Thomas' Postcard from Home

4th May 2020

At 7pm on a Monday in early May, I should be ensconced in Romans Road, hanging out in Conduit with the close friends I have made over the past 5 years, discussing our frustrating XVs loss at the end of last term and the end of the Premiership season. I love my life at Sergeant's (Phil’s). Instead, I’m installed in the dining room at home in Buckinghamshire, doing practice Pre-U papers for exams that won’t happen, and wondering if it will ever be Liverpool’s year. This is not how it was supposed to play out.

As a boy rapidly approaching his final day at Winchester, I have been reflecting on plans long-made, and plans yet to be drawn. On the morning of March 18th, little more than a month ago, I was looking forward to an intensive period of revision over the Easter holidays, and excited about the imminent pressure of New Hall. By the afternoon of the same day, I was travelling home, my bedsit packed up, listening to Boris announce there would be no exams. I felt like I’d been sucker-punched. I was just one of a generation of 16-18 year olds, robbed of a defining moment of their school career. Over the following days, uncertainty only increased as rumours abounded of the revised exam process. However, there was no time to mope around as we were - for the last week of term - 'up to virtual books' within a couple of days, and Easter revision resumed, in line with the Wykehamist ethos: learning for its own sake.

Term has restarted, of course, but not in any recognisable way. No chance to perform at Bar End as Head of Athlā, no croquet in Phil’s garden, no permanent shirt-sleeve order. Worst of all, the prospect of no House Entertainment.

All said, life at home has found its own, new rhythm. Dad in his study on conference calls, my sisters permanently occupied in virtual classrooms, me with a bigger, quieter, study space (gosh, how I miss my friends sticking their heads around the door). The Baker’s Arms has become my friends' Skype pub, which has been a revelation in that it is genuinely great, and we are still helping each other with the tricky topics we used to discuss in person. Never has high-speed broadband been more valued. It’s also been a real gift to have so much time with my whole family – once in a lifetime, to be honest, but I’m still not accustomed to the weird social-distancing, and hope I never will be.

Thanks to my peripatetic family, this would have been the first school I stayed at end-to-end. This was going to be our summer. I don’t think any of my generation were emotionally prepared for this abrupt truncation, but I’m proud of how we have responded – and adapted – another Wykehamical trait. Then I think of those names in War Cloister and it gives me a well-deserved reality check about what we are actually facing. Life marches on.

The big question that everyone is asking now, and to which they eagerly await an answer, is “what happens next?” Perhaps schools will reopen in the near future and we can have our last hurrah. I do wonder how social distancing would work at a boarding school (“Get 2 metres out of my Toyes!”). Perhaps we will be locked down beyond the summer. Truth be told – I feel blessed that my family and friends are safe and well – everything else will be a lovely bonus. I’m attacking every day with a positive attitude, grateful for all my blessings, and excited about what is ahead.

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