Not just going through the motions

Some of the most interesting comments in academic journals are to be found in the footnotes. Often maligned as the preserve of the pedant or dismissed as being irrelevant to the text they can be intriguing, amusing and entertaining. It is often with the footnote that we gain a real understanding of the author and for me at least, copious footnotes suggest that the author has far more of interest to say than can be contained in the main body of the text(1). The phrase “a footnote in history” has always seemed to me to be harsh indeed, it is here that we find new avenues of thought and other pieces of information. Small in type they are often large in significance or interest. I was therefore interested to hear the Chairman of the Governors’ Education Committee explain in a recent speech that one of the great benefits of retirement is that one has the chance to really research footnotes, to give them the time and thought that they really deserve.

Dr. Michael Tilby is no footnote in our school history. Over the past ten years he has tutored older students in the ways of the Oxbridge College interview(2) , a task for which he, as a former Cambridge College admissions tutor, is uniquely suited. He has been a supportive yet questioning member of our Education Committee and has devoted hours to the analysis of exam results, the performance of departments and has championed the work of the School. At yesterday’s Governing Board meeting he took his leave of the School having completed a decade of service with our very best wishes and sincere thanks. He will be missed indeed.

There is a very great danger that our support today of Toilet Twinning will soon be consigned to the bottom of a page. One day in a busy school calendar. It may not be the most glamorous of endeavours but games of chicken poo bingo(3) and the lavatorial cake sale this break time raised vital funds for appropriate sanitation to be provided for some of the world’s 2.3 billion people who do not have somewhere safe to “do their business”(4) . Next time you are in school please do take a moment to see the wide range of locations in which we have sponsored the building of safe toilets, it is truly impressive. My thanks to Year 7 for their enthusiasm in supporting this most noble of causes. The world now has 7 more safe toilets that it did not have earlier this week.

There are only fifteen school days left of this term. Be-fore then there are two notable events within our wider community to note. Our own BSPS will run their excellent Christmas Fair on Saturday 7th December and The British Charitable Fund(5) in association with the School Jazz Band are offering parents the opportunity to enjoy music at one of Paris’ most exclusive addresses(6) on 28th November. Both are not to be missed.

  1. You may have realised by now that I am a footnote-a-phile
  2. A process sometimes seen by observers as something of a dark art
  3. Really,
  4. A typically English use of euphemism to hide the sheer embarrassment of talking about the bodily functions that underpins a good deal of the national sense of humour
  5. An august institution 200 years young and still going strong. Founded by Sir Richard Wallace – he of the art collection and green Parisian fountains
  6. 35 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, or the Hotel de Charost former home of Pauline Bonaparte, Arthur Wellesly and current home of our School Patron HM Ambassador to France, Lord Llewellyn

Nicholas Hammond