Dear children and young people,
Where has the summer gone? Let’s hope the sun comes out in time for the end of term and that it continues to shine on us for the rest of the summer break. I am writing this memo from my office at the Abbey and looking out through my open door to the garden beyond. The trees are so green and abundant with leaves that their boughs have framed the windows in the cloister corridors making the light seem green and vibrant.
Yesterday, when making a cup of coffee in the staff kitchen, I found what I at first took to be a dead moth on the windowsill. However, on closer inspection, it turned out to be an almost dead red admiral butterfly. It had obviously tried hard to escape through the windows, but they have been firmly closed since we left the building back in March. I therefore decided to try some butterfly first aid, which I am delighted to say, worked! I got a tissue and gently encouraged the bedraggled and thirsty little creature to walk onto it. I then proceeded to dip my finger in sugar water and was delighted when its little tongue came out and it began sipping. Eventually, its beautiful wings started to flutter into life – but it took quite a few fingers of sugar water before that happened! I then took the lovely creature out into our beautiful garden and found some flowering shrubs for it to hide amongst until it recovered fully enough to fly home. Save to say, when I checked this morning, there was no sign of it so I am hoping that it was revived enough to fly off and enjoy another summer.
I like to think that somewhere in our beautiful garden there has been a butterfly family reunion and that my lovely friend has a long and happy life.
Rescuing my butterfly made me think about all the other random acts of kindness that we’ve been hearing about during lockdown. People looking after their more vulnerable neighbours – shopping for them and making sure they are safe and well. Children making rainbow pictures and helping mums and grandmas to stitch masks for the NHS. Restaurants all over Birmingham cooking and delivering food to frontline workers; teachers delivering food, clothing and other essentials to children from disadvantaged families; the homeless being looked after in hotels, guesthouses and university campuses.
As Rabbi Sachs famously said on Radio 4 during his thought for the day, ‘when fate was cruel, we were kind’. I like to think that, despite the sadness, suffering and hardships that this pandemic brought to our shores, we are stronger, kinder and more appreciative of the little things in life than we were before. Let’s do our very best to keep it that way in the months and years ahead.
I’m going to talk a little now about a writer called Franz Kafka. Here is a little background on this writer:
Franz Kafka (July 3, 1883 – June 3, 1924) was a Czech novelist and short-story writer, widely considered one of the most important literary figures of the 20th century. Kafka was a natural writer, although he worked as a lawyer, and his literary merit went largely unrecognized during his short lifetime. He submitted just a few of his pieces for publication, and most of his works were only published after his death. Kafka did not have a very happy life, especially as child, because his father was disappointed in him because of his passion for writing. His father wanted him to study to be a lawyer and earn lots of money, but Kafka was a sensitive and anxious young man, full of self-doubt and intense anxiety and was only able to express his feelings through his writing. Kafka suffered from ill health for most of his short life and was often lonely and sad. Kafka’s work ‘Metamorphosis’ has one of the best opening lines of any book I’ve ever read and I remember being totally engrossed in this novel during my time at university. Bearing in mind that the story was written in 1915 during WW1, this opening is quite unusual and seems much more modern – almost like a script from Dr Who!
‘One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.’
The story is really about the character’s feelings of loneliness and abandonment – some critics believe that it is based on Kafka’s own feelings about not being good enough for his father. Anyway, I digress (as usual – I hear you say)! The reason I wanted to mention Kafka is that he was also extremely kind and gentle – particularly where children were concerned. Below is a short version of an event that apparently really happened about Kafka meeting a little girl in the park who was desperately looking for her lost doll: PS – I love the picture as she looks like a little Highclare girl!
As the story goes, Kafka was walking in the park with his girlfriend when they came across a little girl who was crying inconsolably because she had lost her doll.
Kafka offered to help her look for the doll, but despite spending many hours doing so, the doll was nowhere to be found. The girl was very sad as she had loved the doll for many years and it was very precious to her. Kafka came up with the idea (with the help of his girlfriend) of writing letters to the little girl from her doll. The first letter from the doll said:
‘Please do not mourn me, I have gone on a trip to see the world. I will write you of my adventures.’ This was only the beginning of many letters that he sent to the child from her doll. He pretended that the doll had been to places all over Europe and that she was very happy. The little girl was very comforted because of this.
