Ernest and game

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Waking out of a dream where I am descending a heather-clad hill surrounded by spiralling woodcock, I am up early enough to hear Tweet of the Day.  This morning it’s the Shoveller duck.  I remember how it looks from childhood days studying its pictures (the drake with its ‘harlequin plumage’, as I am reminded this morning) but it is the Tweetmeister’s final sentence that tickles me so much: having talked up the Shoveller’s classiness – ain’t no common or garden duck this one – he ends with the peerless sentence, “You will not find him taking bread on any park lane”.

These wonderful shimmies of irony in amongst the everyday are what so much good comedy is about.  Plenty of sensible folk may find it sad that here I am chuckling about a duck as dawn breaks and our floppy Labrador paces the kitchen for her morning walk, but there we go.  As they say in Yorkshire, “there’s nowt as queer as folk”.

Good and brilliant comedy is on the minds of all of us who were lucky enough to be at An Evening with Harry Enfield and John Lloyd last night in the Bedales Quad.  Harry, with his inimitable genial impishness, interviews John; he does so in  thoughtfully irreverent way that brings out the importance of what John Lloyd has done to date in British television – most notably Not the Nine O’Clock News, Spitting Image, Blackadder,  Have I Got News for You and QI.

They are an irrepressible duo and we gain a series of insights into the importance of satire and the unlikely ironies of the interaction between off beat entertainment and schooling with John’s comments about Blackadder being used as a staple of history lessons.  Plenty of irony there.

At the same time we will raise over £7000 for the John Badley Foundation which provides 100% bursaries for young people to attend Bedales and Dunhurst.

The audience leaves chortled, engaged and made to think; and it’s this last bit that is as important as anything to me.  Harry’s account of how he moved from being a pub stand-up comedian to a very well known TV performer reminds us of the importance of happenstance, determination and working to develop your talent.  But it is perhaps, above all, the emphasis that John placed on three cardinal virtues that hits home:  “know what you like…trust your own instincts; do something you love; and above all, be persistent – never give up.”

Wise and funny-man Chaucer knew all about how to season the serious with the mirthful – or “ernest and game” as he had it.