HM Newsletter - 13 Feb
I brace myself for the inevitable “BUT” – the curse that seems to embrace the the most optimistic of Headmasters around the world – as the Old Boy starts his story: “I was strolling around my (the sense of ownership is rightfully strong) old school a few minutes ago, I even popped in to see Mrs K in the tuck-shop and ate one of her toasted zarms BUT”… - I brace instinctively – “I want to tell you that the manners and greetings of the boys is even better than it was when I was here and they treat Mrs K, the Indian lady behind the counter as if she was their mom – they love her and are so respectful. Tell the boys at your next assembly from me that they make me proud to be an Old Boy!” I quietly acknowledge the compliment as he turns on his heels and returns to his family that had accompanied him on his nostalgic tour of his old stamping ground.
On a nearby field steeped in the history of monumental clashes with the red and white are three recent Old Boys adding the finer touches and skills to an enthusiastic and focused first fifteen. No payment asked – they are simply putting back what they received. I watch closely as the role models put the eager players through their paces – the enjoyment and smiles are contagious. They come across and greet me; I smile to myself at the memories in my Geography class with these young men and continue my walk towards the Club.
In the early evening I sit silently in the back row of a gathering of Old Boys, current parents and interested parties who are attending the Bid Process evening of the Gates Development. There is a brewing excitement and tension in the air as the enveloped bids are disclosed and a Koki-Pen used to carefully mark the chosen property with an X. In the blink of an eye ten properties are sold and the Fleur-de-Lys Club is filled with happy smiling faces as hands are warmly shaken. I enjoy the tasty snacks as my mind tries to comprehend the passion and generosity of these Old Boys and parents. Surely we are blessed beyond measure and we must – as our school prayer exorts us to - in turn be a blessing to others. I make my way to the Theatre deep in thought – “be a blessing to others” swirls around my mind.
A lone actor taking the part of many holds a spellbound audience of our boys in their smart Black blazers and visitors in the palm of his hand as he guides us through the development of a boy into adulthood, his school experiences, first love, conscription and the Apartheid regime. The audience of post ’94 pupils miss the nuances of a bygone era that now only appears in History books, but the Black Blazers leap to their feet and give a thunderous standing ovation as the curtain falls on Craig Norris’s “Blood Orange”. This man is a genius in the mould of Andrew Buckland and he has just spent a week as our dramatist in residence at Hilton – what an inspiration for our boys. As the audience drifts away I notice one of our lads still slumped in his chair – concerned, I touch him gently on his shoulder and enquire if he is allright. “Yes sir, I am fine” he replies “I am just trying to take it all in…”. Words fail him. As he quietly leaves the empty Theatre deep in thought, my own mind swims with reflection that we as a community are awesomely blessed.
As I put my head on my pillow on Saturday evening I am humbled that I am able to be a small part of this incredible institution. The past week has been an awesome experience. A note from a mom expressing her thanks and appreciation for the marimba workshop for our pupils with Mike Sibanda, the energized, gifted and talented guru of the marimba drums from Johannesburg. She says that her son is growing into an inspired and positive man who believes in the future of this land. I wonder at the impact this young man will have and the blessing he will be to the people of our beloved country. Like all our boys, he follows in the footsteps of those who have served and built up South Africa and this great school.
The events of the week flash by in my mind – the prospective parent functions in Kloof and Durban reflected the mood and atmosphere of the previous week’s Newboys’ function – vibrant, positive, energetic occasions and we are all stirred by the passionate talks by our matric boys. A mom I know well from teaching her eldest son a few years back appears at my shoulder and remarks with sincerity in her eyes: “This year is the happiest of my five year association with Hilton.” She moves off quickly to offer a plate of snacks to our guests and leaves me to contemplate.
Kyle Schoonbee and Matthew Gearing stroke their way to a new South African record in the U19 Doubles Rowing event in Gauteng, beating the previous record set eight years ago by an incredible 6 seconds. Ernie Steenkamp, their coach, claims that all credit is due to the boys. Surely a man who drives to Johannesburg and back every summer weekend hauling a trailer of sculls would take some credit?
The next day on my desk is a 15-day Science Tour Itinerary to the USA for a group of 40 pupils – what a lifetime experience! I am tempted to cancel my trip to the IBSC Conference in Australia and instead join the July tour that includes the White House, Princeton University, the Franklin Institute, the Smithsonian and the Kennedy Space Station. My plans to bunk the ISBC Conference are interrupted by news that three of our U15 tennis boys have been selected for the KZN team of four to compete in the Inter-Districts Tournament – Mudiwa Llobell, Gavin Morris and Sacha Brown together with Martin Küsel, who is a member of the U17 KZN team, celebrate their selection and dream of Wimbledon as they go to sleep. Sport, like all our activities, is in good hands and our boys are reaping the rewards.
News reaches me that the membership of the “My School” initiative is gaining momentum and simply by swiping ones card at the local grocery store will see a percentage of the spend being allocated to our Bursary Fund. The words “Be blessed to be a blessing” ring in my ears again as I think of the incredible opportunity we will be able to afford boys to attend this remarkable school.
The rain on Saturday and the cancelled cricket do not dampen the enthusiasm around the packed pool as the water polo first team gives a disciplined display to outplay a muscled Kearsney outfit. I rush across to Basketball at the Sports Centre – the atmosphere is electric with the sound of our supporters and drummers raising the rafters. The score is 54-54 with five to play – our coach is outwardly calm. This is a good sign. Kearsney leap ahead, Hilton draw level, Hilton go ahead, Kearsney pull one back, Hilton score – the support is deafening…the final minute drags – the hooter sounds – Hilton have won – pandemonium. The supporters and players pack together and the war-cry explodes. Nothing beats winning.
I drift off to sleep…another amazing week has slipped by…be blessed to be a blessing.Have a great week!