Here comes the Spring

By Feline Charpentier, 6.2 Houseparent and Teacher of Outdoor Work

Ostara, or the spring equinox, falls this Saturday, and marks the first point of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the moment when the sun crosses the equator line, and heads north. It is also known as the vernal equinox, ver in latin meaning spring – think verdant, youthful, fresh. Day and night are of equal length, and from then on our days begin to lengthen. All around us nature is coming alive, and there are signs of this life everywhere we look, from the lambs in the fields to the buds on the trees. The daffodils on Emma’s walk are just beginning to show off their glorious egg yolk yellow. The sound of birdsong is hard to miss everywhere in school!

Ostara, from the Germanic goddess Oestre, and the root of the word Oestrogen, the hormone which stimulates ovulation, was how our ancestors marked the spring, and saw the end of winter. It is a time of perfect balance, of finding harmony, between the dark and the light, the inner and outer, between intuition and the rational.

It is a time where embracing male and female energies, regardless of gender, can be full of potential, and give life to new ideas and ways of seeing the world. It is often in the state of harmony, and balance, that true change can occur. It is a time when all those gentle hopes we had at Imbolc might be beginning to come to fruition. When we can truly look forward, not back.

Two of the symbols we still mark this time of year with, the hare and the egg, have their origins at least in part in the ancient festival of Ostara. The goddess Oestre was often depicted as having the head of a hare, a symbol of immortality and rebirth. There are many versions of the story where she changed a bird into a hare to have as her companion. Eggs were thus given and received as gifts, as potent symbols of life and the fertility of the earth. The yolk and the white representing the perfect harmony of life.

Ostara is a wonderful time to literally, and figuratively, plant seeds for the year ahead. Having more time in the day to do all those jobs we wait all winter to begin is so energising, and there is a spring in the step of those you meet on walks. On our sixth form course we have been planning our planting for the year ahead, choosing seeds and imagining the bounty in the autumn.

Spring clean your space, ridding it of the cloak of winter, and face the summer ahead with fresh eyes. Bring buds into your home to see life burst forth, paint eggs, spend the day outdoors enjoying the longer daylight and fresh air. Why not revisit the intentions made at Imbolc, and step forth boldly into the light. Now is the time we may see them bloom. Celebrate the different aspects of your being, the balance that exists, noticing how we all live harmoniously with one another most of the time, even through crisis and hardship. There is so much to look forward to.

Jacob sheep wool blankets available to buy

By Marcella Craven, ODW Tutor Technician

Many of you may have seen the beautiful blankets and shawls sold in the Outdoor Work shop here at Bedales. We currently have large blankets (202cm x 149cm, £200) and medium blankets (142cm x 149cm, £120), as well as two wraps/shawls (£70) and balls of Jacob yarn, double knitting weight, in cream, dark brown and oatmeal (£4 per 50g ball) available to buy. To put in an order, please email outdoorwork@bedales.org.uk.

We thought you might like to know a little more about the work and process that goes into producing these unique items. The blankets and shawls are made from Jacob sheep wool, produced from our rare breed flock which numbers approximately 48 breeding ewes and lambs. Jacob sheep fleece is brilliant for weaving purposes as they produce different colours of wool which allow a natural coloured end product which has not been dyed in anyway.  The staple length of the wool is also excellent which makes it really popular among spinners.

Every year we hire a professional shearer to shear our flock. Shearing day usually takes place in June and is always popular with our students and our sheep, who enjoy getting a haircut once the weather warms up! It takes us around two years before we have enough wool fibre to make it worthwhile sending it to be processed into yarn.

Once shorn from the sheep, the fleeces are rolled and stored ready for our students to help sort the fleeces. They take away any old, matted or ruined wool from the fleece and separate the fleece into colours, white, brown and mixed colour wool. It’s a great way to learn about the qualities of raw wool, it’s many uses and feel the lanolin on their hands. This year we collected 132kg of white wool, 81kg of brown wool and 33kg of mixed colour wool (once spun this will be grey).

The wool is then rammed into large fibre sacks, which are sent to The Natural Fibre Company based in Cornwall.  They scour (wash) the wool and set up their spinning machines so that once spun and oiled the returned product is only the unique wool we have sent to them.

