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”.

Spring is in the air in Outdoor Work

By Andrew Martin, Head of Outdoor Work

The change in the weather has really brought the farm to life, which is so wonderful to see. Last week our ‘spring’ flock of Southdown and Southdown X Jacob sheep started to lamb. As I write this we have 10 adorable little black lambs running around; we are just waiting on our three Southdowns (Sammi, Saoirse and Sophie), as well as our two Herdwicks, to deliver!

Our two sows, Little Pig and Bessie, didn’t want to miss out on the action either. They have been crossed with a British Saddleback (Basil). Between the two girls they farrowed 18 beautiful little black pigs, each with a white belt around their shoulders.

Running a school farm is a unique and rewarding job. Connecting students to the land and working with the animals is mostly a joy. Showing students across all three schools around the farm is one of my favourite things to do. Finding the balance between education and farming, whilst keeping animal welfare at the heart of everything we do, is a constant thing and something I believe we do very well here. We are not a petting farm nor do we want to be one. We want to educate students about food, farming and the environment, and how they are all linked.

Last weekend was a very strange one. It was probably the first time we felt that fine balance becoming a little unstable.  A combination of new arrivals, shining sun, schools reopening and the prospect of some return to normality, saw – to use a fashionable word – unprecedented numbers of visitors at the Black Barn.

When you have a large number of young, excited children, ramblers, dog walkers and picnickers, the tranquillity of giving birth very quickly disappears and the animals get stressed. This was very evident for a period of time. Everyone thinks their child and dog is safe, but to a sheep every dog is a wolf. Standing chatting beside a very pregnant sheep while dipping into some hummus may sound idyllic, but I’m confident the sheep wouldn’t agree. Likewise noisy children around little piglets and farrowing sows causes distress, resulting in squashed piglets and anxious mums.

So, although I don’t want to sound like a grumpy farmer, maybe this is a timely reminder about the countryside code. It is such a wonderful time of year and being able to experience nature so closely is so very special. Let’s try to remember the animals and their needs, alongside our own, human wants.

For all the latest updates from Bedales Outdoor Work, make sure you’re following us on Instagram and Twitter.

Global Awareness social entrepreneurs continue to make a change

By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Awareness

Block 5 Global Awareness students have continued to practice the art of social innovation whilst learning remotely, utilising even more their skills in campaigning, particularly through social media and internet resources.

Ava Sender Logan has been motivated by the very current topic of food poverty. Ava said: “This lockdown, we have been working on campaigning in Global Awareness. During this project I was interested in the topic of food poverty. For my project, I self-published a book to Amazon; 30 Bites on a Budget. In this book you will find my illustrations, a QR code to a video I have made about food poverty, a poem I have written and 30 meals to make on a budget. The idea behind this is was linked to the new school meals policy where school lunches are no longer free in the UK. I have made 30 lunch ideas which will feed a family of four. These meals cost between £1-2 per person. The book contains a month’s worth of cheap lunches. All profits from this book go to my local food bank. So far, we have raised £80. Please check my book out here.”

Kam Nelson-Clayton and Fifi Phillips began their research investigating period poverty in the UK, a very real issue at the moment, developing their understanding of sustainable period products and the importance of these being more widely available in schools. This led to a business relationship developing with a social enterprise providing sustainable products around the world, with a focus on supporting schools to provide free sanitary products to their students. Kam and Fifi have written a developed business plan and presented this at Bedales, proposing a partnership with Bohunt. This has gained traction and we are hoping that these products will be available in bathrooms around the school and the boarding houses before too long.

Millie Kennedy has been researching far right radicalisation – what causes it, how it happens, how to prevent it, and how to help those affected. Recently, and particularly after the capitol riots in Washington, we have all been on alert to the rise in far-right movements. Milly says: “I wanted to understand why this has come about and how to prevent it from happening in the future. After my research, I came to conclusions about what I could do.  I will be working with the well-being department to add to the curriculum – e.g. how to spot dangerous material online. I have also been in contact with Damian Hinds, MP for East Hampshire, asking what the government is doing about the growing threat, and I will be working with Block 2 pupils at Dunhurst, teaching a lesson on what to look out for on social media and online, to hopefully spread awareness amongst the most vulnerable age group.”

