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December has arrived

The Year 11 boys are back in class, the prelim exams a thing of the very recent past. The end of term beckons and the last week will, I am sure, slip past in a flash. The Christmas season started for real with the opening carol of the Winter Concert at St Martin’s, and on Tuesday evening the music moves to the somewhat grander setting of the Cathedral where choir and congregation will join together once again. Can’t wait!

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