The mill make three products for us, spun yarn to knit with, washed and carded fibre to spin with at school and spun yarn to weave with. Once spun and on a cone, the weaving wool is sent off again.  This time it travels to Wales to the Melin Teifi Wool Mill in Dyfed, Ceredigion.  Here it is handwoven into the blankets, wraps and scarves which you would recognise from the ODW shop.

The effort, care, process and craftsmanship that goes into making these products ensures that the end result is totally air mile free, British made, and 100% Bedalian.

To celebrate lambing season and to mark the end of term, we are offering you the chance to WIN a medium blanket worth £120! Find out how to enter on Bedales’ Instagram page here.

Working together for positive change

By Leila Issa and Charlie Kitchen, 6.1

The following extract contains sensitive information on sexual assault and rape.

Over the past week in the UK there has been widespread reaction throughout society following the murder of Sarah Everard. Sarah was a 33-year-old marketing executive, who was kidnapped whilst walking home from her friend’s house in Clapham, South London. She was last seen on CCTV footage on 3 March, calling her boyfriend. Her body was found a week later in Kent, 60 miles from where she was last seen. She was kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered.

Sarah’s tragic story has inspired many victims of sexual assault to come forward with their testimonies. One online platform, Everyone’s Invited, has allowed victims from schools across the country to come forward anonymously with their experiences of sexual assault, including one testimony from a former Bedales student.

Everyone’s Invited was founded in June 2020 by a former Wycombe Abbey student, Soma Sara, after sharing her personal experience of rape culture via Instagram. Within a week she received and shared over 300 anonymous responses, reaching over 10,000 people. The website now has more than 4,100 testimonies, including accounts from girls as young as nine. Her website continues to share anonymous testimonies as well as advice for victims, and calls for reform of the education system to include more detail on consent. All information can be found at https://everyonesinvited.uk.

On Monday Bedales students came together as a community to discuss how we can support victims of any sexual assault, and how we can revisit our curriculum to reflect more accurately contemporary issues of widespread sexual violence in society. It was incredible to see so many students turn up who were willing to have an open conversation on an extremely difficult and stigmatised topic. Given that Bedales is an independent school, we have the ability to influence the way our wellbeing lessons and school curriculum work. We can give much more prominence to education about sexual misconduct and the complex issue of consent.

We want to work with Magnus and the staff to help develop the opportunities there are for education around consent and the varying laws on confidentiality followed by the staff who work at the school supporting students (house parents, counsellors, doctors, and teachers). 

On Tuesday many students and staff wore red clothing to stand in solidarity with victims of sexual assault, an initiative taken up by other schools, and Art students are planning a mixed media exhibition to go in the Quad centred on the theme of sexual assault, which will merge written testimony with representation.

To all survivors of sexual assault: we see you, we hear you, we believe you, and we support you.

Reflections on International Women’s Day

By Daisy Flint and Emilia Barnsdale-Ward, 6.2 and Head Students

Is International Women’s Day backward thinking? Why do we celebrate women once a year? Whilst this day aims to raise the profile of females within society, it is possible that we end up focusing too much on her being a successful woman, instead of being a successful person, as if this is a rarity. Therefore, we must ask ourselves: what separates International Women’s Day from any other day? The answer we should respond with, is nothing, as a female’s achievements should be celebrated as and when they happen.

However, those who are aware and accept the gravity of sexism will answer this question realistically. Yes, International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievements, however, this shouldn’t be an annual occasion; females aren’t only successful one day of the year. Knowing this, it could be argued that this day contributes to the fact that our generation won’t see a gender equalised society; which to those who don’t understand, is the goal of feminism. Do we end up shadowing a woman’s achievements with the fact that she is a woman?

Understandably, there are multiple points of view on this topic; for instance, by celebrating a woman’s success, society is counteracting patriarchal beliefs of women as lesser. Yet, by separating women’s success from that of a man’s, are we unconsciously propelling the stereotype that females are lesser and men in a league of their own?

Whilst these issues still exist, there are institutions who are forward thinking, such as the Sainsbury’s book prize which Bedales alumni, Anna Fargher, won for her fictional novel ‘The Umbrella Mouse’. It is important that we recognise how she won the book prize for fiction, not fiction written by a female author. Fargher’s work was therefore recognised in its own right, regardless of the author’s gender.

