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Girton Parish News - November 2001
The Girton Glebe School Millennium Garden
The Millennium Garden at Girton Glebe School has been formally opened, celebrating the transformation of a neglected courtyard into a tranquil garden for the whole school community to enjoy. In addition to benches, a bird table, bird feeders and tubs of beautiful flowering plants, the garden also boasts a water feature surrounded by glazed pebbles, made by the school children.
The idea for the garden originally came from the school’s PTA, whose members worked hard chopping, digging, painting and cultivating during the course of the year. However, the project drew in many more helpers, many of whom were present on Friday to see the red ribbon cut by the oldest child on the School Council and the garden declared open by the youngest.
The highlight of the afternoon was undoubtedly the unveiling of a sculpture
by local artist, Abbas Hashemi, who incorporated the ideas of the pupils
in the school to create Best Friends, depicting two children playing.
Lest we forgetRupert Brooke in his poignant sonnet, "The Soldier", wrote of 'some corner of a foreign field that is forever England.' There are many such corners across the channel. You might, for example, in Belgium go from Ieper to Poperinge, via Elverdingsestraat, and near Roesbruggestraat eventually find the cemetery called Mendinghem. If you have already found it difficult to say those names, you are having the same problem as all those soldiers of the First World War. They couldn't be bothered to say what to them seemed funny names, so they made up anglicised equivalents. Mendinghem was one - for the original casualty clearing station where wounded soldiers could be 'mended'. The troops named two other similar stations 'Dozinghem' and 'Bandaghem',where casualties could be 'dosed' and 'bandaged'. Mendinghem was retained for the name of the military cemetery eventually created there. It has nearly 3,000 Commonwealth graves and about 50 German graves. At grave number VI.D.37 one of my uncles is buried. A Bombardier in the Royal Garrison Artillery, he was wounded in action and later died in hospital in October 1917.
Throughout the land there are families that have similarly lost their loved ones. Nearly every village has a War Memorial, inscribed with the names of the fallen in war, and usually bearing a simple message such as "We will remember them." Today, perhaps more than ever before, we should be asking ourselves: what is it that we should be remembering? First of all, as my mention of Mendinghem implies, we should remember that no matter how dire the international situation may seem the human spirit has a great capacity for resilience. That is why members of the armed forces - and civilians - will always make fun of their situation, whenever they can, and refuse to be defeated. Secondly, we must remember that throughout history, families have always been prepared to fight, and to sacrifice, for their beliefs. If it were not for that spirit, human kind would not be perpetuated. Thirdly, our resilience and our determination are fuelled by love, which in all its spiritual and secular forms is the major life blood. The tragedy is that its opposite, hatred, is an equally powerful driving force.
Now we find ourselves embroiled in a new war, even a new kind of war, in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001. When in an earlier article this year I wrote that "the three great faiths of Jews, Moslems and Christians have yet to come to terms with one another," I could hardly have guessed what was due to happen so suddenly. The new war, such as it is, vividly illustrates many problems. Not least is the fact that conflicting messages can be derived from both the Koran and the Bible by those who through ignorance, ill-will, fanaticism or prejudice, dwell upon a selective text. The Christian's "an eye for an eye" is pitted against "love thy neighbour"; and the Moslem's alleged view of ourselves as infidels is in contrast to the advice on helping one another to do what is good. It is also difficult to convey the message that the West is not fighting Islam; it is fighting terrorism. The whole issue is so bound up with international politics and the clash of world cultures as to be incapable of simple analysis. Added to this is that the speed with which we get immediate news, thanks to modern technology, conditions viewers and listeners to expect instant analysis and explanation of events as a basis for instant military action and response. The same process heightens fear and hatred. It was fortunate that after the New York attack circumstances prevented retaliatory action; otherwise who can guess what nuclear mayhem could have followed the white heat of anger that matched the temperature of the blazing towers.
It is another curious though blessed paradox of armed conflict today that care is taken to obviate loss of life both civilian and military. Moreover, bizarre as the idea may seem to veterans of World War 2, to drop food parcels as well as bombs is a right action. It seems equally bizarre to the same veterans that television can present us with comment from 'enemy' territory, even re-plays of their own television reports. On the one hand we are able to see what is going on, but on the other hand - as the experience of the Falklands campaign proved - there are times when it is tactically necessary to conceal what is happening.
Despite these paradoxes, it is re-assuring that such a sense of unity has emerged among our own politicians. It strengthens the view that whatever action we take in the present crisis must be consistent with the principles of civilised values and standards - those very things that terrorist action is threatening throughout the whole world..
It is too soon to predict the outcome. It is too premature to say that life will never be the same again, after 11 September 2001. But at our time of remembrance in November we can "think on these things". We should pray in a spirit of fortitude and faith that this new war will reveal the best, not the worst, of our key values and strengths.
God is watching“Is it true that you’re leaving Mr. Staves?” and before I go on I must explain that this was said to me some seventeen years ago when, as a teacher, I was about to move on to a new school. The questioner was a boy of about fifteen called David who, seeing me on duty in the playground, had ambled over to enquire if the gossip was true. David wasn’t the first pupil to show an interest in my career move and as the other questioners had wished me well or thanked me for something I had done for them, I replied that the rumour was right and wondered what David would say to that. I had taught him at various times during his four years in the school, he was not the brightest of pupils and perhaps he was going to thank me for teaching him, or for the time when I cleaned him up after he was ill on a school trip. His answer though had nothing to do with my skill as a teacher (or nurse) for he went on to say, “Thank goodness for that sir, I’ll be able to go and have a fag behind the bike shed in peace!”
I laughed about it then and it still makes me smile now. On reflection though, I cannot ever remember catching David smoking. I caught others, but not David, yet my presence obviously worried him and kept him on his guard.
It is like fare dodging on the railway. Some train companies are less vigilant at checking tickets than others and the result is that they carry more fare dodging passengers. For when there is no presence on the train people try to get away with it. A similar thing is true of standards on television. Many years ago, while she was still a teacher, Mary Whitehouse said that we would get the television we deserve. How right her words have proved, while nobody does anything, while there is no checking presence, standards continue to fall. I wonder if a “lack of presence” is one of the contributing factors in the increasing lawlessness we see in society. Evil has always existed and history is full of amoral people, but the way some think they can get away without anyone bothering them, means that wrong can flourish unchecked. Terrorism is very much in our minds at the moment. Again it is not a new problem, but I wonder if a “lack of presence”, brought on by a belief that it is not our problem, has resulted in an uncontrolled increase.
The thing that concerns me most though is that the idea that nobody is watching and I can do what I like, is totally alien to what the Bible says. Scripture tells us that God is watching. He is the unseen presence who observes all that goes on in the world. He knows all that we do and one day when we are fully in his presence, he will judge us for what we have done.
Message from the SchoolAlthough it is only half term as I write this, Christmas and its celebrations are already in our minds [we will soon be beating the shops to it!]. In fact we were planning it in September as something to look forward to 'Post OfSTED'. We have already auditioned for the main parts and planned the class scenes for 'Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat'. We would like to invite Senior Citizens and Under Fives to our dress rehearsal on Friday December 7th at 1.45pm. The children will much appreciate a 'live audience' and we would love to see you all there.
The last month has been very busy with 'Jeans for Genes' which raised £160 for this worthwhile cause and a grand Poetry Competition for National Poetry Day. The children composed poems on the theme of Journeys and the winners and runners-up had their poems published in a book.
Next month is as busy as ever with a Book Week and of course preparations for our Christmas Extravaganza!
Susan Baker, Headteacher