Remembrance in Myanmar 2017

Mr Curtis, Housemaster of Seagrim, was at Holy Trinity Cathedral, Yangon for Remembrance Sunday this year. At the service, a plaque commemorating Hugh Seagrim was unveiled by Philip Davies, who has recently published a biography of Seagrim entitled ‘Lost Warriors’. Whilst in Myanmar, Mr Curtis was also supporting the work of ‘Help 4 Forgotten Allies’, a charity, which provides a small pension and humanitarian aid to the handful of surviving veterans with whom Seagrim fought during the Burma campaign in the Second World War. If you would like to contribute to their work, please visit www.h4fa.org.uk. This is a personal account of his trip.

I sit in the Mahabandoola gardens in front of the high court adjacent to the Sule Pagoda. It is 11am on 8th November and a clock has just struck the Westminster chimes. In the 30-degree heat, I welcome the cooling breeze when it comes. There seem to be fewer soldiers and military police on the streets than when I was last here two years ago – perhaps because they are engaged elsewhere – and there are far more tourists, although the time of year almost certainly accounts for this. I reflect that Yangon is undergoing something of a transformation: new banks, hotels and office buildings have emerged, their prismatic forms contrasting starkly with more elaborate colonial architecture elsewhere. A new shopping centre is even more western than I anticipate: English writing coexists alongside circular Burmese script; outlets for artisan coffee and bread have custom; an identity parade of international brand stores lines up for inspection. I notice that there is a moisturising cream advertised, which causes me concern, as it claims not only to moisturise, but also to whiten the skin. The United Colours of Benetton display, usually known for the diversity of its models, lacks such breadth here. None of the people featured in the giant, cardboard cut-outs in the window appears to come from Myanmar. I surmise that there is at least some danger that young people here might begin to aspire to a different paradigm: western and white, pampered and privileged. I ask myself what I think about this shift. Why shouldn’t people in Myanmar seek a more plural and affluent life? After more than 70 years living under a regime dominated by the military, surely they are entitled to hope for a brighter future. How, though, should that future look?

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Some aspects of life in Yangon haven’t changed. I walk over a railway bridge towards the central station and get slapped hard in the face by the abject poverty that is the everyday reality for many residents of this city. Two men sift through scraps of rubbish discarded down the embankment. Behind them, next to the shack in which he lives, a man defecates onto the track. Further along the road, a small group of people eats communally on the pavement alongside charcoal burning stove pots, which emit the aroma of spicy, pungent food. I pause to savour the smell, but the moment is ruined by a rising thermal of stench from the drain below. A toddler cheerfully and deftly crouches over the gutter edge to wee, then runs back to resume eating with her parents. Around the corner, workmen are painting the kerbstones in blocks of red and white colour. I study their posture admiringly as they simultaneously squat, balance and paint. Suddenly I can no longer inhale. Chemical vapour latches on to my palate and my throat sticks. I now notice that all of the workmen are coughing and spluttering too, the toxin resin they apply contaminating the air they breathe and burning their senses. I escape guiltily, and flee back to a more beaten track, heading along the Bogyot Aung San Road towards the indoor market. I pass a Buddhist monk, who stands and ticks uncontrollably. A mother sits, with an unfeasibly large number of pigeons crammed into a small circular cage in front of her, whilst feeding her baby. A person with a disability is subconsciously negotiated by the flow of the crowd, as if some sort of obstacle. A python of wiring is slung over rickety bamboo scaffolding, below which a warning sign proudly proclaims ‘Safety First’.

This is the bi-polarity of Yangon: foreign sponsored economic regeneration on the one hand, an exploitative, putrid raw deal on the other. And this injustice poses an awkward question for the proponents of completely unregulated capitalism: why does development always seems to start by catering for the whims of a wealthy minority, rather than providing for the needs of the impoverished majority? Any rational person would surely accept (at the very least) that latrines are more important that luxury. This city is on the move. The Downtown area of Yangon, which broadly encompasses the grid system of streets implemented by the British in 1852, now boasts a Shangri-La hotel, new retail precincts and sky scraper with rooftop bar. Those with ready money (and there seems to be many – mostly foreign) are welcomed through airport style security by friendly guards into a consumer comatose. Commercial success is modernising this part of Myanmar, and the amount of business being conducted in hotel lobbies by overseas entrepreneurs indicates that this process is set to continue and potentially accelerate. Whether such a process will constitute progress for all or privilege for the few, however, remains to be seen. Thankfully there are benevolent, forward thinking agencies at led by dynamic, dedicated and determined people taking up the challenge. Their work would undoubtedly become less onerous, however, were big business, and society in general, to consider bottom-up investment as the only acceptable approach to development.

In a land divided by not only economics, but also race, religion and politics, one might wonder what unifying factor, if any, there is. The most immediate and tangible sign of hope, in Yangon at least, is the indomitable spirit of the people. Generalisations are often inaccurate and should be used sparingly; however, reporting that all the people on the street in Yangon seem cheerful is perhaps akin to suggesting everyone on the London Underground is grumpy: this may not be completely correct, but there is nevertheless an element of truth in it that many would recognise. One sight stands out to me as a symbol for the spirit, beauty and dignity of the people amongst so much want and pain. I am in a taxi bound for the airport. A bicycle threads its way through the detritus that litters the roadside. A woman with long flowing hair, wearing a traditional silk tunic and full length skirt sits sideways on the luggage rack of the bike, above the back wheel, behind her husband, who is pedalling. She holds-up an umbrella to shield them both from the sun, as elegantly as a duchess riding side-saddle on a thoroughbred.

