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Education on the move – 10th February 2012

Posted: 14th February 2012 | Category: Headmasters's Blog

Wherever one turns, there is room for education.  Opportunities present themselves and knowledge is waiting to be inculcated.

Yesterday afternoon at around five o’clock 9 adults and 34 pupils boarded a coach bound for the West End.  The temperature was below zero but the party was buzzing – probably fizzing with E numbers from the ever-popular Jersey Tuck Shop that the Upper School students had run so successfully at Morning Break!

“Belt up, everyone!” I bellowed above the cacophony of excited children.

Silence reigned.

“I meant that literally!  Make sure you put your seat belt on properly!”

The noise level resumed and we were on our way with Ray, our chatty coach driver, in control.

Soon a plethora of gadgets emerged from knapsacks:  I Pods, I Pads, Smart Phones, one laptop, PS2’s, a Kindle and other gizmos I had never previously encountered! What a relief when I found Emily writing her diary and two others reading real books!

As we approached London, it was obvious that we were far too early for the show so Ray began an informed commentary on the sights and, as a Londoner born and bred, he treated us all to snippets of London history.

Some of the children put aside their machines and tuned into the education on the move that was on offer.

Here are a few snippets:

-Monument is 202 feet high because it is 202 feet from the base to where the Great Fire of London started in the King’s baker’s shop (Thomas Faynor’s) in Pudding Lane. It has 311 steps to climb!

-We all loved Big Ben and he correctly pointed out that it is the great bell that is called Big Ben

-Norman Foster’s City Hall which resembles a crash helmet was popular; the Shard, The London Eye and Canary Wharf also looked spectacular on a clear, crisp evening.

-The Tower of London stood out sharply as the buildings were stunningly illuminated.  The last prisoners to be held in the Tower of London were the Kray Twins in 1954, held for only a few days because of their refusal to report for national service.  Reggie and Ronnie Kray were gang masters who ran the East End in the 1950’s and 60’s.  They were cruel, unstable and were guilty of arson, protection rackets and armed robberies with a bit of torture thrown in too!  We passed the Blind Beggar Pub, a popular haunt of the Krays which became famous in 1966 when Ronnie murdered George Cornell there….gruesome stuff!

-Eros is a famous statue located on top of the Shaftesbury Avenue Memorial fountain in Piccadilly Square, London.  The statue is of a winged, naked archer and was created by sculptor Alfred Gilbert in 1893. It was commissioned as a memorial to the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury who was a famous philanthropist and politician.
There was great controversy when Eros (Anteros) was unveiled as people were uncomfortable with such a naked figure being displayed in public. As a result, the statue was renamed The Angel of Christian Charity but this did not catch on and over the years, the statue’s name was abbreviated from Anteros to Eros. In Greek mythology Eros was the God of Love and his Roman equivalent was Cupid.  Anteros, the God of Requited Love, was created as a brother for Eros, who was in danger of pining away from loneliness. Anteros is basically the Anti-Eros.

All fascinating stuff and worth a bit of research when I find the time!

Back to the journey!

We parked in the Haymarket and walked to the Criterion Theatre.  The theatre was charming and intimate, seating around 500 spectators.  It was full house as The 39 Steps is a very popular production!

Four highly adept actors played 139 different roles and had the audience in stitches!  This audience, myself excluded, was predominantly young; our children were enrapt by the over-the-top comedic humour, the slapstick, the mime, the innuendoes, the simplicity of the plot and the versatile acting.  As one critic recently said: “The 39 Steps isn’t a show-stopper; it’s not dramatic, amazing or shocking. But what is the most important, overriding feeling? It is a hilarious depiction of old British drama, which is entertaining from beginning to end – suited to all age ranges!”

With the show finished and the snow falling, it was back to the coach – by now the E numbers had begun to subside and it was, therefore, time to attack the snack boxes…and what an assortment of tastes: chilli wraps; irradiated nuclear chicken that tasted like haddock; marmite and peanut sandwiches; macaroni cheese; hula hoops; pot noodles; and even a bit of fruit.

By this time, yours truly had consumed his ham and cheese granary roll and was on the scrounge!  Georgina, one of my reliable Prefects, was picking the odd green seedless grape from a Tupperware pot.  She saw me ogling the fruit and kindly offered me one.  I reached out and just as my fingertips brushed the skin of the mouth-watering fruit, she whipped it out of range!  This happened thrice and, once again, education stepped in and saved me!

“You are tantalising me!” I cried.

“What does that mean?” asked Georgina.

So I told her the story:

Tantalus was the son of Zeus and was the king of Sipylos. He was uniquely favoured among mortals since he was invited to share the food of the gods (ambrosia). However, he abused the guest-host relationship and was punished by being “tantalised” with hunger and thirst in Tartarus: he was immersed up to his neck in cool, refreshing water, but when he bent down to drink, it all drained away; luscious fruit hung on trees above him, but when he reached for it, the winds blew the branches beyond his reach.

I could have continued about the fact that there are differing stories about what Tantalus’ crime was. One account says that he tried to share the divine ambrosia with other mortals, and thus aroused the ire of the gods. A more famous version says that he invited the gods to a banquet and served them the dismembered body of his own son, Pelops; when the gods discovered the trick, they punished Tantalus and restored Pelops to life, replacing with ivory a part of the shoulder which had been eaten by Demeter.

It was late; it was dark and the explanation had lulled Georgina into a false sense of security: purloining grapes is such great fun and so educational!

Children all collected, I sat back and the motto “CARPE DIEM” sprang to mind.  Often loosely translated as “Seize the Day” but “carpe” literally means “pluck” as in pluck the fruit so perhaps it should read, ”Pluck the day when it is ripe!”

And what a ripe day I had enjoyed!  My thanks to all on the trip who make school such fun!

Half Term has started; Fiona is making the tea; Rowan and I are singing Faure’s Requiem on Sunday and I have Latin words spinning around my head!  I don’t even teach Latin! This “Carpe Diem” has a great deal to answer for!

A few quotations from people brighter than this scribe on the “Carpe Diem” theme:

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener”!  Robert Frost – I like that one!

“Nothing is worth more than this day!” Goethe …back to my Teutonic roots!

“Don’t count the days – make the days count!”  Muhammed Ali boxing clever!

Finally, Mahatma Gandhi sums it all up: “The future depends on what you do today!”

Be that as it may, I am declaring my personal Half Term now officially open so it will be “Paulatim sed firmiter” for the next week!

Valete!

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