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President’s Blog September 2015

21 Sep 15

It’s a wonderful and unexpected honour to be asked to take up this post.

I am looking forward to the various functions I am to attend during the year.
If you do not know me, I left Woodbridge School in 1991; I am now a sports journalist who spent four years at the East Anglian Daily Times, 15 years at The Sunday and Daily Telegraph (with some Daily Express thrown in) and am now deputy editor of The Cricketer magazine.

The other part of my elevation to this position, I understand, is for the cricket matches – packed with OWs of all ages – I have organised over the last decade or so; that’s something I love doing, so no hardship there.

The modern term for a pupil who needs a degree of careful management is ‘a character’. We had quite a few in our year, the class of 91. I do worry that – in a few years – advancements in medical science will see fewer ‘characters’ in education; in essence every behavioural facet will be diagnosed, and a pill for this and a pill for that will find a cure.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World predicted just such a dystopian future, with ‘soma’ handed out like sweets to ensure everybody is complicit and of cheerful disposition.

In my humble opinion, the best teachers are the ones who can manage the characters, and who can relate them. Obviously if someone is distracting others they need reining in, but there are different ways to get the best out of people; we had some teachers like that at Woodbridge. I think most here would agree with me in naming Mr Weaver and Mr Leslie; I would also name Mr Hurdley as somebody who inspired me. There was also Mr Fernley, Mr Mileham, Mr Saunders, Mr Tyndale-Biscoe, Mr Lubbock, Mr Bruce and Mr Waller. I’m sure there are others who do not spring easily to mind. Good people. I also liked Mr Pluke. He appreciated enthusiasm and determination, saying I was the most committed cricket captain he’d worked with. That is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me.

What I also realise is how lucky I was to go to Woodbridge. My mum (a nurse) and dad (teacher) made enormous sacrifices to send me. Most sports-mad youngsters would give anything to play rugby or cricket here.

I loved life at The Abbey, particularly the classes of Graeme Riley, who would give up his breaks to take us on single-handedly at football and cricket in the playground, and Tom Dewar, the quintessential public school headmaster.

One headache, however, was short trousers. As the winter drew in, how we suffered. I travelled to school on the train every day, from Halesworth. Shivering on the platform as the 16.34 became the 17.53 because of frozen points (us and the trains!). Teachers sometimes generously stood with us at the station. Encouraging us to sing songs, and jump up and down on the spot. Utterly futile, their efforts were nevertheless appreciated.

The curious thing about the Train Boys was the concentration of sporting talent. Tim Calver, Percy Hallam, Nick Pagan and I played in nearly all the fixtures – rugby, hockey and cricket. We were all there when we were whipped 80-0 by RGS Colchester and bowled out for 48 by St Joseph’s in the final of The Cricketer Schools Cup.

Happy days.

I was also happy working for the Sunday Telegraph – which was brilliant, working alongside the amazing Scyld Berry (getting quotes for him and teaching him how to use the internet); correcting the very occasional misspelling by the brilliant Mike Atherton, and putting the words of Nasser Hussain, Allan Donald, Ian Chappell, Colin Croft and Chris Cairns down on paper. The paper sent me to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and New Zealand for the bits of tours Scyld didn’t want to do, and it was ace. I also spent some of my spare time writing a cricket book (The Toughest Tour); about every tour to Australia since the War, something I had been inspired by after watching Mike Gatting’s men triumph in 1986/87. I interviewed 22 former England players, including Alec Bedser, Chris Broad, Nasser, Ian Bell and Ray Illingworth, and that was swell.

Then the newspaper industry went pear-shaped, and I had to work lots of very late nights, waiting for my big chance again. Finally after almost giving up hope, I landed my dream job on The Cricketer.

I work with Alec Swann (eight first-class hundreds), Andy Afford (468 wickets), Simon Hughes (466 wickets) and Jim Hindson (93) and me (no first-class runs, centuries or wickets). But my expertise in apostrophes knows no limits!

The message must be when it comes to work: never lose the faith!

The job has changed a lot, though. In the Seventies, cricketers drank beer with reporters and let things slip; then news reporters came along and started reporting how much was being drunk and what went on behind closed doors; then spin doctors came in and controlled what cricketers said; then Twitter arrived and the spin doctors lost control, and sports people became indiscrete again. So it is a constantly evolving game.

Like schools, I expect. Last night we attended a talk at my daughter’s school about the new GCSEs; they will be graded 9-1 now, rather than A-E. We were the second year to do GCSEs. So it is all change.

One thing I don’t expect to change is this school, though. I expect it still to be a centre of excellence, for academia, sport, music, the arts, and character-building for centuries to come.

I look forward to seeing you during the year.

Huw Turbervill

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