 

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Previous blog:

In August 2015, Head of Seagrim House Mr Curtis travelled to a Myanmar/ Burma to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day and to remember ON Major Hugh Seagrim, after whom Seagrim House was named. Mr Curtis is getting ready to return to the area in order to attend the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to Hugh Seagrim in Yangon/Rangoon cathedral. He is collecting unwanted reading glasses to be redistributed to the elderly, with the Karen veterans of the Burma campaign now in their 90s. If you would like to know more, please visit www.h4fa.org.uk or search @glasses4myanmar on Facebook. Ahead of his trip in November the story of his last trip can be seen below:

The taxi is confronted by a stiffly uniformed military policeman tasked with hindering any further progress, so I step out of the cool of the car into the fuggy humidity of early morning Yangon. As I try to slalom my way through army jeeps and jumpy policemen as deferentially as possible, the congested, muddy road gives way to the pristine grass of the war cemetery. 

On 15th August 2015, many people gathered together to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day, and I travelled to the Rangoon War Cemetery in Myanmar/Burma and, more specifically, to plot 4, row A, the grave of Major Hugh Paul Seagrim GC DSO MBE and Old Norvicensian. Seagrim is known for his willingness to operate behind enemy lines as the Japanese advanced on British controlled Burma during the Second World War; his ability to raise a volunteer army of 3000 to surreptitiously disrupt the enemy; and eventually his self-sacrifice to protect his friends who were being executed in order to force him to surrender. What is perhaps less documented is his obsessive assimilation with and care for his soldiers, who had been drawn from the Karen, an ethnic group who were Christian and loyal to the imperial crown they viewed as paternal.

As I loiter, waiting for the service to begin, numerous and varied interested parties file in: a Burmese general and his entourage; the Commonwealth defence attaches, hot and gleaming in gold and white; a battery of photographers and journalists, pencils and Pentax made ready; diplomats, with calm smiles but eyes darting; security guards and gardeners; casual observers of this anachronistic spectacle. Had the ancient veterans not been wearing their traditional woven, blood red tabards, their arrival might have gone unnoticed (and they, the most important guests!). As the diminutive men shuffle through the gate and over the lawn, like tired imps, toward their reserved seating, it’s like a pulse leaping, throbbing life back into the day. For them, neither the names on the headstones, nor the accounts of battle read out are unfamiliar: names are friends, and battles real.  

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Annually honouring the fallen is a sombre, serious imperative, but one which causes no great inconvenience. All we have to do is polish our shoes a bit, conscientiously attempt to visualise their ordeals, recite the appointed words, keep a minute’s silence and ‘show our respect’. The elderly soldiers in the dense heat of a Rangoon graveyard represent the uncomfortable reality of remembrance however, as if we really want to show our respect to the dead, should we not ensure we care for the living? Maybe all too often we salute at the Cenotaph whilst ignoring the homeless squaddie, slumming it on the Strand.  

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After the main service has finished, the Karen veterans make their way determinedly to plot 4, row A. A spontaneous and less formal act of remembrance ensues. A Karen choir starts to sing Seagrim’s favourite hymn, in their own language, which Seagrim took the trouble to learn. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. The veterans sing along enthusiastically: they believe in a Father God who won’t turn His back on them in the way the father empire did after the war was won. Saw Berny, a 92 year old who fought alongside Seagrim gesticulates from his wheelchair about his friend: “he wore our dress, ate our food, spoke our language; he loved us”. I stand and listen to his fluent English, words only obscured by a lack of dentures, and marvel at him and his tenacity, as well as the man from Norfolk who led these warriors. Exhausted after his exertion, Saw Berny is wheeled away and returned to his fellow pilgrims. I am suddenly alone at Seagrim’s graveside, along with those of the other 1330 men buried here: in a nowhere part of a forgotten city, in an abandoned country.

The 1925 prefect board standing in School House

The 1925 prefect board standing in School House

Seagrim’s story was always inspirational and relevant, and undoubtedly a good name for a new House in an old School; his conduct in a cruel 20th century battle sets an example to the pupils and staff in a safer 21st predicament. But since visiting his home church in Whissonsett, looking at his name on the 1925 prefect board still standing in School House, travelling to his grave in Yangon and meeting the men still alive who knew him, I more keenly feel the fierce challenge of Seagrim’s example, that is, to remember actively, rather than passively. The forgotten Karen of Myanmar, who fought for Britain and her interests against tyrants are still alive and in need, as are those veterans in this country who are reeling from physical, mental and spiritual injury from more recent conflicts. We should remain diligent in remembering those who did not come back, but also better care for those who did.

Philip Davies has recently released a book, Lost Warriors - Seagrim and Pagani of Burma The last great untold story of WWII, which tells the story of Major Hugh Seagrim and Ras Pagani, who fought alongside each other. It is an epic tale of two Englishmen, who were among the most courageous and resourceful heroes of the most savage conflict in human history, yet who remain unknown in their own country. Philip will also be travelling to Myanmar next week and will unveil the plaque to Hugh Seagrim at Yangon Anglican Cathedral. The book can be purchased through Amazon here.

