“Time is a sort of river of passing events…”

“Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.”

Marcus Aurelius

It is perhaps inevitable that the longer you spend by the banks of the Seine the more it influences how you view the school year. Just as the school year follows a rhythm and flow so too does the river. In summer, the pace is languid, and the banks are covered by willows trailing their branches in the water. In winter it is faster flowing, it is a more turbulent picture with skeletal trees framing the view.

This week has seen the river rise ever higher in its channel, for the first time in a little while people have glanced anxiously at it. Earlier in the week the council arrived and put up red and white barrier tape. I’m not quite sure it will stop anyone from falling in, but I suppose it gives a warning to anyone who is considering a midwinter swim that it might be a little rash to do so.

There are two reasons for the river’s height at present. It has rained a lot and this week also saw some of the highest tides of the year at the Seine’s estuary. When tides are at their peak the river cannot discharge with is customary efficiency. Now that the tides are lowering, the river levels should begin to fall. What has taken a comparatively short time to rise will take far longer to fall. We have altered the river’s course, have provided protection, and do a good deal to manage it but sometimes, despite our best efforts we just reach the limit.

Rather like the Seine I have the distinct feeling that there are many people in our community who feel as if their own personal banks are ready to be breached, that their load is at its peak and that, well, things may just overflow. Despite our best efforts to channel anxiety and concern we are up to the top of our banks. Not surprising given the circumstances. As a school community we have all been making the best of what we can do rather than what is denied to us. We’ve all had to undergo the privations of separation and the bounds of restriction. Like the river, levels of frustration have crept ever higher. We can see what is going on but there seems little we can do to prevent the inevitable.

We have five days left before the half term break. I know that year groups and departments will be easing back a little next week, our half-way point in the academic year. The Junior School is looking forward to pyjama and movie days and Year 6 have their STEM week of activities. I hope that we can spend a little time in the coming days simply enjoying the subjects we study and not worrying about the never ending race of finishing the syllabus, doing the next assessment piece, or meeting another deadline. We will (I hope) have time for all that in the coming half term as spring begins to emerge on the banks of the Seine and levels of hope recharge.

Just as spring will inevitably arrive so too will the concerns of our current situation subside like the winter river. Storms may still appear before normal levels return but until then we may well have to follow the current as best we are able.

Nicholas Hammond