Lockdown: Week 16

We are battling towards the end of the term and the end of the school year. Last week I talked about things becoming more normal. It’s felt, this week, that we’ve taken a few steps further forward in that respect.

In this vein, it seems strange to be watching live football and switching to live test cricket. If I wasn’t so busy I have some really difficult decisions to make.

I hear the phrase ‘the new normal’ quite regularly. I’m not sure what that means or how that will manifest in our daily lives. I am clear that the UK in July is a very different place to the UK of January. The weather may not be that much different between those two months (it really has been shocking last few days, hasn’t it?) but the country is today in a significantly different place to where it was at the turn of the year. Collectively and individually we have changed.

One of my regular mantras is; ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. I don’t think that this is lost at this time. We need to hold onto, especially in respect of school, for the coming week and in our planning for September, all that we know works and is right and proper for this educational community. There are many things which we get right. There are standards that we set and we work towards, day in and day out. There are aspirations which we’ve set for staff and for our children and young people. We must not, and will not, let go or lose those as we pick up the pieces, after the storm of the last few months.

As we plan towards the end of term and look into our autumn months, here at the school, we will plan to return and hold onto to as much of that which we know works. All that which has a positive impact upon our children and young people. We will follow the guidance and we will ensure that school is as safe as it can be for staff and for pupils but we will do that knowing that much of the way that we habitually work must not be lost.

We’ve got a few days to go until the summer break. We need to be clear that there will be a summer break. The staff, the children and their parents need to feel that this period has ended.

Maybe this is apt…

‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning’. Winston Churchill

The final comedy connections; tune out if you must.

Series one of my final selection, Blackadder, was something of a big budget flop. Maybe because it was less like the traditional British sitcom than it should have been. Open air scenes, many scene changes, a lack of claustrophobia and a script which didn’t ‘ping’ as the great sitcoms covered in this lockdown series. To be honest, I quite liked series one and it’s worth a watch.

The BBC nearly didn’t commission a second series. They did, as we know, but it had to change. The budget was cut. The scenes and the sets were reduced in scale. The characters were better drawn and some of those themes, I have covered in my tour through my favourite sitcoms are front and centre: a tight cast of misfits, lead characters with a smugness and a lack of social awareness, a degree of pathos, and a rip-roaring script that rattles along. Interestingly in series one Baldrick is the smart one and Blackadder is mind numbingly stupid – these characters switched personas for series two and the rest is history (or a version of history – don’t let Michael Gove think that Blackadder Goes Fourth is shown in any schools).

There was no connection between The Young Ones into series one of Blackadder. However, John Lloyd (the producer) brought in Ben Elton for series two. Elton has written and performed in the Young Ones. Ben Elton’s style as a writer was very different to the common approach, at that time. He wrote fast paced, very wordy scripts, maybe something of a throw back to the earlier sitcoms which grew out of radio; where the script and spoken word were critical, the situations were less important. It is my contention that the sitcom lost its way when the set piece became the driving force of the episode – think Terry and June with the dinner party for Terry’s new boss, or Frank Spencer and his inability to build a cot, or wear roller skates etc etc. Maybe Blackadder series one was too safe and too 1970s, there was a need to go back to an earlier age but with a late 20th century drive.

The results were clear from the start of series two and Blackadder grew in importance and impact from then on.  The apex being the final episode of Blackadder Goes Fourth, which, despite Mr Gove, is rightly revered as a significant commentary on the futility of the first world war.

We’ll go back to series two. Watch one of my favourite episodes, Beer. It’s more about Turnips than beer – honestly!