Creative responses to the Laurence Edwards exhibition

Writers in the school’s creative writing group, Writers’ Bloc, were challenged to write pieces inspired by the Laurence Edwards exhibition in the Crypt. The pieces were displayed alongside the sculptures and paintings, and some of the pieces were read out as part of the Artist’s Talk and Private View. The exhibition ‘Visitor’ is open until 25th November, Monday – Friday 12am – 4pm and Saturday 11am – 2pm:

 

Hugo Dimoglou – Inspired By The Work of Laurence Edwards

There was once a dark forest. You had to be an alien to find your way out. It is alive, moving and changing. Because of the little sunlight there, the dark plants learnt to live off meat and flesh. The sticks curl around your head, and tug it off.

The trees towered up to the sky, and I have to say, they are beautiful, and they lure you in. The beautiful grass is green, and the gently breeze slowly pushes you forward, making an effortless feeling of adventure.

 

Eleanor Rhodes–Leeder – The Bubble Wrap Man

Swathed in plastic sheets

To protect him.

He may look bulky now

But he’s so delicate.

And each word

Pops a bubble.

 

Beneath his armour,

He isn’t alien,

Or angry,

Just scared.

 

Of hurting himself.

 

He looks in the mirror,

Pop, pop, pop.

 

He walks down the street,

Pop, pop, pop.

 

The bubble wrap man

Crackles and pops

Like a fire

Destroying.

 

He’s protected himself,

But the people who love him

Just bounce off now.

A human bouncy castle

With all the fun drained out.

 

He’s oblivious,

Deaf.

The only words that penetrate

Say pop, pop, pop.

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Eleanor Perkins – Inspired By The Work of Laurence Edwards

Mud and leaves plastered to his head as his body, encaptured by stones, rose from the marsh. A squelch echoed through the reeds disturbing the birds from their forming nests. It was springtime and many animals were creating new homes ready for new life, however the favourites of his were the birds nests. The birds worked hard for many weeks to build their masterpieces as a sculptor spends much time on their work. They were like tiny men trafficking twigs, struggling through the week. Birds nests were special , they were the only thing that a man cannot make no matter how hard he tries. His stone body was his home, he took it wherever he went – a gypsy of the bog. Once he had fully emerged from the sodden sediment he stretched slightly and gently brushed the sticks and leaves from his shoulders.

 

Chester Dimoglou – Inspired By The Work of Laurence Edwards

Henry sat on a log, gazing upon the boy he had thrust into the hungry, raging flame of the campfire. The blaze seemed to roar like a frightened lion, like the boy did when the scorching flames licked across his face. Now look at him. His skin and flesh melted and poured down his bare skull like a wax candle.

 

Billy Hall – Man of Rocks

The roaring sirens made him fight his legs harder to run away and he didn’t stop running until they were barely audible. He didn’t know much about this strange place but one thing that was certain was that the bad place with the even worse people were not good.

As he willed himself to trail on into some dark scary woods, many blood thirst snigger dogs with even more blood thirsty armed guard’s persued on after him.

He came up to a river which made him feel safe and started to cross it the freezing water coming over his bare toes. The trees overlooking him slowly whaling, urgently trying to warn him of the danger near. “Snap!” He darted around to see the perpetration of the snapped branch was a vicious growling dog and with it were a dozen other canines with men carrying heavy rifles all pointed directly at him.

This time there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and there were way too many guards to take down. So he did it. Did the thing which ended him up in the bad place. There was no doubt these people were here from the hell hole to find him and bring him back. But no, not this time, no more crazy painful, inhumane tests on him, they could find another lab rat. However, that would prove difficult as there was no one else on this planet able to do what he was about to do.

Flint rocks, all jumbled along the river flew into the air and shot towards him and they stuck onto him.  As more and more did so, a heavy shell of armour was coated onto his body.

All the guards and the dogs faces turned to a bewildered look as what was the perfectly clear visual of the target was now vanished into the darkness.

“Crap!” The lead guard angrily said “He can’t of gone far” he commanded. As all the guards and their pets rushed across the river, frozen in this feet was their target. He stood there, in his natural incognito, a worried look on his face, begging the bad people from the laboratory had gone, gone for a while at least.

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Ben Ferrey – Inspired by the portrait ‘Headlong’

You reveal yourself to me

You tug at the lies you created yourself with

Soon they begin to give.

 

You are naked, on display

No longer protected by your perfect façade.

But you are an imperfect masterpiece.

 

You are sad, Alone

And you hide it between the lines

But it is beautiful

 

You put your lies back on

Wrapping them around your shame and insecurities

But it’s too late

 

All I see now

Is you, and only you

And I love you more.

 

Lola Dunlop – Bubble Wrap Man

As soon as I walked in my eyes scanned the room of intriguing sculptures and beautiful paintings, but my eyes were immediately drawn to a hauntingly strange “bubble wrap man” the perfection of the creases in the bubbles and trapped and burdened expression on the man’s face astounded me. How his body language, posture shows how he is feeling. Trapped and depressed! It’s easy to see the marks of tape and string that have been wound around the bubble wrap, encasing him. The whole structure seems to stand out against the trend of nature, but somehow fit in almost perfectly. A quote that the artist used more than once in the explanation “sucking in the nature” I assumed he was in some way sucking in bubble wrap and plastic from all the pollution. It wasn’t until I asked the artist what he was trying to portray in the piece that I fully understood. He was trapped in a sense. It is inspired partly by drunks walking late at night, wobbly, confused and not in control of his own body until the day later. The other half, the bubble wrap was fully inspired about how he kept the other sculptures moist at night by wrapping them in cling film and bubble wrap. He talked about how he wanted to take a risk and incorporate the bubble wrap into his piece. By adding the tape and string (and wire) (which I commented on earlier) he made this sculpture even stronger. I thought somehow it was completed by hand but it actually used man made materials. There are small details that were not intentional that only add to the final piece, and these are small drops of wax that come from making the cast for the sculpture dribbled down onto the body and even dripped onto the area below creating perfect drip marks. From these to the strange and slightly scary face to the lines and marks on the bubble wrap this truly is an amazing sculpture!