Remembering the fallen in Buriton

By Andy Cheese, Teacher of Art

Over the last three years, I have been working with a committee of local residents in Buriton to create a war memorial bench. The community in Buriton has marked the centenary of the First World War in a number of ways since 2014, which is particularly important because per capita the Parish of Buriton sent more men to the Great War than any other district in the Petersfield area. Sadly, research revealed that there were a number of casualties who died during or shortly after World War I who are not named on the village’s War Memorial; the bench project aims to commemorate all those who suffered and were affected by war in the past, present and future.

Public engagement, including a design competition for local schoolchildren and households and a ballot, resulted in an approved design for a permanent feature by way of a curved Portland stone bench positioned into sloping ground behind the existing War Memorial. The back of the bench will depict scenes of wartime activity at home and abroad, and I have designed these. An important milestone in the project has been reached as we have just received the laser-cut brass copies of my design, which you can see below. I am still working on a poppy mosaic to be positioned in front of the bench.

This has been a great community project, funded by local people, and the bench – which looks over to the Buriton pond – will be a fine place for people to sit and reflect on World War I and its impact on the community of Buriton.

Springing back to normal

By Georgie Nugent, Girls’ Houseparent and Teacher of Drama

Spring is here and we are back! Flat is full once more of music, laughter and lots of chatter. We are making up for lost time, but it is a lot to take on board and the students are working hard to take it step-by-step. To go from living within our own little bubbles at home in an established routine that works for each one of us, to being back within the heart of this vibrant community, is a huge gear change for everyone. 

We have worked hard to ensure the houses feel calm and welcoming, a place where there is space to breathe and relax amid busy days and to remember to focus on friendships and inclusion. The message to hand in devices to encourage better bedtime routines seems to have worked very well, with a collective understanding that it is in everyone’s best interests.

This first week back, we have had fun roasting marshmallows over the firepit (thanks to Head of Outdoor Work Andrew Martin for wheeling in barrow loads of logs) and hot chocolates in the flat courtyards, with the idea that reconnecting with our friends is at the core of getting back to normal. We have also been thinking about those members of our community that perhaps have had a difficult lockdown or who are still in lockdown all around the world.

Acting on the School Council’s feedback, the cooked breakfasts have been reinstated and received with glee by many of the students. The flat Charity Committees and Eco Committees are enjoying sharing ideas with each other to make our community and the world a better place. We are also delighted that the barriers within the year groups enforced by COVID restrictions last term have been relaxed and we can work and play in our year groups, united as a community. There is a sense of relief in the air and a feeling that we can dare to look forward and plan for a wonderful summer term.

Turning in ‘Othello’

By David Anson, Head of English

The first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s play Othello was on Hallowmas Day, November 1, 1604. James I had been king for just over 18 months and he had very recently overseen the Treaty of London which concluded 19 years of conflict between England and Spain. It was a time of great change, a time of unification and much longed for peace.

On Wednesday, Bedales English Literature A Level students were joined on Microsoft Teams by fellow Bohunt English Literature students to take part in a short lecture programme organised by myself and Deana Buchan, Head of English at Bohunt. We were joined remotely by Dr Kath Diamond, a Renaissance specialist who lectures at Goldsmith’s College and Queen Mary and Westfield, and who delivered a fascinating lecture on ‘Turning in Othello’.

Amongst other things, Kath’s lecture recognises the significance of this period of political and cultural change in Jacobean London and the bearing it has upon the action and motifs to be found within a play which presents a ‘spiralling vortex of change’. The play opens in the turmoil and business of a bustling Venice, centre of trade and commerce and the seat of much public debate and discussion about the ongoing war with the Ottoman Empire in Cyprus. It narrows to the defeat of the Turkish army before narrowing again to the private matters of Othello’s marriage to Desdemona and then ends with yet a further narrowing to the marital bed; site of Desdemona and Othello’s tragic end and loaded with much dramatic symbolism. The play is a play of change and a play of turmoil that leaves both its contemporary and 21st century audience somewhat unsettled (though for different reasons) and yearning for the kind of peace and order that a king like James, Shakespeare’s patron, ought to bring at the start of his reign.

The students then explored the way the masculine and the feminine may be considered in the play through shorter presentations led by myself and Deana; a useful foundation for further classroom discussion. At a time when we can’t take our students to the theatre or to lecture programmes, this was a superb opportunity for both 6.1 and 6.2 to revisit their study of Othello and it ushers in the start of more exciting joint projects between Bohunt and Bedales that Deana and I hope to be able to realise in face to face events next year.

