Author: archives602

Virtual School – boundaries

2 April 2020. An email this morning. Subject ‘Employee retention scheme.’ Please accept furlough. A shock. Wasn’t expecting that. A long phone call to the Bursar to find out exactly how to proceed. How long? Unclear. Projects moth-balled, and will have a knock-on effect later in the year. But for now, it is the way forward for so many businesses.

A strange sense of alienation. Emails still come through from work. Am I supposed to read them or is that ‘work’? As an archivist my job is to keep records. That doesn’t just mean musty, old ones. It means to discern what to keep as a record of our own time. And this moment in time is the most significant most of us have lived through. So a tricky balance between work life and personal life. A long chat with the Bursar defining boundaries for now.

An odd sense of the break-down of those boundaries. The Bursar phoned while I was cooking. So the whole conversation is now fixed in my memory with the scent of herbs. Boeuf bourgignon. Reducing the sauce, deglacing the pan, all while chatting about projects.

Later in the evening another phone call. To some of our oldest friends. Chris is a nurse specialising in research into pain relief at a teaching hospital. Very anxious to know that she and the family are safe. Fortunately, her work continues via phone calls. But she is worried about sharing a head set. Her husband has ordered the last two available from Amazon. More boundaries broken between work and personal life.

We are godparents to all three of their sons so checking up on all of them. One is stuck on the other side of the country where he was visiting friends. One was already at home. But the youngest was at university in Norwich. As BoJo was announcing the not-quite-lock-down his father was in the car to collect him and he was packing.  On arrival, discovered he was not alone. Ben was pet-sitting his room mate’s hamster; room mate now stuck in Ireland. At least the hamster has a roof over his head for he duration.

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

Virtual School – volunteers

1 April 2020. No one is much inclined to April Fool’s jokes today.  Winner was a great Twitter feed called @thoughtofdog. I love him, so does the dog. Posted ‘I wasn’t a good dog today.’ Shock horror. ‘April Fool! Yes I was’. Dog is trying so hard to understand and so hard to be good but just doesn’t know why he can’t play with other dogs or say hello when he meets human friends that he loves. Yesterday he cried and cried when a friend exchanged greetings from several meters away and he had to sit by me, with his lead at its shortest.

Husband has just finished a zoom conference with the other committee members of the group of the Motor Neurone Disease Association that he volunteers for. Great trouble throughout the MND community because it is not included on the government’s list of extreme at risk groups, despite many members relying on respirators in their daily lives. A hideous, cruel disease. Turns out it is included under ‘respiratory illnesses’ – which baffled everybody since it is neurological and the respiratory bit is a side effect. So difficult to think in categories instead of in specifics. Much discussion on how to support and communicate with such seriously ill people.

Last year, husband’s particular team was given The Queen’s Award for Volunteers in the Birthday Honours – the highest award for voluntary work. Now we are all volunteers.  More than 750,000 nationally have come forward to support the NHS. Every town and village seems to have organised its own community support group and is checking on the elderly and vulnerable. At school, more than 100 colleagues have joined the team to help in Radley village and the boys are being urged to do their bit wherever they are. Very grateful to receive a card through our door in Abingdon with times and phone numbers if we have to go into total lock-down. And friends from various parts of our lives have extended their support networks to include us, with regular phone calls and emails. Society may come out of this with a greater sense of community.

And at the end of the day one of those friends messaged with good news. Faringdon, the small market town where we lived for 25 years, is too far from the local hospitals so maintains a team of first responder volunteers for medical emergencies. One of them is the first person I know personally who has been in ITU with COVID-19. A man now well into his 70s. He became infected when he helped a patient. Tonight, news that he is recovering. We don’t hear enough about the survivors, especially the elderly. Congratulations, Gof!

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

Virtual School – work and play

31 March 2020. Impressive photos today of the Design Engineering Dept hard at work using the 3D printer to make masks for local GP practices. Even their children have been drafted in to help.

Very good to see that the new image for #VirtualRadley is based on our four founding principles: Christianity, Collegiality, Privacy, Aesthetics translated into their modern equivalents – Spiritual, Academic, Pastoral, Co-Curricular. Happy to say that this is also reflected in the structure and content of our 175th anniversary book, due out in 2022. Must get on with that, by the way.