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Daisy Campbell – Inspired By The Work of Laurence Edwards

 

The silver skinned needles shed from complacent birch,

A paper skeleton that’s heavier than hollow bones,

Covert cupped hands encased in tree,

Hidden from rain but seeking the stars.

 

They borrow the earth and the pebbles and stones,

The twigs underfoot, and the leaves that turn brown,

And receipts that we drop, the labels and tags,

Frayed parts of garments and fragments of rags.

 

Hearts that flutter like feathers, flustered, alarmed,

Burdened by time, unburdened by weight,

Little vessels of life, perching on branches,

Holding their bricks, but better designed.

 

Their home, no craftsman can ever quite grasp,

Bliss is encroached by a desperate attempt,

Relentless marks and materials held,

Never just so, not as light or as raw,

As the little twig house, lined with moss, bound with straw.

Norwich School Presents: We Will Rock You

In the run up to this year’s school musical Morgan Hardy, who will play ‘Madonna’, gives a preview of what’s in store. Tickets are still available from www.ticketsource.co.uk/norwich-school:

This year Norwich School will perform We Will Rock You at The Playhouse theatre. Based on Queen’s greatest hits, it is a fantastic opportunity to mix both song and dance into one stage show!

Although somewhat extra, a plot line does exist in which the cunning “Killer Queen,” played by the devious Alice Beattie exterminates everything musical. Earth has been ‘transmogrified’ into Planet Mall, where everything is monotone, grey and dull. Everyone acts, speaks and goes about life in the same way. Brain dead people walking about in a haze. Everyone in this planet is much of a muchness, those who dare to be different are dealt with by the killer queen herself.

However hiding away in the depths of London city is a group of misfits! Bohemians desperate to “bring back rock and roll.’ The bohemians have a slight problem; they are not really sure what rock is. So they devote their lives to scraps of magazines featuring singers and instrumentalists to give them some clue as to what rock actually is. In the meantime they wait for “the dreamer,” they have heard about in their prophecy to restore rock once again.

In the musical I am playing “Madonna”, a likeable character and the fashion guru of the bohemians. She’s a diva and loves to find new styles for anyone joining the bohemian movement. As much as I enjoy the part, I have found maintaining the broad Glaswegian accent a ‘wee’ bit challenging. It has been said on occasion I sound more like a mad Irish woman than a Glaswegian hen. Madonna helps Saramouche find her inner rock using the power of dress.

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My favourite few scenes so far are “A crazy little thing called love,” as the bohemians really showcase their carefree ‘let your hair down,’ kind of attitude. This is a great contrast to the rest of the show in which everyone is indoctrinated, brainwashed and programmed. But moreover the song is complimented by the amazing duo of Megan Blair and Will Pierson, aka Britney Spears, that play their ‘loved up’ characters tremendously well, in a comical way, and yes you did read it correctly. Will is Britney!

Another highlight and one definitely not worth missing is where Kaggoshi, Killer Queens assistant, brain fries the bohemians for not explaining their knowledge of rock. She tortures them by electrocution and the characters endure the punishment because of their undying love of rock music. I know when you see the performance you will revel at the artistic mastery of the cast’s electrocution faces – it really is a sight to see! A zapptastic scene!

One of the things that really makes the musical is the mix match of personalities. Saramouche and Galileo, both not comfortable in their own skins, come to terms with their relationship very slowly, and are slightly embarrassed and self conscience, whilst Meat and Britney are very flamboyant throughout the entire show.

I am very much looking forward to seeing the set, which sounds amazing. But, the real buzz is for the outlandish costumes everyone will be able to sport! I think this will just be the finishing touch to a series of spectacular individual performances. A line that resonates in my ears and that may stay with me for some time to come was that of Mrs Walton, the director, asking the whole cast: “Does anyone have or know of any severed heads I could borrow….” then pausing and after absorbing everyone’s horrified expressions, quickly explained “for the wigs to go on of course!”. Not something you hear every day at NS.

As well as Kai Miller, playing Galileo, leaning out of one of the music schools top windows singing “We are the champions,” with a ukulele for the entirety of the cathedral close to hear. That’s one way to promote the show I suppose!

With only a week or so to go I can’t wait to see what the final performance looks like! The dancing is terrific and the singing is already pitch perfect! Now all that remains is to master doing them at the same time. Something, I’m told is essential for a musical!

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Playing Your Own Game

At the end of September Head of Fifth Form Mr Rowlandson gave this fantastic address to the members of the 5th Form during their section assembly:

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.

I love the opportunity it gives me to keep up with old friends as well as the way it lets my friends and family know what’s going on in the ‘Rowlandson Household’.

But…my love of Facebook is starting to wane.

Not just because it’s a big time waster but because without realising it, I have been falling into the comparison trap!

