Wednesday 26 September 2012

Archangels: Two can play at that game

Last year I was new in post at my school, and I was delighted to discover that the school feast day was Guardian Angels. As I was instructed I watched and observed all the proceedings around the feast, and I found in my new school a home. I had never felt so at home in a community before that day last year. I have always felt 'called' to be a teacher. For the non-religious among you this may sound strange, but ultimately it means that I cannot not teach. At my new school I found my home. I know this because last summer a very attractive offer, just one step away from my house, essentially teaching the same material to the same age group, for the same pay, came my way. I didn't even blink before explaining I was, regrettably, committed elsewhere. This, despite the 98 mile round trip daily. If I look back over the last year, it was Guardian Angels that set the precedent - it was Guardian Angels that gave me the reasons I need to travel the long distance I do.

Guardian Angels was not to be compromised. OFSTED announced they were coming. So what? The Guardian Angels were coming too. Nothing would stop our celebration of the school feast. As it said on all the walls: THE ANGELS ARE COMING! Get ready. So we did, and we carried on, and in the end it worked out well, and our judges judged us the best we can be. Amen. A school that does not jump to sing a secular tune the moment a government minister calls is my kind of school. I loved that we welcomed in our inspectors and let them see us, just as we are. Catholic Schools have nothing to hide, but sometimes they are too quick to 'fit in' to the race, and hide their faith less someone disapproves. I was happy that my school did not do that, they just asked their judges in and made them welcome - with a full on lunch made by the sixth form, if I recall.

This year I have been excited about Guardian Angels for weeks. Then, as the anticipation mounted I saw it. There was a notice: IT IS COMING. It? It? Which it? It was time for the Head of RE to step in. The Guardian Angels were coming: They were coming.

I had a little think on my way to school, and finally decided. I would play a game. Traditionally, Year 13 organise everything. And, they advertise our celebration of Guardian Angels. Year 13 provide breakfast for the staff, play the staff at netball and football, put on a play, give a present of a Mars bar to every student, present the staff with gifts, lead and supervise the day. Year 13 do everything. They are wonderful.

This year I decided to interfere in ONE thing. I poster bombed the poster campaign. Secretly. I put posters of the Guardian Angel Prayer next to every Guardian Angels poster I could find. The Head Teacher, as is traditional, ended his  Monday assembly with this prayer, asking every student to mean the words he spoke over them. Then, after that,  I counted down, Monday to Thursday, and posted posters of the Archangels Ariel, Raphael, Gabriel and Michael -with scriptural references. Sometimes my posters were taken down before they were up for long - no one knew if they were 'official material'. Sometimes they were left where they were. Many students have been asking me about the Archangels all week. That makes my secret game worth playing. I get to do a little theological education of the reason for the feast.

See Michaelmas for delicious cake!
Angel of God,
my Guardian dear
to whom God's love commits me here
ever this day be at my side
to light and guard
to rule and guide

The Angels are coming and we are going to celebrate - now we know what we a celebrating. First up - breakfast. Our Year 13 students make the staff breakfast to celebrate the Guardian Angels that look after them - visible and invisible. They celebrate with us the work we do together to set everyone in our community on the right path.

Saturday 8 September 2012

A salad for the day that is in it

Plants have symbolic meanings. These sometimes vary from place to place. They come from the oral tradition, narratives from holy scriptures, appearance, healing properties and history. Figs are a symbol of abundance and initiation. This seems appropriate and excellent for today, the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Figs, Buffalo Mozzarella and Basil

Gently tear apart 6 juicy ripe figs and place them prettily on your serving dish. Do the same with some high quality wibbly wobbly buffalo mozzarella, and arrange it around your figs. Tear purple and green basil leaves over the  top of both, and dress with an olive oil that has the taste of apples. You can add, if you choose, strips of prosciutto ham, salt and pepper.

This is a delicious starter. 6 figs will serve about 3 people, but it is easy to increase or decrease the ingredients, as everything is measured by the eye.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Parade's End - Two worlds collide.

War has broken out. Tiegens chooses to go to war and explains his decision, first to his wife, and then to Miss Wallop, an unrequited affection -  a feminist, pacifist, libertarian writer. He is forced to think aloud about his decision, and defines Toryism in such a way that it comes to be a form of Feudalism: a love of key values, honour and absolutism. Notions of 'right' and 'left' show themselves up to be the sham that they are.

T: Miss Wannop, come to the fire and tell me why you won't talk to me.
    What is that smell, do you know?

V: Chinese incense sicks.

T: Oh.

So those were the geniuses..... Well who am I to judge? That man over there isn't a genius. His name's Ruggles. Something to do with handing out honours at the palace. McMaster has got his ear.
Only perfectly proper. Only clean way. British way....... Well, I came over to tell McMaster I'm joining the army........ I hoped we respected each other...... At least I tremendously respect you, and I hoped you'd respect me too...... You don't respect me?

Well I would've like you to have said it.

V: Oh! What difference does it make? When there is all this pain, this torture? I haven't slept all night since.... I believe pain and fear must be worse than I'd....

T: dear...So queer. My wife used almost exactly the words you used not an hour ago. She too said she that she couldn't respect me.

V: We have to do everything we can not to lose our men, don't you see? Besides you know that you are more useful here.

T: They'll never have me back. The sentimentalist must be stoned to death. He makes everyone uncomfortable.

V: You shouldn't be proud of despising your country.

T: Don't believe that. I love every field and hedgerow! The land is England, and once it was the foundation of order, before money took over and handed the country over to the swindlers and schemers. Toryism for the pigs trough.

V: Then what is your Toryism?

T: Duty. Duty and service to above and below. Frugality. Keeping your word. Honouring the past. Looking after your people. And beggaring yourself if need be before letting duty go hang. If we'd have stayed out of it I'd have gone to France to fight for France. For agriculture against industrialism. For the 18th Century against the 20th, if you like. I hoped you'd understand?!

V: Oh,  I understand you, you're as innocent about yourself as a child! You would have thought all the same things in the 18th Century!

T: Of course I would, and I would've been right! *laughs*

But you do make one collect one's thoughts. Do you remember our ride in the mist, what you said about me three years ago? Well,  I am not that man now.

V: What? I can't remember.

T: I'm not an English country gentleman who'd let the country go to hell and never stir himself except to say, 'I told you so'.

V: Yes, I said that.  I said you ought to be in a museum. I think I wanted to provoke you into bursting out of your glass cabinet......................