Shrewsbury School

Finn's blog: 'The Final Sprint'

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Fourth former Finn McCormack keeps a blog on life as a Churchillian, as part of his DofE Bronze award.  This one is a wry review of the last weeks of the Michaelmas Term, starting with The Tucks.

Finn McCormackI was not exactly planning to have a cooked breakfast on the morning of the Tucks, but I was still annoyed to see a sign in place of the usual breakfast menu informing us of the ovens having broken and that the only warm meal we would get would be the old “Posh Beans on Toast”. It wasn’t odd at all that all the Churchill’s tutors had advised us not to have bacon and eggs in order to keep the contents of our stomachs where they belonged at the end of the Tucks, and that the professional looking signs were printed and ready for breakfast before we got there, unlike the food every other day. However, I decided to follow Rory Fraser’s strict dietary advice and had a big bowl of cereal and a croissant. The Tucks, for those who are unfamiliar with it (lucky people) is our annual cross country race in which the whole school takes part. For the average runner, the toil lasts for about thirty minutes. For the Hunt athlete it may whizz by in just over twenty-five minutes. For the experienced beef, coming last may even be the goal.

As well as being one of the oldest cross country races in the world it may also be the most unique in that it is comparable to the scene in The Lion King in which Simba is charged at by a herd of wildebeest, as shown in the short film shown to us that morning. We all start off in a huge field and we head to a gate about a metre wide. Thank God we are divided into three waves.

At the start line of the third wave, where I was, all was silent. Before the fog horn even went off to start the race someone fell forward, followed by some hundred boys. Halfway up the field, I could just hear a horn over the screaming voices of excited people, comparable to Lord of the Flies. Not being someone who thinks ahead, I sprinted ahead to try and reach the gate before hitting the ground with the front of my face. Through the gate, past struggling people, I legged it. Somebody fell face first into the mud. But I was ahead.

Two minutes later I regretted it. My arms were aching and I didn’t think I could go on any longer.

Half an hour later I regretted it even more. I fought hard on the last 100 metres only to be nearly overtaken by a guy who didn’t seem to understand the meaning of “finish” line and carried on straight into a distressed girl who was knocked over by the impact.

The Tucks 2012
Five weeks later, I can barely type from my severe lack of energy. I think I ran out of fuel about an hour into the first St. Cecelia concert, on Saturday night. Which I am told, by the way, sounded very good. However, the most enthusiastic response to a concert I have received this term is probably that of fellow Churchillian Alex Goode after he returned, exhilarated and deaf, from this year’s Dr. Law death metal concert. I myself didn’t get the chance to go, but I heard the Californian band Testament were brilliant; with its Native American vocalist it must have been a very “culturally edifying experience”, to quote the Doc himself. It must be great sometimes to get away from the classical and jazz music we are always treated to and experience the real, harder world – the world of the mosh pit.

Being a bit of a pyromaniac, I had high expectations for this year’s School Play. With both Fanning and Case gone, who would direct it, and step up to take the place of two of Shrewsbury’s most loved teachers? The man for the job seemed to be Mr. Hann, the housemaster of Radbrook. The play was Max Frisch’s The Arsonists, a dark comedy about a man who thinks turning a blind eye to two people who have wriggled their way into staying at his house for the night and whom he believes are “arsonists”, twisted firestarters who have already burned down much of the town, will help him avoid having his house burned down by the pair. How wrong he was! My favourite performances were those of the two main characters, George Fowler as Mr. Biedermann, and Will Heyes as the madder of the mad couple. Sienna Holmes, too, made a good effort as Biedermann’s wife. Although many of the cast told me it was probably right but they weren’t told, one of the reviews mentioned the allegory to the rise of the Nazis, where the League of Nations continually ignored Germany’s increasingly severe disobedience of the Treaty of Versailles, hoping that not doing anything about it and therefore not provoking Germany would be the safer option (sorry, it’s what we’re learning in history at the moment!). Although I do not find plays particularly exciting (I prefer seeing things from more than one angle), interesting projections of images of fire, the extreme willpower of those who had to sit around in white face paint and the spectacular performances made this a memorable event.

2012 School Play 'The Arsonists'
The highlight of this week was definitely our triumphant loss of the first round of the under 15 house football tournament. We went out with high hopes; we even had our celebrations planned. But as we walked onto the pitch our hopes sunk, as did our feet into the ground; the pitch was like a bog. Honestly, half way through the match the ball came flying over to me, so I lifted up my foot ready for a bounce... and the ball slid right under it. I ran over to reclaim it, but Oldhamite (or whatever you call someone in Oldham’s) Gene Ratanadaros had got there first. Before I knew it I had slid over onto my back and Gene’s face was caked in mud. The other problem which was generally complained about was the hardness of the ball. However, both teams were sharing the same pitch and ball so we couldn’t really say it was a disadvantage. Our real problem was our defence (to which I belonged), who simply couldn’t take on A-teamer Calvin Cheung. After seven goals were scored by Oldham’s, and our lone goal scored by George Panayi, as well as us living through Mr. Sheppe’s constant cries of “Two-tone Blue!” and “Centre it!” (the only football command he knew, he says), we returned to the house in low spirits, got warm and prayed for Christmas to come quickly.

Falopian cover December 2012As it comes to the end of term and the (hopefully more sober) Christmas dinner, I still need a few more mince pies, advent calendar chocolates and an actual break to get me in the Christmas mood, and I start to wonder what to write for the final paragraph of this week’s piece. Out of inspiration as well as energy, I’ll finish (although very unoriginal) with one of the old JFK quotes: Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth. This is definitely what the writers of The Falopian believed when they released their latest issue of the satirical and slightly illegal school magazine. As usual it made jokes of school issues and teachers. However, it is highly confidential and, as Mr. Hudson said, “the editors have all been arrested”.

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