Sunday, 9 June 2013

Sailing with the Old, the Dead, and the New


Last night I went to see Rod Stewart in concert at the Manchester Evening News Arena. For a man 10 years older than me, he certainly still had lots of energy. He’s been singing since 1964 and I really admired his enthusiasm for life and his evident motivation to keep performing. The 2 hour performance was brilliant  a mixture of his old songs and a sprinkling of the new. It was high energy throughout. In a most interesting coming together of facts, Highgate Cemetery in London has featured in my thinking this week. What I didn't know until last night, was that for a short while, Rod Stewart worked as a garden labour in the cemetery.

Earlier in the week, while out with dinner with colleagues, I was tentatively offered a Horse Chestnut tree seedling grown from a conker picked off the ground in Highgate Cemetery. I have already planted a seedling Monkey Puzzle tree I've grown from a seed, and 3 Grape Vine seedlings, a birthday gift, in the new and embryonic Kippford Garden, and I really like the thought of starting the new garden off with plants that will eventually mature and transform the landscape. This in some ways is a bit like the origins and life story of Highgate Cemetery.  Not that I think the Kippford Garden will ever become a Grade 1 garden on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens!

As well as its beautiful gardens and edifices, Highgate Cemetery is also just as famous for some of the people who are buried there. They include the British painter Lucian Freud, Stella Gibbons and Douglas Adams, authors of 2 of my all-time favourite books; Cold Comfort Farm, and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Herbert Spencer who was both an evolutionary biologist but also an economic philosopher and perhaps most famous of all Karl Mark, philosopher, historian, sociologist and economist.

And on Thursday of last week I got to meet some living philosophers and sociologists, part of a group of colleagues who will be joining the School in August this year to form a new directorate of Social Sciences. This was my first opportunity to meet with them and discuss their interests, aspirations and hopes for the future. It proved to be a lively and interesting meeting and the conversation highlighted some exciting challenges and opportunities.

On Friday I held an extra-ordinary School Congress and shared these latest developments in the Schools evolution with the rest of the School. Generally there was a widespread welcome for these changes, something I was really pleased to see. Today, there are two other little ‘seedlings’ I am really looking forward to seeing. The New Twins (now 10 days old) have come out of hospital and are back home, and this afternoon its off to Leeds to see them. Thinking about finally getting to see them has brought about a spring in my step bigger than that of Rod Stewart's last night - and if I may Maggie, notice is hereby given, this Head of School is not going anywhere else any time soon. As we continue to grow as a School there is still plenty for us all to do!