Before the summer, in the space of a week, I read about three friends from my year at school who had done extraordinary things:

1.       Ryan – the fly-half in my 1st XV rugby team started a company called ‘Propercorn’ a few years ago – selling gourmet popcorn. He posted a link to an article in the Financial Times which reported that ‘Propercorn’ was the 5th fastest growing company in Europe.

2.       Then Riz – who I worked alongside in the school Year 9 play and has gone on to become a Hollywood actor. Riz posted a picture of himself on the front cover of ‘Time’ magazine as he’d been named in the global list for the 100 most influential people.

3.       Finally Angie – who I remember going bowling with and playing laser quest as a teenager. Was named as one of the UK’s top 10 travel bloggers. Angela runs the Silverspoon London blog, has over 2.5 million views on Google and 23,000 followers. Angie spends her time travelling the world First Class, staying in the finest hotels and eating in the best restaurants. Talk about a dream job!

Whilst I ‘liked’ all their posts. I found myself feeling a little more inadequate and a little less confident.

I wonder if you ever compare yourself with your friends. Perhaps you think others look more attractive than you, are more built than you or dress better than you. Maybe you wish you could ace your exams or star in the school play or sports team like your friend. Perhaps you wish you had their life?!

I accept, some could argue that comparison might inspire us to better ourselves. To look at the strengths in others and set new, stretching personal goals. Perhaps. But I think more often than not, comparison leaves us feeling worth less.

Recently, however, I’ve reflected on the way in which I am not making a fair comparison.

A study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin confirmed that people are less likely to reveal their negative emotions than their positive emotions. The study found that people tend to overestimate the presence of positivity in the lives of others, while they misinterpret or fail to detect negative feelings in others. So not only is what’s being posted online an incomplete picture, we tend to distort the information we receive — a double whammy!

We therefore need a better filter to be more critical of the information we view. One reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes footage with everyone else’s highlight reel.

But is this a problem?

I believe it is. How we view ourselves in the light of comparison with others can have quite profound effects on our behaviour…

I recently read an excellent book called ‘Chimp Paradox’ written by one of the psychologists behind Team GB Cycling Team who were so successful in the 2012 Olympics. Here’s an extract from his book:

“While working with a group of medical students in a hospital setting, I tried an experiment. Several students were asked to believe they were the Clinical Director of the hospital. The students were then observed to see what they did. Most of them walked down the centre of the corridor and greeted staff and patients with a polite ‘Good Morning’ and were seen to initiate the interaction.

Then we asked them to walk down the corridor again but this time as if they were the cleaner of the hospital who was on a temporary contract and likely to lose their job very soon. This time most of the students were observed to walk down the edge of the corridor and not to engage with others they passed. The students did not know that they were being observed for behaviours in the corridor. When shown their change of behaviour based on the perception of themselves they were surprised.”

Rather than inspiring excellence, more often than not comparison leads to a lower self-esteem and a dimmer view of ourselves which can manifest itself in our behaviours.

At Norwich School we want you to reach your potential. We want you to dream big. To truly believe you could become a Hollywood actor, Entrepreneur or if you’re really lucky – a teacher.

I don’t want anything to get in the way of that – especially not your own, misguided view of yourself.

Gary Haugen the Founder and CEO of the charity International Justice Mission said, ‘Don’t allow self to destroy your dreams. It is our everyday insecurities that lead us to abandon our dreams without putting up a fight.’

As we start this year, I encourage each of you to focus on playing your own game. To worry less about how you compare to others and more about reaching your own goals. I implore you to use social media with caution and to view information others allow you to see through a more critical, realistic lens. One of my wife’s favorite sayings is:

Comparison is your worst enemy, not your best friend

Comparison is your worst enemy, not your best friend

If we remember this, I am sure we will have a happier 5th Form Community as a result.

My Year At Norwich School

Morgan Hardy, who is now in her first year in the Norwich School Sixth Form, tells us about her last year, which included taking her GCSES, as part of the Senior School:

“My last year at Norwich School started, as it has since I joined the school, in the beautiful surroundings of the Cathedral Close. It was busy, really busy, I was excited, my friends were buzzing and there was an energy amongst my peers.

We started the year with a welcome assembly in the cathedral, although a familiar place to me, it never fails to leave me full of wonder and awe.

Already there was an enthusiastic atmosphere brewing, as the annual House Music Festival, where every member of school comes together to sing in St Andrew’s Hall, approached.  Each House is pitted against each other, to win the coveted title of ‘Best House Song’. Aside from Sports Day this is the main House event of the year and brings all eight Houses in the school together. Ensembles, orchestras and choirs could showcase their talent and show off the skills they had learned.

House Music Festival in St Andrew's Hall

House Music Festival in St Andrew's Hall

 Everyone was talking about “Who in our house (Nelson) could sing, could play the piano, did we have a conductor in our ranks?”

Then there was the school committees, this year I had been chosen to be on the head of the school food committee. I believe one of the most important aspects of school life is most definitely……our tummies!

Opportunities were rife this year. But this year I knew I needed to really focus on my exams. I was determined to plan my revision and stick to it. I would spend Sunday mornings on my most dreaded subject… Physics! There- I’d made a start.

It wasn’t long until I realised there weren’t enough hours in the day to be involved with every event. I made a decision to spend more time focused on revision this year, mixed in with a little R&R. This was accompanied by involvement in one of many clubs and society’s; my choices included the Pop Choir, the prestigious Chapel Choir, as well as the green group - a society that helps educate pupils on all matters ecological.