Skylar Cazac has been looking at how to encourage the roll-out of microgrids for rural electrification in South Asia and Africa. Skylar says: “Approximately 13 percent of the world’s population currently live without reliable electricity supplies, and are mainly situated in rural areas of South Asia and Africa. Often, these people have to make do with old diesel generators that are expensive, highly polluting and at times very dangerous. With the rapid decrease in the cost solar and wind power plants and the roll-out of energy storage solutions, renewable energy powered microgrids can provide an excellent climate friendly leapfrog alternative, to enable mass rural electrification. This said, these systems can still be expensive to set up due to technology being used. I have been researching hybrid financing solutions to enable a mass introduction of these systems into areas in need as an important tool in the energy transition. The type of systems that I envisage would combine three strategies to raise equity in order to sponsor and foster the rapid development of microgrids: 1) charitable crowdfunding schemes; 2) a “carbon trading” platform, to raise capital from Western companies that wish to offset their CO2 emissions by financing renewable energy production in developing countries; 3) microgrid finance schemes for the villagers who would benefit from green electricity provided by the highly subsidised microgrids. I would like to collaborate with impact focused financial investors to achieve scale in this project.”

Beyond Bedales: Meet the Medics – 1 March 2021

By Cheryl Osborne, Teacher of Biology and Careers Advisor

The next Beyond Bedales event, Meet the Medics, will take place on Microsoft Teams on 1 March at 5.45pm. Six Old Bedalians currently studying or practicing medicine – Luke Austen, Adam Osborne, Claudia Anholt, Ollo Catton, Molly Graham and George Sinclair – will be joining us for this event. Each of the OBs will talk about their application journeys and where they are now, and students will also have the opportunity to ask questions.

This event is a must for anyone who is interested in medicine or another healthcare career,Students interested in attending this event should contact me at cosborne@bedales.org.uk so I can invite them to the event via Teams.

Luke Austen, Clinical Fellow in Acute Medicine, Edinburgh

Luke studied at Bedales Sixth Form from 2010-2012, before doing pre-clinical medicine at Pembroke College, Oxford from 2012-2015 and clinical medicine at Harris Manchester College, Oxford from 2015-2018. He completed FY1 & FY2 year at University Hospitals Birmingham before moving to Edinburgh, where he is currently a Clinical Fellow in Acute Medicine. His main interests are simulation-based education, clinical human factors, resuscitation and critical care. He is pursuing a career in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care Medicine.

Adam Osborne, F2, Aberystwyth and Masters in Global and remote Medicine, Plymouth

Adam left Bedales in 2014 with A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths, and an AS in Physics. He studied medicine at the University of Exeter. He spent four years in Exeter (two mostly lectures and learning life sciences, two placement based) and one year in Truro, Cornwall (all placement). He chose not to intercalate but he is now completing a Master’s degree in Global and Remote Medicine at the University of Plymouth (long distance due to COVID) whilst also working as an F2 (18 months out of graduation), in Aberystwyth for the year.

Claudia Anholt, Fourth year, University of East Anglia

Claudia left Bedales in 2014. She did not get into medicine first time round and did not put down a fifth choice, as she only wanted to do medicine. She was going to re-apply following A Level results, but with AAB she applied to the University of Liverpool to do Biomedicine through clearing. Once she completed this degree, she re-applied to medicine and is currently in her fourth year at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Ollo Catton, Fourth year, University of Bristol, and intercalating BSc Childhood Studies

Ollo left Bedales in 2017. He went straight to the University of Bristol where he is in his fourth year. Ollo is currently intercalating in a BSc in Childhood Studies. 

Molly Graham, Second year, University of Manchester

Molly left Bedales in the summer of 2018 and is currently studying at the University of Manchester in her second year.

Classics in lockdown

By Christopher Grocock, Teacher of Classics

I am utterly indebted to the cooperation and cheerfulness of the Bedales students who have joined in wholeheartedly as we have kept our classes in Latin (and a bit of Greek) going! When we started in the latest lockdown I wasn’t sure how well we would get on – but we have all coped with the challenges of poor internet and strange work stations in our various homes (mainly by laughing when things go wrong – what else could we do?) Looking back over the past couple of months I am intrigued by the good progress we have made, in all the year groups from Block 3 to 6.2.

