Shrewsbury School

Stepping Up

Monday 10 September 2012

Fourth former Finn McCormack is writing a blog on life as a Churchillian, as part of his DofE Bronze award.  In this, his opening piece for 2012-13, Finn reflects on what it feels like no longer to be a Third Former, starting out at a new school.  All Finn's entries can be found on the Churchill's news and photos page, but some - like this one - are of interest to a wider audience and get included in the school weekly eNewsletters.

Finn McCormackIt’s very strange how being in the fourth form feels no different from last year, except for all the new, small faces that now surround me. It is hard to get used to the fact that we are actually in the shoes of this year’s fifth form; the boys that seemed so intimidating, more to some than others, so big and so used to the place are now us. Of course we don’t realise how much some of the new boys were trying to hold in their fear, or fighting the urge to cry in front of the cynical judges that are the  pupils of Shrewsbury School, or longing to just run away from the place back to their warm, snugly, and ever welcoming homes. Some, of course, naturally fitted in. Soon, though, even those who thought they wanted to escape from the prison of top schools and “laddishness”, will soon slip into the habit, adapt to the habitat and learn to spring clean their dorms on Thursdays, Dr Law’s duty night.

At the beginning of every term of my first year here, I would often have to get used to my semi-familiar surroundings. It’s true; living in a boarding house at Shrewsbury is like being in a different life altogether from home. The Link, the Toaster, and the whole idea of living with about sixty other people is unfamiliar to many of our young ones. But this year was different. I walked into my new dorm with my parents, unpacked all my kit and uniform, said the goodbyes and that was it. As soon as they left the house, I felt as if I had been here for ages, with no “adapting” period. So after a year, having two lives can become normal.

But those confident, omniscient fourth formers are now us. Rather than the instant transition, the sudden feeling of power I was expecting, it all feels really normal. And that’s probably how the fourth form last year felt. And the fifth formers who are now in lower sixth; even, possibly, our current upper sixth.

Which shows, clearly, how time flies. Although I can barely remember arriving, nervously, with my trunk and choosing my bed it feels like yesterday. It probably will for years to come, even when we are at the top of the school. This time loop inside our heads can make decades seem like minutes. This is because our brains pick out significant moments in our lives and forget everything else, just like a filmmaker cutting his hours of footage to create an hour long film. Only the best cuts make it into the movie. Unlike a film editor, though, our brains can make a pretty big mess of things and choose the worst footage. What you really want is for your film to be on a good to bad footage ratio of about 5:2 or, if you’re lucky and a very good boy, 1:0. You can’t really avoid making some big bluffs but without them nothing would seem that good at all. But just one thing: make the mistakes early. Then you have five years to make up for them.

So if everything seems unfamiliar and you can’t yet speak fluent Shrewsbury slang, just give it a year or two, attend Mr. Hudson’s lecture on the school’s famous jargon and you’ll be an expert in no time.

Finn McCormack

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