Before I knew it Christmas was upon us and mock exams were imminent.

Our carol service took place in the cathedral, lit with candles held by over a 1000 people; it really was a sight to see, parents, children and staff all together as one.

Norwich School Carol Service

Norwich School Carol Service

It’s difficult, no it’s impossible, to forget the staff panto, which really ended the term on a high note. Seeing my chemistry teacher dressed as snow white, singing at the top of her voice was priceless.

Over the holiday I spent almost every day brushing up on my old text books, there was so much to review and so many presents to wrap! 

Mocks turned out well, but there was room for improvement. My teachers offered advice and support, afterschool clinics became part of my daily routine.

The start of 2017 also saw a singing exam, a public speaking competition and the start of the new rowing season as well as working with the Hamlet charity - a really worthy cause.  Female rowing is really growing at the school. The new girls’ rowing team was beginning to come together, we were growing into a formidable force on the water!

The public speaking competition went well, a win in the Regional Finals! Could this be a 2017 roll? Next, we had to speak at Magdalene College Cambridge! What a great day we had, and returned feeing proud to have represented the city of Norwich so well.

As the weather became warmer my revision was really hotting up too, study leave was as busy as I had ever been, I felt productive and confident around the forthcoming exams.

The time for my first exam came around, then a second, then a third until finally all 23 exams had been taken. 

Gala Night, the epic finale of Gather 17

Gala Night, the epic finale of Gather 17

After the exam period is over, the school embarks on its end of year creative arts festival Gather. The festival saw the school put on 10 different performances, celebrating the many talents of pupils here. The festival came to a climax with our Gala Night. The event had an almost ‘festival’ feel to it, with a stage and crowds all in the Lower Close playing fields. There was dancing, singing and acting all hosted by our head of school Benedict Smith. The audience made up of our parents, Governors, teachers and guests, including the Lord Mayor, laughed and sang along. I performed a sketch that I had written for the show and sang Tom Lehrer’s Elements song accompanied by my good friend Jonathan Jolly, Norwich School’s Music scholar. As always he never missed a note!

Several weeks later, results day! I found myself in a huddle with my friends in the school grounds, It was silent, no one wanted to speak, I found myself in tears, I couldn’t speak as I open the envelope.  9 A*s and an A! I felt, excited, euphoric. I had an overwhelming urge to hug my friends, how did they do? Were they all as happy as I was? There were good results all around!  I wanted to thank my teachers, I even want to hug my younger brother for all the support he had given me! 

Hard work, revision and lots of fun along the way; the winning formula. A fitting end to a great year at Norwich School that I’ll never forget.

Morgan celebrating her amazing GCSE results

Morgan celebrating her amazing GCSE results

Crypt Gallery Review: Sketch for Survival

At the end of September the school was delighted to host the Sketch for Survival exhibition in our very own Crypt Gallery below the Norwich School Chapel. The exhibition, organised by the Real Africa Trust, aimed to raise awareness about the threats to iconic species in Africa, as well as raise funds for The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Animals Saving Animals charities. The collection of over 150 pieces included work from leading international wildlife artists, such as Katy Jade Dobson and Tom Lazic, as well as celebrities including Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry and cricketer Kevin Peterson. Having visited Norwich, London and Bristol the pieces will be displayed during the Explorers against Extinction event on the evening of the 12th October at the Royal Geographical Society. Each piece is being auctioned to raise profits for the two charities.

While the exhibition was in the Crypt Gallery, Lower 6 Art Scholar Will Wistow wrote the below review of the pieces on show:

The “Sketch for Survival” exhibition which took place in the Crypt Gallery at Norwich School on the 23rd September was an impressive sight indeed. The considerable number of artists and celebrities, from all different aspects of life, who contributed work to the exhibition was overwhelming.  It was, indeed, a moving experience to witness such a diverse collection of styles.

Work by Katy Jade Dobson

Work by Katy Jade Dobson

All the images depicted animals in danger of extinction, with the proceeds of the show supporting conservation efforts for lions, rhinos and elephants. Every piece in this show gives thought to what we gain from these beautiful animals and what we risk to lose: there were heart-warming illustrations from artists such as Gabriel Alborozo and Lucy Cox, whose child-friendly approach brings back the wonder and joy learning about these magical creatures provokes; and there was the astonishing realism in the drawings by Susan Shimeld and Clive Meredith. And then there were the Paul Fearne pieces, whose fascinating technique of carefully eroding rust from metal sheets created an interesting new format to display images and textures. 

Work by Stephen Fry

Work by Stephen Fry

Just as the skill of the artists is to be admired, so is the astonishing generosity from celebrities. From presenters to authors, filmmakers to conservationists, all sorts of prominent figures supported the venture by creating a work of art, with the brief of contributing a 10-minute drawing or painting. A lot of these showed real artistic prowess. The delicate brushstrokes of Dame Judi Dench’s watercolour landscape brought a lovely gentleness to the rooms, while the elegant marks of Stephen Fry’s line drawing of a rhino reflected on the its graceful form.

Work by Kevin Peterson

Work by Kevin Peterson

Of course the main reason for this gallery is not just to admire the wonderful artwork on show, but to raise the vital funds and awareness needed to save these beautiful creatures, which are being quickly wiped from the face of this earth by poachers and loss of habitat. All the proceeds from this gallery are being split between the 'David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’ and 'Animals Saving Animals’ who are making it their mission to stop this. Their aim is to ensure that it is not just drawings that remain in 50 years’ time.

