I

 NEWS AND REFLECTIONS  1978

 KENNETH BARNES

 I have been asked at short notice to writ« this, hut just as well- for I'm surrounded by papers littering every table, scripts waiting for completion before going to press. The history of the school, typed out nearly three years ago, has been waiting all this time for shortening to publishable length. I have been given much advice; but radical reconstruction would have been too onerous a task, so I am driven simply to remove every unnecessary paragraph and adjective, every bit of sentimental nostalgia, and some -  not all -  of the scandal. I wish I could make it read like the Herriot veterinary stories, with illustrations of my own! Then it would sell.

 We enjoyed the reunion at Great Ayton Friends School, with the warm welcome from Fred and Erica Sessa. I hope that those who did not come will hear enough about it to feel that future reunions will lose nothing in quality through being held at a place other than Wennington. It is people who matter, not places. Meeting each other we felt we were a continuing community, though for the rest of the year scattered.

 For the benefit of those who have not heard, I should say that, at the direction of the Charity Commissioners, remaining Wennington funds are being transferred to Great Ayton, mainly to establish bursaries under a special trust of which Peter Hamilton and I are members. But the process of transference is slow!

 Reading through my history again, after so long, made me feel what a crazy place Wennington was, but most reassuringly crazy! The crises and the conflicts, thefts and passions, the litter of sweet papers and the carpet of cigarette cartons in the shrubbery (and yet so few Wenningtonians smoke!) the ambitious projects successfully carried out, severe challenges when the whole school rose to ensure survival (that winter of 1947!) the music that waxed and waned and waxed again, the dances that were once marvellous occasions including everyone, but became exclusive with the invasion of pop.

 A story of successes and apparent failures, of exhilar ation and dismay. But always with energy bubbling up. When we felt we were in the shadows, we realised that only light can cast shadows.

 Some may remember my occasional description» or an unorthodox Christianity, of the "abundant life" as something not removed from ordinary life, not pious or spiritual; simplv human life that is full of energy and interest, valuing friendship as its central experience; and with all this an eagerness to tackle crises and hazards as the experiences we were meant for. Didn't we have something of this at Wennington? lIow many feel it continuing in them?

Reading accounts of other "progressive" educational ventures, I sometimes find an oppressive seriousness, a sense of swimming against the tide. For all our difficulties and the occasional need to fight hard, I think we felt we were with the tide of human development and fulfilment, even if swimming very oddly through unforeseen rapids. Wasn't there a light-heartedness that kept us going, a feeling that the yoke was easy and the burden not all that heavy?

 Now for ourselves. Eleanor, having come to the end of her chairmanship of the Laity Commission, has given increasing attention to her work for the families of disabled children. As Assistant Director of the Rowntree Memorial Trust, she runs the Family Fund office, which has the task of distributing at least £2 million a year to distressed families. She now has to travel far and wide to speak to gatherings of social workers and the 150 agents of the Fund scattered through the country.

 I accompany her when it suits me. We've just been to London, where there is always open house for us with Noelle (Barker) Peake and her husband. Noelle was our lively music teacher in 1946 and is now a Professor at the Guildhall School of Music. I spent a fascinating morning with Prof. Laithwaite at Imperial College, playing with magnetic levitation, linear induction motors and seemingly miraculous gyroscopic experiments; also mixing physics with metaphysic in a memorable discussion. Elsewhere I conferred with a student making John Macmurray's philosophy the subject of a doctorate, discussed Bedales with an erstwhile colleague who is writing its history, and had an interesting encounter with a Wennington girl, now in her thirties, who had an amazing story to relate and needed help with an educational thesis.

 In March I was rushed to 'hospital by a new young doctor who guessed that a tummy pain was serious. Eleanor was told, but I wasn't that it might be a rapid cancer. I was opened up; a pelvic abscess was found inside the peritoneum, too dangerous to remove. Sewed up again and antibiotics switched on. Woke up in a plumber's paradise, tubes all over the place. Temperature quickly fell to normal. Unlike Eleanor, who had reason to be anxious, I was not much worried; being a sort of doctor manque, I found it all very interesting and was able to "talk shop" with doctors and nurses. But I tend to forget the extreme discomfort of all those tubes and the hallucinogenic effects of drugs. The abscess may have been caused by a drug, Indocid, which I had been taking for a painful knee; it may have made a perforation in the gut. It is becoming almost notorious for its side-effects.

 Once out of anxiety, Eleanor realised that my absence was a marvellous opportunity. She got in Bill Bridges to finish a lot of jobs I had left unfinished and to clear away my heaps of debris in the garden. What a transformation, and what a standard I shall now have to maintain! As a result of Bill's earlier work, by the way, we have a pool like a miniature Wennington pool. But it has a fountain in the middle and its swimmers will be rainbow trout.

 Please let us have news if you haven't done so recently. Tell us of others you know about, if you think they haven't written. We don't want only success stories; the others are equally interesting and sometimes more moving.

 Kenneth C. Barnes 

 

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