Cold Feet

A Teacher's Tale

Mar 2008

Scott Polar Research Institute and St. John's Dinner

At about 1.30 pm all the old crew gathered in the Scott Polar Research Institute to prepare for the afternoon. We each had to give a ten minute talk about some aspect of the expedition. We tried to make sure that we each had a different slant on the story and did not overlap too much but it was interesting that Ruth and I had latched onto the same stunning view of Connell canyon that had made such an impression on us at the time.
It was hard to stay calm as the lecture theatre filled up with so many people, many of them very knowledgeable about Antarctica and many with strong links to it. Peter Fuchs described the background to the expedition and introduced us. Phil ably topped and tailed our four talks and Amy had brought three students from school who delivered a polished and enjoyable talk about the experience from the pupil's point of view. Afterwards Steve gave a fine "epilogue". Then we answered lots of questions. The afternoon ended with a look around the TAE exhibition and a really excellent tea party.

In the evening we all made our way to St. John's College for an event quite beyond anything that I have ever experienced before. Try to picture the scene:

Imagine a long, oak-panelled gallery lit only by candles and warmed only by fires. The room dates from 1599 and retains its original plaster ceiling (which is quite low). The dark polished table reaches almost the full length of the room and eighty three of us are seated around it. I am near one end and if I look to my right the table disappears into the distance! After a long grace in Latin, we are served a really excellent meal. (The wine is good too). Sir Vivian and his son Peter both attended St. John's so it is very fitting that we are here, but this is a room that is very rarely used. There is lots of good company around us and lots to talk about. After the meal, Peter introduces our guest of honour and speaker, Lord Browne (The retired MD of BP) who gives a good solid speech and then we all mill about chatting until very late. It is particularly interesting to meet three of the four teachers who have been selected for the expedition to the Arctic, which is to take place in the Summer of 2009. Each of us will get to mentor one of the team and it will be fun to re-live the stresses and strains of preparation, without the burden of having to actually raise the money ourselves! Eventually, most of the old and new teams make their way to the pub while my wife and I make our way homewards to a welcome bed.