Poetic composition with Ernest Hemingway

By Lucy McIlwraith, Teacher of English

Block 3 have been studying Ernest Hemingway’s novella The Old Man and The Sea in their English composition lessons this term, which has led to all sorts of fishy descriptions and discoveries. Last week they tried a form of poetic composition which involves taking lines from the text and rearranging them to create a poem.

Everyone had called him The Champion
He always thought of the sea as la mar
The strange light the sun made on the water
He loved green turtles and hawksbill with their elegance and speed
He was happy feeling the gentle pulling and then he felt something hard and unbelievably heavy
He held the line against his back and watched its slant in the water
I love and respect you very much.
He is a great fish and i must convince him
They are our brothers and are like flying fish
I hate cramp. It is a treachery of one’s own body.​
‘I’ll kill him though, ‘Now is when I must prove it.’

– Nicky, Block 3

The Human Fish

Fish, I love you and respect you very much
You let the female fish always feed first.
You are good, play jokes and love one another
Take some rest fish
Chew it well and get all the juices

Fish, I love you and respect you very much
But through my treachery,
My big fish,
I will kill you dead before the day is over

It was the saddest thing I ever saw
The female made a wild and panic stricken fight.
Still, through my treachery,
I love you and respect you very much

– Jake, Block 3

La Mar

In the dark the old man could feel the morning coming,
The boat moved slowly through the dark water,
 He was sorry for the birds,
The small delicate dark terns,
Always flying and looking and never finding,
The birds have a harder life than we do – he thought,
Why did they make birds so delicate and fine,
When the ocean can be so cruel?
She is kind and very beautiful,
Yet,
She can be so cruel,
It comes so suddenly and such birds that fly,
Dipping and hunting,
Their small sad voices are made to delicately for la mar,
But – he thought,
She gives or withholds favours,
 And if she did wicked things,
It was because she could not help them,

– Shoshana, Block 3

This poetic composition exercise is something that you can do with any text and which produces a very wide variety of outcomes. I thought you might like to have a go yourself, maybe with your family, so here are some instructions:

  1. Choose a novel or short story that you love or know well to work with.
  2. Choose 10-15 phrases or short sentences and write them down. The tricky bit is to not think too much but to trust your instincts and choose lines that ‘speak’ to you. You could also experiment with choosing lines at random.
  3. The quotations you’ve chosen may well have some sort of shared theme. You could use the theme as the title of the poem or you might choose one of the lines to be the title.
  4. Re-arrange the quotes into some sort of order that makes most sense. Try not to think too hard but go with what feels right.
  5. You might need to leave out one or two of your original choices but try to include them all if you can.
  6. You might need to alter the grammar of some of your quotations slightly to help it make sense.
  7. Read it through again and again and make any alterations it needs each time.

I’ve also recorded creative writing sessions which anyone can use which can be found here: Description, Home, Poetry and Speech.

The joy of learning languages

By Christopher Grocock, Teacher of Classics

This week I had the pleasure of taking Jaw, something I have always enjoyed doing, and talking about my experience of learning languages over the 60+ years I have enjoyed doing it (I include English – we all learn at least one language of some kind, even if we don’t realise we are doing so at the time!) It was interesting to have the opportunity to reflect on this since Latin (and some Greek) have been a part of the ‘Languages’ department – and not just administrately – for the last year and a bit. This also mirrors my own experience as a linguist – I have both learned and taught ancient (dead) and modern (living) languages. They are all languages and there are similarities in the way we get to grips with them (learning) and teach them (passing them on, education) but there are many differences, too.

Doing this Jaw also gave me the challenge of trying to answer the question ‘Why bother with language?’, especially now there is Alexa and Google Translate readily available to help us out. I think there are multiple answers to that question. First, though, I admit that new languages can be a real challenge to us. You have to find ‘traction’ – ‘hooks’ so you find your footing in a new language; and you may find yourself with lots of unfamiliar shapes in the way that the new (to you) language is written. Studying ancient languages can seem very dry and dusty – the experience of the playwright Patrick MacGorain at school was that “the little grudge I bear is directed against those men who taught me the literature of Rome and Greece and England and Ireland as if they were little pieces of intricate machinery… we were so engaged in irregular verbs and peculiar declensions that we never once smelt blood or felt gristle”. He couldn’t see the wood for the trees. This is a familiar experience when you are doing ‘first steps’ in anything – but persevere, and you begin to see a more complete picture. Better still, you begin to ‘feel’ the sense of the original – to taste it, almost. As Lucy Nicholas from the King’s College London Classics department notes, when you start to immerse yourself in an original text, you get more than you can from even the best of translations; writing about Vergil, she says “he plunges us into real life, the lives of the dispossessed, the disoriented, the vanquished, the triumphant, the dying, the lovelorn. His poems don’t offer words, words, words, but blood”.

