Summer term at the School started yesterday…
It need hardly be repeated that – for one member of staff at least – this term will be unlike any other. It is not merely my last term at the School – but my last term anywhere!
Retirement is a big deal. Retirement and emigration in one fell swoop is an even bigger one. There will, doubtless, be plenty of opportunity on future occasion to dwell at length on the emotion and intellectual chaos that will almost inevitably be the outcome of pursuing such a rash, if delightful, course – and you just know that I will avail myself of that opportunity. It is not – however – my topic for today.
Having spent my entire career in education – both higher and secondary – I am in consequence well used to that particularly perennial rhythm familiar to those whose years are divided into academic terms.
Since the age of five my annual round has comprised three concentratedly intense and well defined trimesters separated by welcome periods of recovery. When at school myself – and when later at college – such hard-earned breaks actually were holidays, rather than simply the much-needed respite from the demands of academics that has been a feature of my working life since. It will surprise the gentle reader not at all to discover that – at the School – such exeats are – in the splendidly anachronistic tradition of public school terminology – designated ‘Remedy’!
I am grown so accustomed to this familiar rhythm that I fear that life post-retirement without such a framework might take some getting used to. The ebb and flow of the academic year is – for those who choose such a life – part of the attraction.
Academic terms are simultaneously tense, exhausting and strangely exciting. So much happens in such a brief period that the senses can be quite overwhelmed. It is very much the norm for all staff in schools such as this to become heavily involved in a wide range of extra-curricular activities, and those who complain that teachers have a cushy number, blessed with long and undeserved holidays, should remember that a house master at a boarding school – for example – is pretty much on duty for eleven or twelve weeks on the trot, twenty four hours a day and with the bare minimum of time off throughout that period. Staff not in house might have things slightly easier, but will still probably find there to be little opportunity during term time for a life outside the school.
This is not – you should understand – a complaint. As I have indicated, this life and its associated rhythms really are most attractive, for its variety as much as for anything. By the end of the summer term I may not much care if I never see another boy as long as I live but, after a measured, low-key, methodical and rejuvenating summer break from their presence, the place is only too ready for their return.
The Kickass Canada Girl is wont to extoll the virtues of Costa Rica – the climate of which blessed country supposedly varies nary a jot from a steady 72F throughout the year. This is – so she claims – her perfect temperature! That is as maybe but – as I will argue whenever the topic is raised – I much prefer that we actually enjoy seasons. How can one truly appreciate the glories of the summer if one has not had to endure at least some winter? Spring and early summer are my very favourite times of year because I love to see nature reborn after the vicissitudes of the autumn and winter. The seasons’ cycle does – after all – reflect the circle of life.
I clearly have a preference for a perennial routine. The varied Victorian climate looks pretty ideal to me, and I have no doubt that we will rapidly fall into a regular rhythm – rugby and trips to warmer climes in winter – cricket, boating and the great outdoors in summer – the familiar round of pagan festivals…
I am – all too clearly – a creature of habit!