Perhaps it is a consequence of living in a world governed by bells, timetables and a prescribed year that there is a danger of allowing the school year to roll along “as normal”. On Monday, teaching staff had an INSET (training) day. On Tuesday the half term started – the school picked up where it had left off ten days before with a few new faces. All very familiar, all very normal.
Despite this seeming familiarity an event occurred during the half term that has shaken many from this comfortable routine; former BSP teacher, Nicholas Lowndes, sadly died following an accident at his home. Nicholas Lowndes joined The British School of Paris in 1974 and he left our immediate community for retirement in 2015. Those who were not taught by him may have met him doing stalwart service on the second hand book stall at the summer fair. Nicholas was always going to make the most of retirement. Having already lovingly restored a house in Brittany, he had other plans. Some will know of his exceptional woodworking skills. There are few among us with the expertise to create a lute. Retirement was not an end to learning or talent development, it merely signalled a new phase in a life where learning remained central.
The loss of a long-serving member of staff is a matter for sorrow. Our deepest sympathies are with Mrs Lowndes our Junior School Librarian and wife of Nicholas and also with their children who all attended the BSP. I know that friends and colleagues will rally round and support; such is the way of this school.
Loss affects a community, but the institution carries on. Sometimes this is a comfort. Death is not necessarily a comfortable subject for adults and it is perhaps more alien for children. That acknowledged we should confront the subject. There are members of this community who have lost parents, siblings and a significant number will have lost grandparents. Loss can come in many forms and it is generally traumatic. But in a school, a place dedicated to making the most of talent and to the realisation of potential it also provides a powerful reminder. Very little in life is guaranteed and to that end we must make the most of every day that we wake up to. Whilst comfort, familiarity and routine are all good, we must never forget that we have, each day, the chance to do not just something extraordinary but many extraordinary things.
I wonder if, over the course of this coming week, we can reflect upon something that we have done that is worthy? Have we used the extraordinary opportunities that we have here? Have we used our talents wisely? Sometimes the jolt of tragedy serves to remind us that this life of ours is indeed precious. This half term we should avoid the trap of simply going through the motions and ensure that we continually strive for excellence. This may mean doing different. If we are able to achieve this then it will have been a half term well spent.