President’s Address (August 2010)

Leavers dinner photoAs I write this, the sun is shining; the sky is an amazing shade of blue and cloud-free. Unlike some years, when the seasons merge into one another with no discernable change in weather, this year it really feels like summer has arrived. Even now, more than 20 years since my last summer as a pupil at West Buckland, I still remember vividly how wonderful it felt walking out of the hall, having taken my last A-level exam, and into the sunshine. I knew that this time I hadn’t made any of the silly mistakes the teachers had warned us of: not answering a question; not turning over the page (and as a result not answering several questions!); answering the question, but not the one that had actually been asked… …Having (perhaps over-dramatically) thrown into the bin my folder full of copious notes, useful quotes, and theories containing my young brain’s wealth of life-experience (not as much as I believed) and intellectual reasoning (of which I possessed even less than the life-experience), I wandered off to find a sunny piece of grass where I could sunbathe and revel in the sheer enjoyment of having nothing left to do than watch Sports’ Day and get ready for that evening’s Leavers’ Dinner. 21 years later, and Jeff and I were at another Leavers’ Dinner. Some things had changed – I was a guest, the dinner was in a hotel rather than the Karslake, the pupils still had exams ahead of them – but the excited atmosphere was exactly the same. It was interesting (and fun!) to experience it from a different viewpoint. I would like to say a very big ‘thank you’ to the sixth formers for their invitation and to Tom and Becky, next year’s Heads of School, for their sterling work at our table whose other guests comprised not only OWBA President and her husband, but also Headmaster, Headmaster’s wife, and parents of the Head of School. I would have been hiding under the table had it been me, terrified I would drop cutlery (or food), talk gibberish, or be so nervous I didn’t talk at all and could only nod my head vigorously – the human equivalent of the nodding dog on the car dashboard. Looking around the room, and talking to them, it was clear to see that, as well as the more easily measured intellectual, artistic, and sporting skills, the pupils possessed a confident, considerate, easy-natured charm that many older adults never attain. It is something that the school and staff should take immense pride in nurturing, and for which we should congratulate them. It is a difficult thing to balance correctly and one that many schools fail to do. West Buckland’s success in providing an environment in which such skills can flourish is, I am sure, one of the reasons why alumni of all ages continue to feel such affection for their school. Summer Ball 2010This affection could be seen during the OWBA summer weekend. Several members attended the Ball on the Saturday evening where a good time was had by all. On behalf of the OWBA I would like to say a very big ‘thank you’ to Neil Kingdon (66-75C) and the Parents’ Association without whose hard work and planning the Ball would not have been possible. The following day, some of our more sporting members, staff, and pupils did their best to keep going in what were particularly grotty weather conditions. Unfortunately, rain eventually stopped play for the cricketers. The golfers and tennis players played valiantly on, as could be seen afterwards by their somewhat bedraggled appearance in the Sixth Form Centre where the sporting theme was carried on by the junior Ayres to the great amusement of all, especially their version of horse racing which necessitated the conscripting of human ‘horses’. The barbecue was a great end to the day. After the cricket match was abandoned David Clark gave his all to hasten the barbecue – including inspired use of paper plates and vigorous fanning – while encouragement was given from the drier, warmer surroundings of the lounge. The crossing of fingers, ceremonial jigs, and the sending of prayers are already being made for more summery weather for the 2011 Summer OWBA Family Weekend. Feel free to join in – the more the merrier! Between now and then, there are plenty of OWBA and School events to be a part of: the Speech Day OWBA dinner at the Stags Head, Filleigh (the backdrop to many a member’s memories), the AGM, the 2011 OWBA London Dinner which will be taking to the waters of the River Thames. More information on the dinners and other OWBA events can be found inside. I look forward to seeing you at some (or all!) of them. In the meantime, I hope you have a fantastic, sun-filled summer. Kirsti Ryall (née McCool 83-90C), OWBA President