If you wish to find out more about the gallery/auction and how you can contribute to the charities visit: http://www.explorersagainstextinction.co.uk/sketch_for_survival

Norwich School Sport Science Support Programme

With the Norwich School Sport Science Support Programme having recently been launched, we chatted to Alex Daalhuizen to find out more about it:

Hi Alex, for those that don’t know you, can you explain a little bit about yourself and your role at the school…

Hi I’m Alex and I’m the Head of Strength and Conditioning at Norwich School. I’ve been working in S&C for 8 years now, beginning in tennis and swimming having graduated from university with a MSc Strength and Conditioning. Since then I’ve worked in football, with Queens Park Rangers, and in rugby, with Bedford Blues in the Championship, before moving to my first school role at Bedford Modern. Alongside my work at Norwich School I am co-head of Strength and Conditioning at Snow Sport England Alpine Squad and an S&C coach for Leicester Tigers DPP Norfolk.

My role at Norwich School has two parts. In the Lower School I oversee Athletic Development modules in the Lower School PE programme. In the Senior School, I oversee the Sport Science Support Programme, in which I deliver the Athletic Development sessions for individuals, small groups and teams.

 

What is the Norwich School Sport Science Support Programme?

The Sport Science Support Programme is designed to help individuals in their overall sport, health and wellbeing. The programme’s main areas of focus are Sports Nutrition, Sports Psychology and Athletic Development. The nutrition and psychology parts are delivered primarily as lectures, however we also have group sessions and one to one’s. The nutrition is delivered by our School Sport’s Nutritionist Andrea Carroll-Langan. The Sports Psychology will be launching later this academic year. Whatever level of sport people are playing, everyone need to be able to be effective and confident in their fundamental movement skills. The programme has been developed using the latest research by world-leading experts in youth development to achieve this for every pupil at the school in the long term, whatever their interests and athletic aspirations.

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What is Athletic Development?

In Athletic Development we are looking to be able to develop pupils across a broad range of skills; mobility, agility, speed, strength and power. All these are key attributes for health and wellbeing, as well as being the building blocks for sporting performance. It is a long term process with something for everyone, whatever their sporting ambitions, with many transferrable skills. The programme is open to pupils from Lower 4 to Upper 6 and is formulated to take into account the training history, growth and maturation status as well as sporting commitments.

 

As a pupil how can the programme help me with sport?

The focus is centred around developing fundamental skills, which are highly correlated to many movement patterns you will see across many sports. For example; a squat, a jump and land and a press up, can all be beneficial for a rugby player, a netball player and a dancer. The same can be seen in a change of direction exercise. Our exercise programmes are designed to increase the athletic capabilities of our students, leading to enhanced performance and increased resilience.

 

Does it cover every sport or is this just for the major sports?  

As mentioned, the programme is aimed at fundamental movement skills which are applicable across a range of activities. As pupil’s move through the school, and start to think about focusing more on one or more sports (generally in 6th form), the programme can become more specific and specialised as appropriate, to be tailored to the individual’s needs.

 

Can you give us an insight into a session and what we might expect?

As part of the programme we’ve developed a movement syllabus which covers seven basic movement patterns: squat, push, lunge, pull, lift, hinge and brace. The programme is a tiered one so those beginning will start at level 1, which will be an introduction to all these movements. Once students have mastered one level, they move to the next and so on. As students move through the levels the technical and physical aspects of the exercises increase. These are all specifically designed, taking into account, age, sex and maturation, and allow students to move at their own pace. We’ll look for three key things through an individual’s movements before allowing them to take the next step on the tier; Range of Movement, Control and Shape.

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If I’m aspiring to be a high level sportsperson, how can you help me?

We already work with several pupils who are excelling at one or more sports. I work carefully with their specific coaches to develop a specialised training programme, as well as using testing batteries to assess and monitor their performance and progression. In these instances we have more detailed cross over with the nutrition and psychology aspects of the programme. They also have the opportunity to be part of the school established Young Norfolk Sports Academy.

 

What makes sport at Norwich School special in your eyes?

First of all the school has a broad range of technically great coaches, who I have the pleasure of working with, across the huge variety of sports that the school offers. The depth and breadth of Norwich School’s sports programme really stands out. We also have hugely ambitious pupils who love to get involved, which is so rewarding.

The Athletic Development programme itself gives a unique opportunity for young sportspeople to get an insight into a high level of coaching, the level and detail of which they’re unlikely to be able to experience again.

 

And finally, when you aren’t coaching strength and conditioning at school, what do you do for fun?

When I’m not working I play hockey at Norwich City Hockey Club and love cycling and surfing. Outside of that I’ve done quite of bit of travelling.

Reading A Little Deeper

Last week maths teacher Dr Richardson’s assembly focussed on the story of Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis, Chapter 18. The story itself is a bleak story of two cities so badly behaved that they were destroyed by God, but are there lessons to be learnt from stories like this that go beyond the text itself? A fantastic ‘thought for the day’:

 

This morning’s reading is taken from Genesis chapter 18

‘God told Abraham that he intended to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, because their inhabitants were guilty of terrible crimes. Abraham pleaded on their behalf, and God agreed that if he found 10 good people there, he would not destroy them.

