Homecoming

As I listened to ‘Desert Island Discs’ yesterday, I pondered which book I would take with me were I to be cast away on a remote island. The music is easy (Wagner’s Ring Cycle, obviously) but where to begin with the literature?! In the end, I concluded that I would go for Homer’s Odyssey, not just as a reflection of my own fate – Odysseus is repeatedly ship-wrecked and cast away himself – but because of the richness of language and depth of thematic content, including the important notions of nostos (homecoming) and oikos (the family home). For those interested in etymology, the associated English words nostalgia, literally the pain of yearning for home, and economics, the laws of the house, have entered our everyday parlance from these ancient Greek roots.

I suspect most Wellingtonians and their parents know the story of Homer’s Odyssey either in detail or in more broad terms: the adventurous tale of the eponymous hero’s 10-year homecoming (nostos) following 10 years fighting at the Trojan War, and Odysseus’s return to his family home (oikos) on the island of Ithaca where he is reunited, eventually, with his wife and son. Some of the most famous stories of ancient mythology can be found therein: the epitome of uxorial devotion found in Penelope’s shroud; literature’s very first ‘rock and a hard place’ in Scylla and Charybdis; the brutal yet poignant tale of the Cyclops, Polyphemus; and, of course, the stringing of Odysseus’s bow and his subsequent punishment of the suitors who have taken up residence in their attempt to woo the hero’s wife.

Over the past seven days, as Stage Three regulations have allowed us all to enjoy an increasing number of freedoms, including greater parental access to the life of the College, the notions of nostos and oikos have been very much on my mind. The College is not just a home away from home for our pupils, but it is very much the Wellington way to embrace parents in a manner which makes them feel every bit a part of our school and our community as their children. And as various events have opened up in the past week, I suspect many parents have felt a small pang of nostalgia as they have watched events, wandered around sports pitches and been let back into their children’s lives at College. It genuinely has felt like a homecoming.

On Thursday evening, for the first time in 15 months, Kat and I were able to open our own family home to 30 of our teaching staff to say thank you for their remarkable efforts this year. We will be doing the same throughout the rest of this term, not to mention welcoming parents of the Third Form performers as we host ‘Shakespeare in the Master’s Garden’ later this week. On Friday night, the doors of the GWA were opened up for only the second time in 15 months to the Wellington Community as the Third and Fourth Form, under the brilliant guidance of Mr Mancuso and Mr Farrell, staged a simply breath-taking evening of Musical Theatre, put together in only four weeks. Again, it felt like a rather emotional homecoming.

On Saturday afternoon, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing many parents back on Turf watching sport and enjoying a drink together at what is becoming known as the Master’s Tent next to Pink Pavilion, and I would encourage any parents who are on site for Saturday sport in the second half of term to drop by any time between 4.30pm and 6.30pm. I would love to see you. And there really was a homecoming on Sunday as the Old Wellingtonian Cricket Club returned to College for their annual fixture against the 1st XI, with one Wellingtonian being dismissed by his OW father as his OW grandfather watched on from the boundary’s edge!

As we look forward to the half-term break and the return of Wellingtonians to their other family home on Friday, we wish them all every health and happiness, and we do hope to see much more of you all in June as the weather improves and we continue to open up the College for your return.

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