“A curmudgeon” was how J.B Priestley described himself. So did just about everyone else. Whilst he is probably best known for that staple of GCSE examiners “An Inspector Calls” he is less well remembered as an essayist of great style and prodigious output. So, it is odd that given his well-known misanthropy he would have written a series of essays on the subject of delight. The anthology was published in 1946 during those grey and dreary days and republished a few years ago. I dip into its pages at random to enjoy what he has to say about reading newspapers in the countryside, fountains and having a great idea. Imagine my excitement at finding a new version of these essays being published in The Guardian.
If ever we were in need of cheering up, now would be the time. The premise is the same, we are encouraged to appreciate simple pleasures and everyday things. Our young people face more than their fair share of difficulties. A recent winner of a Scottish essay competition gave me clear pause for thought when she outlined well, how dreadful it is having to portray a shiny Instagrammable life. Whilst part of me says we had it tougher, there is a very significant element that says actually they really do. As March turns into April exams loom, family moves are discussed and the school year seems to be very close to an end. For this reason on 21st March, International Day of Happiness I thought of a grumpy old J B Priestly.
We are fortunate to live in a wonderful environment. We have the privilege of studying in a place which inspired great artists and provides us with an ever changing picture of nature’s annual cycle. I’ve taken delight this week in hearing the drumming of a woodpecker, in poetry read aloud, of house tokens proudly banked and in the cheery good mornings of Junior School pupils. The first cup of coffee in the morning is always a treat to be savoured. When I heard that there was an international day of happiness I cynically dismissed it as yet another pointless exercise that had been dreamt up by the greetings card industry but on reflection it might well be a very good thing. Instead of asking what did you do in school today we should be asking what was it that gave you joy at school today?
Over the coming weeks I will be asking pupils about the little things in which they find delight, a good score in Fortnite will (I suppose) be allowed, but surely it is not as good as the swish of the netball passing effortlessly through a ring or the rippling of a net after a crisply struck ball. I’d like to believe that all of our pupils find a simple delight in a job well done, of succeeding following application to a task, of lending a helping hand.
There is great pleasure to be had in a job well done and to that end I was pleased to receive this week the final version of our inspection report. Please take the time to read it. It is an accurate reflection of a school where delight is to be found.