I did receive an excellent piece for my research into the book today from Rev Dave, former chaplain, on the role of Chapel. One of a number of truly moving and revealing responses from Old Radleians who went into full-time ministry.

Helping with other people’s research still goes on, although without access to the archive itself I can’t easily answer all questions. One request for help came from a postdoc in Germany researching networks and looking into the influence of Old Radleian Jonathan Griffin. During World War Two Griffin was Director of BBC European Intelligence – a man with interesting networks! I look forward to reading the work.

Conducted a little data-gathering of my own whilst walking the dog. Someone has been putting little fairy doors on the trees in Little Wood. I found seven today. Believe G Social is involved.

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

Virtual School – world enough, and time

30 March 2020. Difficult to distinguish between work and non-work at the moment. Technically it is the school’s Easter holiday. A time for teaching staff to rest, relax and recover from a grueling term and then start planning again. But all departments have been working desperately hard for weeks. Teachers preparing material for digital teaching in the new term. An entirely new way of interacting with a class, particularly across time zones. The operational teams making sure that all their work is up to date and can be picked up again should they have to work from home or accept a furlough. The only ones who would normally be working really hard in this particular week, the two external exam years, are the only ones who aren’t. Probably. They have been told there is no need to revise for exams which will not happen in the summer. Even more frantic sorting out to help them and put a new programme in place for next term. And all of it this last week done from everybody’s living room. Dozens of zoom conferences and regular updates from the Warden. Even the way our management structures work have been revised for this emergency.

Just one week. It all seems so much longer. I’m not alone in having difficulty remembering what day of the week it is. One little boy was hailed as a Twitter hero because he was wearing day-of-the-week socks. It was Thursday – good to know. Usually this complete breakdown of time happens for a glorious few days in the middle of August. But now there are none of our regular time -keepers. No daily shop for fresh bread with that Friday morning supermarket sweep. No dog-walker ringing the doorbell on Wednesday and Friday mornings to be greeted by an ecstatic dog. No MOTD for husband on Saturday night (although he wasn’t happy about Liverpool’s progress at all). No Sunday morning meeting up with friends for brunch, lunch or church.

Routine is vital for health and sanity. But it is now daily instead of weekly. Long days which seem to fritter away too quickly, broken up by an hour’s exercise walking the dog. He doesn’t know what day it is but he usually knows when it’s time for his walk or supper. Clocks changed on Sunday. Now even the dog is baffled.

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

Virtual School – interpreting ‘The Rules’

29 March 2020. The fake news vendors claim Northamptonshire police have received more than 300 calls from neighbours snitching on neighbours. And requested that they do not. Interesting that they use the word ‘snitching’. somehow so 1930s public school. Not at all a word for a police state.

Lots of discussion among online groups about how exactly to interpret The Rules. And a lot of demands to ‘make them clearer.’ I like the public school type response from the government saying ‘use commonsense.’ Reminds me of the final (apocryphal) clause in our own school rules: if it is contrary to common courtesy or commonsense then it is against the school rules. It leaves a lot of wiggle room for the discerning pupil or teacher; especially leaves room for context. Not much room for context when the rules are crystal clear.

So to context. Essential shopping has been the subject of a row about rules and interpretation. Is an Easter egg essential? Or is essential shopping only the absolute basic ingredients needed for a sustaining broth or light gruel? I did this week’s essential shop this morning. I popped in an Easter egg (not without a little guilt), then added chocolate mousse, avocados, hummus and other unmentionables. But I was in Waitrose – are ‘essentials’ different there? And I confess I put the egg at the bottom of my shopping bag, just in case the neighbours felt like snitching. Shouldn’t have put the potatoes on top.

Language has been getting polysyllabic all week. BoJo came out with ‘sedulous’ much to everyone’s consternation as they rushed for a dictionary. I can just imagine the Eton school report which complained that he needed ‘to be a bit more sedulous’. And in a row in a Cambridge supermarket over whether a man could buy two types of milk (green and red top) the shop assistant resorted to ‘ontological.’