Two angels went to Sodom and stayed with Abraham’s nephew Lot. There they saw the wickedness of the people, and soon they said to Lot “Are there any other members of your family here. You must tell them to leave at once or they will die when the city is destroyed. Run as fast as you can and on no account look behind you.”

By the time the sun had risen, Lot and his family had reached Zoar. Then the Lord rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gommorah, so that they and their people and the surrounding plain and everything that grew and moved upon it were totally destroyed. Feeling the heat and hearing the noise, Lot’s wife turned to look behind her, and was turned into a pillar of salt.

The next morning, Abraham rose early and looked towards the plain. Instead of the two great cities, he saw a column of thick smoke rising from the plain.’

 

So there you have it. Sodom and Gomorrah. Two cities whose people were so naughty that God lost patience with them and destroyed them by sending fire and brimstone down from heaven. Let that be a lesson for you.

Now, could I have a show of hands if you think that this is a true story. Anyone?

It is the job of archaeologists to look for physical evidence of places and events mentioned in historical documents such as the Bible. The first recorded expedition to search for the city of Sodom was in 1847. This, and subsequent attempts, proved fruitless, and as a result, the archaeological community took the view that Sodom and Gomorrah never existed. The Bible states that Sodom was the biggest city in the region at the time. If such a city existed and was destroyed, then there should be evidence left behind. The means of destruction also posed a problem. Fire coming down from heaven sounds like a volcano or possibly a meteorite. But there are no meteorite craters in the Middle East. There are also no volcanoes, and it’s not an earthquake zone. So, without a plausible murder weapon, or a body, most historical detectives have found God not guilty of this crime, and declared that Sodom and Gomorrah never existed.

But in 2005, a new investigation was started, led by Dr. Steven Collins, an American professor who had spent 30 years investigating sites in the Holy Land. He decided to look for Sodom after reading the biblical account of the story again and coming to the conclusion that everyone had been looking in the wrong place. Years of experience had taught Dr Collins that whatever you may think of the Bible as an accurate historical source, one aspect that always stands up to any scrutiny is its geographical accuracy. Any statements of location, such as ‘West of the Jordan’, or ‘south of Jericho’ invariably prove to be correct. The pillar of salt angle had meant that previous searches had focussed on the Dead Sea area, where pillars of salt actually exist. However, the Bible says that Sodom and Gomorrah lay in a valley to the east of Bethel. So Dr. Collins went to Bethel, headed east, and found a valley with a number of abandoned archaeological digs.

The pottery at one site tells us that it was occupied continuously up until the middle Bronze Age, but then completely abandoned for over 700 years. There is considerable debate about dates of early biblical events, but the middle Bronze Age is in the right ballpark for the destruction of Sodom. So far so good. But then amongst the Bronze Age fragments, pieces of what appeared to be glazed pottery were found. This is pottery which has been intensely heated on one side, so as to turn it into glass. The technology to do this didn’t appear until much later, and so this placed a large question mark over the dating of the site. Dr. Collins took some of the glazed pottery back to America to get it analysed. The results posed as many questions as they answered. The material that coated one side of these ancient fragments was identified as Trinitite, a material only discovered in the 1950’s and previously only found at nuclear test sites. It is formed when sand is exposed to temperatures of around 2000˚C, and the thin nature of the coating suggested this intense heat only lasted for a few minutes, perhaps even seconds. On further investigation in subsequent years, Trinitite has been found all over the site, always forming in a thin layer on only one side of each object. At the same time, human remains were also being discovered all over the dig site. And these were not neatly buried. These were people who had died in the streets and in their homes, much like at Pompeii.

By now, as you can imagine, Dr. Collins really thought he was on to something. A city of about the right size, in the right place, occupied and abandoned at about the right time, and seemingly the victim of a nuclear bomb, or something equally cataclysmic. The next challenge was to explain how such an event could occur. Whether countries in the Middle East have weapons of mass destruction is notoriously hard to prove, but we can be fairly sure that they didn’t have them 4000 years ago. Failing that, then a meteor strike would seem the only other explanation. However, the absence of a meteor crater confirms that didn’t happen. So what did happen? Dr. Collins’s theory is that Sodom was destroyed by an event similar to one which occurred in Siberia in 1908.

Known as the Tunguska event, an explosion flattened some 80 million trees over an area of 2000 km2. Witnesses over 40km away reported seeing a blinding flash of light in the sky followed by an intense blast of heat. Scientists now believe that this event was caused by a meteor that exploded in the atmosphere, releasing 1000 times more energy than the Hiroshima bomb. And yet there is no crater, and no fragments of the meteor have ever been found. Such an event is known as an airburst.

So is this what is described in Chapter 18 of Genesis? Was Sodom destroyed by a meteorite that exploded overhead, causing devastation greater than a nuclear bomb? It would certainly explain why the largest city in the region was suddenly abandoned for 700 years. And you could easily imagine how such an event could be interpreted as an act of God.

Like any theory based on fragments of evidence 4000 years old, it has not been universally accepted, but it certainly makes for a good story.

It seems that so often, faith and science are opposed to each other, with advances in scientific understanding being used as evidence to disprove the existence of God. Debates such as evolution and the creation of the universe are often seen in terms of Science vs God. What I like about this story is that science has been used to investigate the possibility that a Bible story 4000 years old, and long thought to have been a work of fiction, may actually have happened after all. And yet, before the geologists, chemists and astrophysicists got involved, how was the possible site of Sodom discovered? By reading the Bible more carefully. Maybe there’s a lesson there.