I know it’s been a tough week for many of us in our community: be that in school or college or out in our homes and workplaces. For many of us we have faced, within the context of our working environment, a tremendously difficult period of time; with pupils and staff absence being higher than we would usually expect at this time of year. In our personal lives many of us may well be facing the prospect of close family members or friends testing positive for COVID-19. I thank you all for your contributions and patience this week. You all understand that these are exceptional times and, as a consequence we all need to evidence greater levels of tolerance and understanding than we might usually exhibit. In these times it might be useful to identify those activities or actions which can be set aside or put down. Ask yourselves: What is necessary? What is unnecessary? Focus on the things that matter and those things that are going to make the most difference.
We are in uncharted waters and during these exceptional times we need people to behave in an exceptional way. Many of you have done that. Many of you understand that we are fortunate in the context of our work and our community. We might look across at friends and family and see the pain, disruption and lack of support. Many of you appreciate, despite the challenges, how fortunate we are. Whoever you are, whatever you have done this week, I want to say and enormous thank you!
Putting the COVID crisis to one side, to a degree, it has been an amazing week in other respects. In the early part of the week we certainly felt that we were having a period of extended summer. It was warm and bright and I hope many of you took the opportunity to enjoy those meteorological conditions. By the end of this week we are well and truly rooted in autumn. It is cold, it has been wet and it is certainly blustery.
I know that for some of you Autumn can seem a time of actual and metaphorical darkness. But with every change of season we can observe some things which do bring us some pleasure. I know that some of you will have lit the fire (or for the more trendy of you, you will have lit that fashionable and expensive wood burner) and that can bring with it some warmth and comfort. You may well have looked at your wardrobe and shifted into your Winter clothing; getting those pullovers and sweatshirts out of the cupboard and wearing more comfortable clothing.
There has been some warmth delivered by our televisual experiences too. The football is well and truly back under way but the highlight of my week has been the restarting of the Great British Bake-Off series. And can I just say how well, yet again, the contestants represent a typical, normal and correct cross-section of the British population of the 21st century. Without comment or fuss this programme projects Britain as it is and as we would want it to be. It isn’t a contrived notion of a historical perspective or an inappropriate projection of what we’d like Britain to become. Those people who complained to Ofqual about Diversity (the dance troupe) must sit at home apoplectic, screaming at their TVs because they are seeing a cohesive, tolerant and multi-cultural cross-section of a Britain that exists, but which they don’t understand and may even fear. Anyway, Sandi is long gone and Matt is now alongside Paul, Pru and Noel. And what a start to the 11th series. If you watch nothing else watch the first couple of minutes of the series as Matt Lucas plays with some of the Prime Ministerial messages issued in the last week or so. Whatever your political leanings I’m sure you will enjoy his bake-off spin on the Downing Street briefings.
There are some old phrases about ‘with change comes opportunity’. As the seasons change we lose what Summer had to offer and gain what Autumn will bring. This weekend I hope to be able to embrace the Autumn days and evenings. I might light the fire (no wood burner for me). I’m going to take some time to, wearing my winter woollies, settle down with a book. I might even try a bake-off recipe – we don’t just have to bake in lockdown (flour permitting).
‘Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns’. George Eliot