Greetings Mighty Cohorts of the Northern Tribe,
While, for some, it might seem very premature to be talking about Christmas, I have met so many wonderful people in the Sedbergh community that my list of Christmas cards is starting to challenge the limitless boundaries of my Excel spreadsheet and is a list that seems to grow longer with every passing year.
Certainly, this year, I had the great fortune to make many new friends at OS Weekend which was, without a doubt, a most successful and enjoyable occasion. One highlight, of many, was the dinner in Powell Hall attended by 180 people. This year we celebrated 20 years of girls at Sedbergh and paid homage to those who had been so instrumental in making this such a success. Celebrations went on till past 1.00am, such was the relief at being able to meet our friends in person again, having been finally released from the confines of Covid. I am, we are, enormously grateful to Dan Harrison, the School, and the staff (particularly the catering staff) for allowing us to use the School’s facilities and making us feel so welcome.
But back to those Christmas cards. We communicate so rarely by post these days that I feel it incumbent upon me to write a short essay in each and every card. This takes a considerable amount of time and hence I need to start early. Great care is taken; amongst the recipients are a host of present and former schoolteachers as well as other cerebral types who, I’m sure, sit there with their red marker pens scoring me for presentation, punctuation, and spelling. Mistakes happen, of course they do, but by going ‘manual’ I do not have the luxury of ‘Edit Undo’, which is surely the most valuable of all digital tools ever created. In frustration, cards are sent flying, half written, in the direction of the wastepaper basket while I start afresh on a new one.
This got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if, in life, there was an ‘Edit Undo’ such that we could repair our mistakes, and no one would ever be the wiser? This became a source of ponder for a whole afternoon and while at first I thought it would be a good idea, irrespective of the fact that such a device lives only in the world of science fiction, I came to the conclusion that it would produce a dull world indeed, where people are two-dimensional, flawless in every aspect apart from the fact that they are flawless.
I recently attended a memorial lecture held in honour of the late Sam Barker (E 95-00), son of our future Club President Nick Barker (E 63-68) and his wife Katherine. Such was the impact that Sam had had upon this world in his all too brief life that the former Prime minister, Teresa May, was one of the guest speakers and spoke for some 20 minutes. Either she, or one of the other speakers, quoted Sam as saying, ‘I am human, I have some faults, I have some gifts. Think well of me.’ Towards the back of the room, as I sat listening, these words brought about an epiphany.
So, this year I will embrace my mistakes. They are part of who I am, they are part of what makes me whole. If you receive a card from me and it has spelling mistake, a crossing out or, perish the thought, bad grammar, well that’s just the way it’s going to be. And, do you know what, I feel so much happier!
Jan van der Velde