What’s made this happen? I can think of a few factors. The fact that Latin and Greek are ‘dead’ languages has helped – we don’t depend on the immediacy which is a key positive part of learning a modern language. There is the fact that in isolation students have had more time (with fewer distractions from other students around them!) to work at their own pace, and had the courage to ask for help whenever they needed it. Above all our progress has been helped by the sheer goodwill of all the students (and sympathetic and supportive parents – thank you!) right across the year-groups.

We have accepted that things would go wrong, technologically; we wait. We have coped with strange differences in time-zones and the issues that brings. We have accepted that working from home is challenging and if for any reason a student can’t find the set text book they used only two days before, we give them time to get it; and if it has been buried under something we find something else to do which usefully helps us make progress. And progress we have… to my delight (and relief, let’s be honest!)

I am looking forward to being back in a classroom and seeing students without strange backgrounds on their screens. It will, I admit, take some adjustments. But there has been more thriving than surviving and I hope that everyone involved – myself included – has come out of the experience with lots of lessons learned about how we learn and how we can motivate ourselves when we are ‘back to normal’, however the new normal looks.

And to close, here’s a challenge to all the Bulletin Readers. This is a passage from our Block 3 workbook, with a quiz at the bottom – put the sentences in the right order.

To help you, I am including Siena’s completed storyboard. Try it for yourselves!

Walking in lockdown

By Chloe Nicklin, Head of Netball

This week, students have been sharing the view from the walks they have been completing as part of their exercise in lockdown. Thank you to Clara Stannah, Lula Goldring, Maia Blake, Maya Martin, Milly Trench, Nissi Mavurah, Posy Kingsley-Pallant and Rosy Riley for their contributions.

Francis Bacon at Bedales

By Ian Douglas, Librarian and Archivist

This week, I was delighted to receive the major new biography of Francis Bacon, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. It was so kind of them to arrange a complimentary copy for the Memorial Library. The book, hailed as “a captivating triumph” and “the definitive biography”, will be of particular interest to Bedalians because it re-evaluates the time the artist spent living in the Lodge at Bedales during the Second World War.

Bacon had served as a volunteer in the London ARP during the early part of the Blitz, but his severe asthma made it impossible to withstand the suffocating clouds of dust that followed a bombing raid. He was forced to take refuge in the country.

Bacon’s patron and lover Eric Hall, husband of Barbara Hall (Bedales 1908-13) and their friend Ken Keast (Bedales Staff 1939-49) arranged for him to rent the Lodge from 1940 to 1943.

Bedales Lodge, much as it would have appeared during Bacon’s tenancy

Previous biographers have tended not to make much of this interlude. Many have got no further than the comic image of a confirmed urbanite struggling to adjust to the countryside – “waking up with all those things singing outside the window”.

This is due partly to Bacon’s famous reticence about his artistic development prior to 1945, when his reputation was established with the first exhibition of his Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. This event is widely seen as a watershed in the history of painting — “there was painting in England before the Three Studies, and painting after them, and no one … can confuse the two” — and Bacon himself colluded in attempts to forget all that had led up to it. He destroyed much of his earlier work, and as far as possible he suppressed what he could not destroy.

Stevens and Swann are therefore breaking new ground in exploring the period leading up to this watershed. The years spent at Bedales are re-evaluated as a “critical moment” in the artist’s life; a time of “internal reckoning”. They describe the genesis of the few incomplete works surviving from this time (Man in a CapSeated ManMan Standing and Landscape with Colonnade) which were inspired by news photographs from Picture Post which Bacon used to buy weekly in Petersfield. This work shows “Bacon’s turn towards a more gestural form of figurative painting” as well as prefiguring some of the imagery of the Three Studies.

I’m grateful for this fresh appreciation of Bacon’s Hampshire interlude, and I continue to wonder about his motives in choosing Bedales as his bolt-hole. Was it merely a place where his friends knew of a vacant cottage, or was there a more particular attraction? Bacon had already collaborated in joint exhibitions with OB artists Julian Trevelyan and Ivon Hitchens. He may also have known that John Rothenstein — director of the Tate, who later bought Bacon’s work for the gallery — was a Bedalian. I wonder if he was seeking a sort of urbs in rure, to sustain him in his forced exile among the inconsiderate birds.

The new book draws on material from the Bedales Archive, which receives many such enquiries about the history of the school and its former staff and students. The work of the Archive would be impossible without the generous support of many Old Bedalians. Financial donations, and donations of material relating the life of the school – recent as well as more distant history – are always welcome.