When the letters finally ended, Kafka sent the little girl her doll (not really her doll, but a new one that he bought for her). The girl said ‘but she’s really changed!’. An attached letter explained ‘My travels have changed me..’
Many years later, the now grown girl found a letter stuffed into an unnoticed crevice in the cherished replacement doll. In summary the letter said:
‘Everything that you love, you will eventually lose, but in the end, love will return in a different form.’
Anyway, I wanted to share this little story with you as it contains an important message – not only about the importance of kindness – but also, about how, when we grow up and eventually leave childhood behind, we find other things to love. Instead of teddy bears and dolls, we discover the love we have for our family and friends and, when we’re much older, the love we have for our own children.
Changing the subject – We are holding a virtual induction day tomorrow for the new U3rds who will be joining us in September. It is sad to know that they will not have the pleasure of coming into our ‘actual’ school and spending time getting to know their new teachers and friends. In fact, it is very sad that so many of you young people have missed so much since school was closed because of lockdown all those weeks ago. The U5 have had to leave without having their prom (for now at least), without taking the examinations that they’ve worked so hard to prepare for – as have the U6 – and the rest of you have missed out on all the fun activities that we normally arrange for the end of term. However, we are doing our best to ensure that when you return to school in September, you will be receive as much support as you may need to help you transition back into school proper.
As you know, the House Activity event will be taking place next week and will be followed by special end of term virtual assemblies. Details should be with you shortly. The U5 will also be attending their own special virtual assembly on Tuesday 7th June and will be wearing their special leavers’ hoodies to that event.
Mr Moore and I had a lovely long walk yesterday in Sutton Park and, despite the clouds and the chilly winds, we managed to find some interesting things. Have you noticed that there are many little shelters made out of fallen tree branches scattered through the park? Every time we go into the woods, there seem to be more of these strange constructions. They look very like little wigwams without their coverings.
There are seriously loads of these everywhere you seem to look… very strange. If you have any ideas what they might be for, please let me know. My imagination is running wild at the moment, so any light you can throw on these strange monuments will be gratefully received.
Strange wood stack in the park – one of many!
We also love catching glimpses of the lovely ponies in the park. They are very shy and don’t like being approached too closely, but they are simply beautiful and I took this lovely photo over the weekend of two of them having a little unsocially-distanced hug! See below:
You might have guessed by now that I love horses. When I was a little girl – many moons ago – I hoped and prayed that I would be given one for Christmas. Every Christmas morning, I would rush outside to see if my dream had come true. However, my parents could never have afforded to buy me a horse so instead, every Christmas, I would receive Sindy dolls and Sindy’s ponies or horse-themed books like ‘Black Beauty’. My parents couldn’t really afford riding lessons either, but I used to walk 5 miles every Saturday morning with my best friend to a riding stable to muck out the stables, feed the pigs and chickens and polish the tack. For our pains, we were given the wonderful privilege of going on a hack through the beautiful Irish countryside. I lived for my Saturday mornings and didn’t mind the walk, the hard work or the smells! It was all worth it – just to be able to gallop through the fields with my best friend.
Horses are patient and kind and we can learn a lot from them. Anyway, I don’t suppose I’ll ever own my own horse now, but I can still dream! You might have noticed the photos on the windowsill of fame in my office of our lovely Head girl, Katie during a show jumping event on her beautiful horse? Katie is a wonderful horsewoman and I have really loved watching her go from strength to strength and become a real expert over the years, winning lots of trophies into the bargain.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough for now and I need to finish up and go home. I have really loved being back in the Abbey this week and taking part in our virtual open day and I am looking forward to our remote induction day tomorrow. I have said it before, I know, but the school is empty and sad without you all and I am counting down the days until it is once again filled with your laughter. Don’t forget to think about what you would like as your first meal when we get back to normal in September (hopefully) – if the weather is as good as it has been of late, perhaps we can have a socially distanced picnic in the garden? Let’s hope so.
As always, remember that you are special, you are unique, you are loved. Remember to be kind to others and to yourself and help with that housework!
Finally – the summer holidays are nearly here! So enjoy the rest of your virtual learning and don’t forget to take part in the House Activity week and win as many house points as you can. I’m looking forward to seeing you in our assemblies next week so, until then, keep safe and keep smiling…
Love and best wishes