The poet Robert Frost once said that “poetry is what gets lost in translation” – though a good translation can have a musicality of its own, as Patrick Leigh Fermor found when he got into conversation with a certain Baron Reinhardt von Liphart-Ratshoff, a man of frankly alarming culture (in A Time of Gifts, pp. – the whole book is well worth a read!) Asked if it were true that the German translations of Shakespeare were as good as the original, the Baron said: “Not true at all, but it’s better than any other foreign language. Just listen!” He took down four books and read out Mark Anthony’s speech in Russian, French, Italian and German. The German had a totally different consistency from any other utterance I had heard on this journey: slow, thoughtful, clear and musical, stripped of its harshness and over-emphasis and us; and in those minutes…I understood for the first time how magnificent a language it could be.

As diverse a knowledge as that might be beyond us now – but learning a language means that the knowledge is yours, not Alexa’s or Google Translate’s. You don’t feel at a loss in the world; you know where you are because you have an idea of where you and your language, your culture, have come from. Even more, you can get into another culture ‘from the inside,’ and knowledge and understanding becomes a part of you. The critic and philosopher George Steiner sums it up very neatly: “A sentence always means more. Even a single word… It can, and usually does. Each language speaks the world in its own ways. Each edifies worlds and counter-worlds in its own mode.” In short, “The polyglot is a freer man”.

Careers update – National Citizen Service and Meet the Medics

By Cheryl Osborne, Teacher of Biology and Careers Advisor

Last Friday, Harry Draycot from the National Citizen Service (NCS) joined the Block 5 assembly via Teams. He explained what the scheme entailed and how they could get involved. This year they are offering two or three week placements covering outdoor pursuits, life skills and in the third week helping to plan and bring to life a rewarding community project. Considering students have been locked away from their peers and have lacked the much needed socialising that they would normally do, this scheme seems more important than ever to get involved in. This will enable them to meet new people and gain some very valuable skills, as well of course, having lots of fun. More information about what is involved and how to apply can be found here.

On Monday, five Old Bedalians – Luke Austen, Adam Osborne, Claudia Anholt, Ollo Catton and Molly Graham – joined a group of students from both Bedales and Bohunt to describe their experiences of applying for, studying and practising medicine. It was fascinating to hear how they had found the application process; three had got in first time round, one had to take a gap year and reapply, and one was unlucky enough to fall short of the grades required, but despite this they showed huge perseverance, first studying Biomedical Science and reapplying as a post-grad. After what will have been eight years of study, they are very keen to start their career.

Students were provided with advice about the importance of volunteering, for example in a care home, rather than just observing doctors at work, although the latter is useful for students to gauge whether they feel the job would be right for them. The different course styles of the five universities (Bristol, Exeter, Manchester, Oxford, and UEA) were described and, although there are some differences, most follow a similar structure with lots of hands on experience. Oxford was the exception, with three years pre-clinical, leading to a Medical Sciences BSc, followed by three years clinical. Research into what suits your own style of learning was strongly recommended. The pros and cons of intercalating (taking a year out to study for a BSc/BA) were also discussed.

It was refreshing to hear that the two qualified doctors are loving their jobs, and their ability to study alongside working, particularly during and after the second foundation year after graduating, when study time is given. This has led one to take on a Master’s in Global Health and Expedition Medicine and the other to be appointed as Clinical Fellow in Acute Medicine. It was interesting and reassuring to learn that there were plenty of opportunities for qualified doctors prior to deciding on a specialism and embarking on up to eight years of further training.

All the OBs said that they are happy to be contacted by students thinking of a career in medicine and I would like to thank them for this and for giving up their time to attend the event. Their bios will be available to students on the Professional Guidance area of Firefly and their contact details are available from Cheryl Osborne on request.