Untold Stories – Sacred music

Continuing our series of videos telling some of the ‘Untold Stories’ of Radley, Archivist Clare Sargent talks about the place of hymns at the College, including a rare recording for the BBC of Evensong at Radley from 1956 here

Disclaimer William Ferguson was more normally called Harold and we apologise for this mistake in this recording.

Radley 175 – then and now

As we begin a year (or more) of celebrations for our 175th birthday, hear the story of the first one hundred years of Radley College told by Radleians in 1947. ‘Radley Retrospect’ – the Centenary Pageant – was written and performed by pupils and staff.

Part 1 – 1847 – founders

Part 2 – Financial disaster

Part 3 – Wars

Part 4 – Centenary

Sweets were still rationed but the prefects clubbed together to buy a box of chocolates for HRH Princess Elizabeth when she had tea with them for the Centenary

My Virtual School – rain. 4.5.2020

4 June 2020. Today it rained (just a few minutes) for the first time in 10 weeks. Some councils have urged people to water any young trees in worry over the drought. Threats of hosepipe and paddling pool bans have been greeted with derision, some exhorting us to ignore anything which might result in more restrictions on how people live their lives. Being rational is not popular just now.

Lockdown begins to relax. A new directive last week: we can now meet in groups of up to 6. A welcome change on the hottest week of the year. Picnics everywhere. People swimming in the river. Suddenly the frenetic activity of constant movement, walking, jogging, running, cycling has given way to sitting. And, sadly, to a complete reversal of how we honour the countryside. Everywhere has been glowing, pristine and untouched. Now rubbish is swept into the current. Burnt rectangles in the grass and piles of tipped-out charcoal reveal illicit BBQs. The dog, wet from a refreshing early morning dip in the river, investigated a tent on the Abbey meadows. Two bodies entwined inside.

MacDonald’s reopened yesterday for drive thru orders. The queue of cars caused Abingdon’s first traffic jam in 10 weeks. Innocent husband expressed shock that it was only 10.30 in the morning – not lunch or dinner! The same still there at 3.30 in the afternoon. The return to normality isn’t encouraging so far. An advert from a party company ‘Order your end of lockdown party equipment NOW!!!! (but don’t use it yet)’ didn’t encourage either.

Everyone is travelling further and further to escape the confinements of lockdown. Now we meet very few on our usual walks. But the hum of activity is increasing. The deep, deep silence and stillness of 4 weeks ago is fading. The golfers are back on the golf course; little private planes are flying.

School has just completed the half-term holiday. Much needed by all. Teaching and learning via screens is immensely draining. Some year groups in primary schools have started back, amid great controversy. So far, reports seem to be good – particularly from the point of view of the children allowed to interact with their friends again. And for some parents finally given freedom for an hour or so. Some prep schools won’t make it back. News for the private sector is bleak for those which were only just surviving. Some are exploring a new business model: reports that Eton’s online courses have been accessed by more than 26,000. And confirmation for us that the boys won’t be back before September – it’s a long, long haul.

The hedgerows  are full of poppies, daisies, roses and honeysuckle. In Waitrose carpark, still queuing patiently, the blossom has gone and the cherries are turning red.

© Clare Sargent

My Virtual School – coronavirus changed it. 26.5.2020

26 May 2020. My photography group’s challenge for this week is ‘coronavirus changed it.’ So far there are photos of empty motorways, families holding hands against glass doors, shopping queues, the chains on a school gate, deserted beaches, neighbours sitting on their garden walls to chat, people learning new skills. I have two potential entries: a totally empty deep blue summer sky or a car parked on the verge, almost engulfed in un-mown grass and weeds.

Prompted by dire warnings from the AA I checked my own car. It has been parked at school since 20 March. A nearly flat tyre and low on engine coolant but  (just about) a live battery. A slow drive around and around campus to re-charge it and get the brakes working until I was pulled over by one of the gardeners to ask what I was doing. Then parked it again. Another thing the virus changed – the two car family.

The truthfulness of blogs has been in the news. An aspect of our virtual world – who knows where anybody is in reality? We meet and teach and work wherever we happen to be, and we can disguise that. Does it matter? Somehow if somebody says their blog is about life in one place is it less true if it was written somewhere else? Surely all bloggers self-censor? I know I do. Little omissions, gaps in the text, conscious of the reader. No blog is a personal, locked diary hidden under a pillow.

Today the hedgerows were full of wild roses. And the moon a perfect crescent. But I’m not saying which hedgerows or what time I saw the moon.

© Clare Sargent

My Virtual School – bored. 22.5.2020

22 May 2020. Our first trip to a shop together since 23 March. Essential shopping at the supermarket can only be done by one person, and I do it to minimise risk for husband. He has ventured to the pharmacist twice for medication, each time encountering a wait of just three other people. So today was his first experience of shopping in lockdown as we went to B&Q to get light fittings for our new house. His first experience of being herded into a queue behind barriers, of markers on the ground to space us out, of a sanitised trolley given to us by a masked assistant, of hand sanitiser as we enter the shop. B&Q insisted we each pushed a trolley as the most effective way of enforcing social distancing – ‘sadly, a lot of people don’t respect it.’ Watching him get to grips with this alien way of doing things reinforced how normal it has become. Everyone else was impatient of him trying to work out what to do.

A teenager was hanging around the entrance. A staff member who had finished her shift but really did not want to go home. Overhearing the conversation as her colleagues tried to encourage her to do some work and be paid overtime or to go home, it became clear that home was the last place she wanted to be. She could not bear being shut in with her family any more. So was prepared to stand for hours in a place where there were  different faces. That was all she wanted. Different people.

The groups of teenagers getting together are growing. Sitting along by the river, or on the far edge of fields. Just sitting in a group of a dozen or so. One friend reported that her teenage daughter had met up with friends for coffee for the first time in weeks. Such a relief to get her out of the house. The rest of us are busy tutting. We have become crowd-counters. Is that a family of nine or two whole families together? Tut, tut. It should be just one other person from another household. An impractical restriction. I can meet up with a friend to walk our dogs together, but if that friend brings another which of us has to leave? Or are the teenagers counting themselves as a chain-gang of one plus one plus one. The larger groups are certainly causing hassle on narrow paths.

But the relaxing of restrictions means that the dog can go out with his friends with his dog walker tomorrow. His depression at not playing was becoming quite as hard for us as for any parents with a bored teenager. He won’t enjoy the compulsory bath when he gets home.

© Clare Sargent