Principal’s Assembly 04 Dec 2018


I mentioned to staff last week that I’d been to watch the Fulneck Dramatic Society’s latest play.  And the Nightingale Sang is a moving story set during world War Two in Newcastle.  High quality acting from an amateur cast.
 
Among the cast was one Fulneck Former Pupil who has been acting and directing for over 40 years.  In fact his love of acting started here.
 
There will be something similar for you here.  It might be academic, it might be extra-curricular.  It might turn into your career, it might be a long-term hobby.
 
At the risk of plagiarising the John Lewis Christmas advert, it all starts somewhere.
 
I love words.  Words can be very powerful.  Words can make someone’s day.  Words can ruin someone’s day.  Words can inspire.  Words can tear apart.  Words online, by the way, are no less powerful than face-to-face conversation.
 
I like finding out where words come from.  In fact, etymology is the only –ology I’m any good at.  And I know where it started, with my English teacher.  At A Level, we studied Milton’s Paradise Lost, his story of Adam and Eve.  From this we get amazing oxymoron like “living carcasses”, a gruesome phrase.
 
We also get the modern use of the word ‘Pandemonium’.  Originally Greek, Milton used it as the home of the Devil and it’s still used to represent a state of chaos.  I always wanted to coin my own phrase. Imagine coming up with a phrase like ‘Catch-22’, the title of Joseph Heller’s book, that everyone starts to use to describe an impossible situation.
 
I also like the way in which our language evolves – how we find new words and how the meaning of old words can change.  One of my favourite examples of that is the word ‘literally’ which officially no longer means just’ literally’ but can also be used metaphorically.
 
‘You should have seen them – they were literally on fire!’  No they weren’t but that use of the word is now ok.
 
‘Beakish’ sounds like it refers to my nose, and, indeed, it does mean ‘resembling a beak’.
 
You will also use language in a totally different way to me.  For example, I believe that ‘airing’ is something that can happen to you.  To me, that’s what Mum did with the ironing before we put it away.
 
Another is ‘t’werk’.  That’s where people in Yorkshire go to earn a living, but I believe it means something different to you.
 
FOMO is now a recognised form of anxiety caused by social media, caused I suppose by ‘airing’.  Why wasn’t I invited to that party?  Why haven’t they liked my tweet?
 
It seems odd to say that in this era of constant contact, of having thousands of friends or followers, I worry that we are getting lonelier and this is causing the anxiety.
 
There is a small town in Pennsylvania, USA, called Roseto.  It was founded by a small group of Italian immigrants in the 1890s.  For many years it remained a tiny, self-sufficient town with Italian as its first language, until it became famous in the 1960s.  Doctors started to notice that they never got any patients from Roseto. Nobody was getting ill.
 
In Roseto, unlike most of America, no-one under 55 showed any signs of heart disease.  For men over 65, the death rate from heart disease in Roseto was roughly half that of the US as a whole.  The death rate from all causes, in fact, was 35% lower than expected.
 
There was also no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction.  There was little crime and no-one on welfare.  The only real cause of death was old age.
 
What was happening?
 
I can see Mrs Carter and Mr Walker have the answer. Was it their diet?  Or exercise?  They didn’t bring the traditional Mediterranean diet with them. It certainly wasn’t their pizza.  The lard they coated with and the toppings they added were pretty unhealthy.  Nor was it a fitness-fanatical town.
 
Maybe Mr Norris knows. Could it be genetics?  Researchers tracked down Italian immigrants from the same place who were living elsewhere in America.   They didn’t share the same good health.
 
Surely, then, Mr Kitson must have it. Could it be the environment?  But no other small towns in the area share the healthy statistics.
 
In fact, it was their old-fashioned sense of community.  They had retained an Italian culture of all generations of a family living in the same house.  They respected the old folk, they stopped to chat in the streets.  They invited each other over to eat.  Making a positive difference to their community helped them all to flourish.  
 
They were certainly not lonely.  They were certainly not anxious.
 
As we reach the end of this term, I know that I have got across to you what really matters at Fulneck:
 
‘Work hard, be kind’
 
Remember that we are in a bubble. 
 
Whether you have started to celebrate Hanukkah, about to celebrate Christmas or just looking forward to a holiday try to be part of something bigger, part of a community.

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