Headmaster's Blog - First Sight

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This week the combination of snow and ongoing hopes for an end to lockdown has made me think about this short poem called ‘First Sight’ by Philip Larkin.

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth's immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about this poem a lot during this latest lockdown. Larkin isn’t always known for his positivity, but here he writes about these lambs born in snow who have never known anything else but the ‘sunless glare’ of an ‘unwelcome’ cold world who have absolutely no idea of the spring-like wonders that are waiting for them, ‘earth’s immeasurable surprise’.

It has only been a year, but there is a generation of children who, I’m afraid, maybe can’t recall what life was like before Covid. Even some of the older children have only vague memories. And as sad as this is, and as much of a struggle as it has definitely been, it is so exciting to think of what these children have got coming when normal life returns.

Ashfold first sight 6For me here at school it is the simple, routine things of normal life that I miss the most: assemblies in the Saloon; staff meetings in a room together on Fridays; chatting to parents and children on the drive at the beginning and end of the day. I miss these things but I know that they, and others, will be back.

For the children, they have a world of surprise and delight and excitement ahead of them that they simply cannot imagine: time with friends, parties, school trips, matches, concerts, cinemas, museums, sports crowds, theatres, holidays, grandparents. ‘Earth’s immeasurable surprise.’

And the thought of being part of that, as teachers and parents, should be enough to keep us all going through this Covid winter. It might be a while yet, we don’t know, but we fix our eyes firmly on the delights of spring that are waiting for the children and for us all.