And it’s the idea of connecting that I wish to dwell on a bit today. Here I am, connecting with you in a way that I’ve never before done, through a video assembly.
We as human beings need to connect. It lies at the heart of what it is to be human. The great novelist E M Forster realised this — his book Howard’s End — here it is in my library at home — is all about human connexion and has at the start the famous inscription ‘only connect’.
And in these challenging times, finding ways to connect, either new ways (as in the guided home learning that you and your teachers are collaborating on) or tried-and-tested ways — finding ways to connect is ever so important.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about family connexions during the Easter holiday. For just a few days ago my dear father passed away, peacefully at home — not of coronavirus but essentially of old age — he was 86 and very frail.
It was a great shock to me and obviously I’ve been very sad. But this event has given me the opportunity to connect with wonderful memories of a great man.
He was the most splendid, resourceful motor engineer — he repaired cars for his living. I didn’t really connect with him on this level, much as I admired his talent for bringing any faulty car back to heel — I am a hopeless mechanic. But I connected with him in so many special ways. Obviously as son and father. But also through our unique musical connexion. He was a fine sitar player in the field of Indian Classical Music, and I know that he continues to live on in me, through my own musical enterprise, which I know I inherited from him.
His death has also led me to connect with family members from all over the world I’ve not been in touch with for years.
To connect with old photos, for instance when he and my mother took me on my first holiday ever, to the Lake District, when I was just 4 years old.
And to connect with nature. I have taken great solace sitting in my garden during this fine weather, by the flowers and herbs that my father planted. Yes, he was a keen gardener and he loved coming to my house to keep my garden spick and span — I shall miss this!
By sitting in my garden, I have so enjoyed the birdsong and have seen butterflies close up that I’ve never seen before — and using Google lens have identified them — a totally new form of connecting with nature for me.
And of course I have connected more deeply than ever with my mother, who needs comfort and strength at this time.
Connecting with others in person is so very important. But equally at this time of social distancing it’s important to realise that there are other ways of connecting with the human spirit.
Through books, for instance — not just novels but all books. Reading is important because it enables to you meet so many more people than you can ever encounter in your lives — people from the past or from far-flung countries and cultures. Reading enables to you connect with a myriad of ideas and world views. Likewise listening to music or viewing art — these enable you to connect with a vast ocean of emotions and feelings. In a way this helps you to connect intelligently with yourself, which is just as important as connecting with others.
At a time of social distancing, lockdown, and home guided learning, maintaining all these connexion is so important. This period has reminded us how much we might have taken for granted how much human beings depend on one another.
The summer term gives so many opportunities for developing exciting ways of learning and connecting. I know your teachers are so eager to connect with you through the programme of guided-home learning. But there will be times when things will be more challenging and there may be anxieties. I know that the present situation has brought with it unique worries and challenges for those of you who are in the U5 or U6. And for all of us, the way in which our old routines and habits have been disrupted, together with the necessity of social distancing, which is not a natural state of affairs for human beings, will at times cause anxiety, stress and concern.
Please be assured that I and all your teachers — tutors, subject teachers, Housemistresses or Housemaster — are here for you and will continue to connect with you. You have only to reach out and connect with us if you need something, however small or insignificant you think it is.
The SCHS community is very strong. This has been so evident during the recent shift to guided home learning. It has shown us that the school is not a building. Rather, it has reminded us, most wonderfully, that the school is a community, a community that is nourished by an infinity of the most precious human connections. That’s what makes our school special, and that’s why I’m so proud to be your Head Master.
Have a wonderful term.