Virtual School – births and deaths

28 March 2020. Weddings have to be postponed but babies are born when they are ready. Today was Alfie’s birth-day, the newest member of the community.

Funerals aren’t postponed either. At least not yet. But the conditions surrounding them are becoming harder and harder. Beryl’s funeral was last Monday. The last day before ‘not-quite-lockdown’ but even so it was thought best to have as few there as possible. So in the end, instead of the magnificent send-off for our pioneering dyslexia teacher, just her closest family with three or four colleagues, one of them delivering a eulogy to which we had all contributed. Beryl started teaching dyslexic pupils in 1974 and from 2000 she specialised in SEN for maths. A true pioneer still enthusiastic for her teaching, cricket and the community into her 90s. She retired in 2018.

We hear that in Spain the eldest are taken off respirators so they can be given to younger patients. Patients with ‘more life to live’. Not only cruel but so short-sighted. Beryl did some of her most innovative work in her 80s. Making this judgement call is devastating for medics and for families and it pits generations against each other. I saw a quote supposedly from the anthropologist Margaret Mead the other day: she was asked what is the earliest sign of human civilization? Expecting the answer art, pottery, fire. She replied ‘a healed broken leg.’ Why? Because in nature a broken femur means death to any animal. That healed break means somebody carried the injured person to safety, cleaned and bound the wound, cared for and fed the sick person, for a long time. A time devoted only to the other person’s survival not to survival of the group.

Above us tonight the crescent moon and Venus shining very brightly. With the International Space Station due to pass between them later on.

This is an important time in our history as we become a virtual school during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will probably never operate in quite the same way again. The Archive is about us now.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone in the Radley College community to join in to create a group record for our Archive.

© Clare Sargent