Francis Bacon: Revelations, by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan is published in the UK by William Collins. It is available from the publisher, and from all good booksellers.

The cognitive interview

By Anna Sukhikh and Livy Ewing, 6.1

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic the various talks and conferences A Level Psychology students typically would have the opportunity to attend has been limited. However, on Thursday we were fortunate to meet Detective Constable Samantha Hockley in our Psychology lesson for a talk on the cognitive interview, a questioning technique used by the police to enhance retrieval of information about a crime scene from the eyewitnesses and victim’s memory.

Samantha has been working in the police force for 19 years, and as a detective for eight. As a detective, the cognitive interview plays a big role in her everyday life. The cognitive interview is a procedure used by police when interviewing witnesses and victims of crime and is one of the techniques of eyewitness testimony that we learnt about in class. The cognitive interview was developed by Geiselman in 1985, who found that the standard police interview could negatively interfere with eyewitness recall. This technique was further researched by Fischer in 1990, who found that witnesses gave accounts in greater detail when detectives were trained to use the cognitive interview. Sam herself has had much success with this method, including helping to prove a stalker guilty, resulting in a 10-year sentence. 

Sam highlights the importance of making the interviewee feel comfortable. She does this by finding common ground and making herself seem approachable, saying that she likes to appear maternal to the witness/victim. This was slightly surprising to us as we have been conditioned to believe that detectives are often hostile. Upon further discussion, we realised there is a significant importance to making the witness/victim feel comfortable as it can reduce high anxiety, which may negatively impact accurate recall. 

Sam also points out it can be difficult to avoid leading questions, although sometimes it is necessary, because she does not want to place false information into the victim’s head, which could later be used against them in court. This was a really interesting experience for us as a class, as we were able to hear about how the cognitive interview is used in practice and the experience from the side of the interviewer.  

A letter to 6.2 A Level English

By Julia Bevan, Teacher of English

For the past two years, I have been in the unusual position of teaching a whole cohort of A Level English students. What a privilege this has been; first to get to know you all last year through studying the contemporary Poems of the Decade and an evening with Julia Copus, and then to guide you through some of the pressures of online learning.  

Certainly, my most fulfilling teaching moments last spring involved supporting many of you as you wrote your coursework essays. We worked together, adopting university-style tutorials that were really conducive to the task at hand. In this intimate learning environment, you rigorously dismantled and reassembled your analytical arguments, embedding close textual analysis and context into essays, and become young but impressive scholars of Seamus Heaney, and Arundhati Roy. It is wonderful that I have taught one or two of you since Block 4 and that a number of you are now determined to study English at university: what more could a teacher want?

In the autumn term of this academic year your focus and determination were remarkable. At times as a teacher managing the new COVID secure protocol on site was tough; but it was worth it so that I could introduce you to Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf in person and watch you draw comparisons between this novel and her older sister Wuthering Heights. Both novels deal radically with early forms of mental health, a subject on which you often edify me.You demonstrated such maturity and sensitivity in November, embracing hybrid teaching early on so that those of you at home self-isolating could stay part of the class discussion. You make me very proud and are a credit to your parents.

I believe passionately that we learn much from creating peak experiences inside and outside the class room and I had hoped to take you on a weekend trip to Haworth in Yorkshire, to visit the Parsonage where Emily Bronte died and to walk up onto the Moors to Top Withens, a remote, abandoned farm considered to be the inspiration for her only novel. Instead we returned to our homes and computer screens and I have had the challenge of trying to inspire you with the poetry of John Keats. 

A poet of the senses, he is a joy to teach in the winter and early spring in Steep, ideally in the Meditation Hut or the Lupton Hall, where two years ago I launched the first ‘Eve of St Agnes Experience’ with Lucy McIlwraith. 

This year I asked you to work on collaborative creative responses to the poem and I have been amazed at what you have achieved from homes many miles apart. Your original work neatly coincides with the publication of an essay entitled ‘Weavers of Dreams in The Eve of St Agnes and A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘ in the English and Media Centre EMAG, co-authored with my partner in Keatsian crime, Lucy. I’ve decided this will be my third and last Keats’ experience, and hope to teach Shakespeare next year. It makes sense to end on such a high.

To all of my 6.2 English students: thank you. “St Agnes moon hath set.”