Giants and Titans

Further to my post yesterday on the Varsity Match, I notice that the touring Australian cricket team is playing a warm-up game at Chelmsford, in Essex, against the Essex team. And Essex have been doing respectably. Their opening batsman, Tom Westley, scored 144 and kept the Australians at bay for most of the day.

Tom Westley, I notice, is a native of Cambridge. He was born here on 13th March 1989, just a few months (six, to be precise) after I came to Cambridge for the first time as a student.

Virgil and Dante encounter the Giants and Titans in Hell – Gustave Dore

Virgil and Dante encounter the Giants and Titans in Hell – Gustave Doré

As it happens, I saw the touring Australians play Essex, in the great Ashes year of 1981. Rodney Marsh, legendary Australian wicket-keeper, took off his gloves at one point after tea when the draw was inevitable, and had a bowl. That day he took his solitary first class wicket as a bowler. He was five-years retired already by the time Tom Westley was born and must seem to him a legend of the distant past, if Tom Westley ever thinks about him, one of the Giants and Titans of the elder-times. Yet not so distant – just five short years, in reality.

It is always odd to find that people not born when you were already more or less fully launched upon the world are now doing responsible jobs of one sort or another (opening the batting against the Australians is about the most responsible job I can think of). Teachers feel this especially strongly. My brother, who teaches music and runs an orchestra in South-West London, was telling me recently that a girl to whom he gave her first piano lesson, aged about six, was now qualified as a vet and had recently come back to guest in the orchestra. And my in-laws, both teachers, taught multiple generations of the same family in the town where they spent their working lives.

At OISE we are not so strongly afflicted with generational shift. But we do have long-term students who pass on, we hope, to better things – one of our 12-week students, Naoaki, from Japan, is leaving today. In a language school where the turnover of students is relatively high, such long-termers (particularly such well-disposed ones as Naoaki) are valuable ballast: they know how the school works, where to get a sandwich, how LibreOffice differs from PowerPoint, how much time is needed to prepare the presentation, how best to go about it, and so on.

Perhaps Naoaki will take on similarly legendary status to those who come after him, in the eternal round of fresh students. The man who mastered LibreOffice.

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