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

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

Virtual School – keeping in touch

27 March 2020. Today news from two different friends about postponing their weddings until next year. And from brother-in-law, the link to view his friends’ wedding brought forward by a month and live-streamed to 100 guests, with just the vicar and witnesses at the wedding itself.

A reminder about a team pub lunch popped up on my work calendar. So we plan a fantasy lunch by email. Think I’ll go for the whopping great burger with sweet potato fries, followed by salted caramel and pecan ice cream. With a really good beer since I won’t be driving. Next week, by Zoom.

Daily updates from the Warden have kept us all up to date with the situation at school. Our first attempt at an All Staff Zoom conference. 59 of us there all flicking in and out, and trying out fancy backgrounds. Outer space was popular, but San Francisco deemed just boasting. Personally, I did my hair. Then forgot and switched off the camera. Also forgot to register my name beforehand so just came up by device. But I WAS THERE.

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. 

© Clare Sargent

Virtual School – national solidarity

26 March 2020. When I opened the curtains this morning the first thing to catch my eye was a child’s drawing of a rainbow in the window of the house across the road. Walking the dog I spotted more and more about town. Now searching the house for some coloured pencils to add our rainbow to the nationwide symbol of hope. Think I’ll put it in the front door to cheer up the postman.

A lot of time trawling Twitter. Too much time really. But sometimes there are gems. Today spotted a tweet by a school who are sending their science department’s unused masks and goggles to their local hospital. Retweeted it to our own biology, chemistry and physics depts, who replied that they are already on the case. Thought they would be.

And in the evening sitting at dinner suddenly whooping, cheering and clapping all along the street. Abandoned dinner, threw open our window and joined in. Everywhere across the country people stopped, opened their doors and windows, stood outside and just cheered. Cheered the NHS. A tweet from E Social Tutor – standing on his doorstep clapping and cheering though no one could hear. F Social Tutor responding. A message from someone out in the country ‘we clapped as loud as we could and then, in the distance, we heard someone cheering.’ A film from a sheep farmer, just him and 500 ewes in the lambing shed, all baa-ing for the NHS. And here, at the end of it, just the church bells ringing out.

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.

© Clare Sargent

Virtual School – essential shopping

25 March 2020. Today was for essential shopping. A tricky thing to define. Yesterday I popped round to the supermarket but when I saw the long line of people patiently waiting my short list of bread, milk and cake didn’t seem so necessary after all. Today a more thought-out plan. I joined the long line, all politely and calmly waiting, carefully maintaining a distance of 2 metres. A lovely sunny day. I do feel sorry for the elderly who also stood for a long time. And I was seriously bothered by the man just ahead vaping. Suddenly the sight of how far the cloud of vapour spread seemed more irritating than just the smell. A lot of jumping around to avoid where it had been until the masked man behind me asked whether I was in the queue at all. At the door a staff member, equally politely and calmly, offered a newly sanitised trolley and invited me to take a bunch of daffodils.

Inside the shop was total relief. Stocked shelves. Everything needed still there at 11.30 am. I passed a colleague shopping for someone in the village and perplexed by the hunt for Vegan ingredients. He, too, had waited 20 minutes in the line just to help someone else.

Later I put up a joke on Facebook – what is your weapon of choice to maintain social distancing? After falling over the dog’s bowl and having to mop up the kitchen, I’ve decided a wet mop will do me. A friend replied with a poster – the corpse of your family member. So that finished that joke off before it started.

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.

© Clare Sargent

Virtual School – not-quite-lockdown

24 March 2020

First day of ‘not-quite-lockdown’ and the first day after the school sent all staff to work from home. Walking the dog along the footpath across the golf course and up Cheesers to Lodge Hill. Everywhere is still and quiet. A few colleagues seen in the distance. A wave but no closer greetings. The first time I have ever seen it without grounds staff and gardeners busy somewhere. But the signs of their work are everywhere. The gardens are filled with bulbs, the buds swelling on the wisteria, perfectly pruned. On the golf course the greens are immaculate after one last frantic day of care. And on the pitches, wickets are ready for a cricket season that may never happen. The blue sky empty of aircraft and free of com trails – a site I have seldom seen in my lifetime – brings a sense that this is a global tragedy.

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.

© Clare Sargent