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Sunday, 8 March 2009

My trip to Cambridge 1 - ARLT

For over 25 years I have been involved with ARLT, the Association For Latin Teaching. My first Summer School was in the 80s at Chichester, and I went to that because it was jointly run by ARLT and official HMIs, (Schools Inspectors). I knew nothing about ARLT but thought that if official people were involved it must be OK.

That was the last time ARLT got government help in this way, so I'm glad I got to know them when I did.

I thoroughly enjoyed the week, which was run by Veronica Anstey. The person who really made me welcome and drew me in was Belinda Dennis, who I later discovered taught my sister Latin at Harrow County School. Belinda encouraged me and I think got me on to the committee in fairly quick order, if not immediately that year, then the next year.

Eventually I became such a habitue that they asked me to direct a Summer School myself, which I did in Exeter. It was an experience. I arranged demonstration lessons, the last demo lessons at a Summer School. The Oxford Latin Course was brand new then, and I got Maurice Balme to come and teach some local children, organised by the university teacher training college and coached before they appeared in public by John Hazel. I thought the lessons went well, but Belinda thought the teacher 'behaved badly' - don't know why.

I got Sue MacDougall to give a slide show on the Renaissance, The New Rome, and Colin Watkins from my school to talk about Roman bee-keeping. We had two HMIs there.

After that I kept hanging around until they asked me to be President. That was a three year stint. During my time we changed the name to leave out 'reform', but we kept the letter R, which is now de trop. I tend to type it in lower case, but it's an embarrassment.

When I retired finally I took on the ArLT website and have spent many thousands of hours over the years getting it into shape.

Anyway, this is all background to yesterday's Cambridge trip.

ArLT runs two annual events, a Summer School and what used to be a Refresher Weekend, the first weekend in March, and is now a day, and tends to be called an INSET Day. This year the day was held in the International School at Cherry Hinton Hall, 4 miles outside Cambridge, a lovely venue. It is clearly a happy place. One member of the Day has a child there and say he loves it.

We were going to set off from Street at 6 am on Saturday but Barbara sensibly suggested staying in Cambridge instead, so at short notice Charlie got everything ready and we set off, with me relaxing on a laid-back passenger seat with pillow and blanket. A good journey, and Trevor met us at the other end. We shared a family room at a Travelodge and we quite comfortable and rested for the INSET.

I shall write more about the INSET perhaps on the ArLT blog, but here I just want to talk about the excellent friends there. My mind being not what it was, I can't be sure of mentioning everyone I want to, but one or two anyway.

Wilf O'Neill, whom I've known from rhe 80s, has his own sight problems, but does more for the Classics than most of us. Among many, many other things he looks after recordings ARLT has made and makes and sells CDs of them. He was honoured with an MBE a few years ago. He is an organist, and incidentally a real ale expert, and he had arranged that a Mass was said that day for me - with lots of Latin!

Hilary Walters is another longstanding friend. She has taken many roles in ArLT, and has been a power in getting things done. I have relied on her over the years for advice and action. Her husband Pat has also been a good friend. He has a lovely modest way with him, and a sort of fun that hides his great erudition. Hilary has run Summer Schools, been President, and now represents ArLT on the JCT, Journal of Classics Teaching. She asked me for an article for the forthcoming issue, which I hope people may find practical. Hilary and Pat have organised days when a group of us come up their way to record, in Latin, set texts for exams. One of their former pupils, Richard Dawkins (no, not that one), is a sound recording expert, and comes up from London to his parents' home to work his audio magic for us. I've enjoyed these sessions, and Mr and Mrs Dawkins' hospitility.

Now my alarm has gone and I am going to get ready to go to Holy Communion at King's College Chapel. To be continued.


Now that I am home and it's Sunday evening, my memory has gone AWOL and I am not sure I can continue the roll-call of ArLT friends as I meant to.

Robert West is another immensely learned and reliable friend. He is also a lover of music, and Sue and I met him at the Three Choirs Festival a few years ago and shared experiences. He has been treasurer of ArLT for a goodly stint, and makes it all seem so easy. The latest set of accounts, that we saw on Saturday, even I could understand.

There is a Linda and a Lynda who are both good friends.

Lynda Goss has a house in Uphill, near Weston-super-mare, and when I lived in Locking we were not far from each other. Lynda works very hard keeping Latin going in the midlands area, and has shared very helpful and practical tips with other teachers on how to get your parents enthusiastic, and persuade your head teacher that Latin is a good idea. She was so successful in one school that they banned her, or perhaps just tried to, from giving a presentation on a parents' evening, for fear too many would choose Latin. I may have got that wrong, but it was something like that. Balloons and badges tend to appear at such times. Lynda keeps the ArLT photo albums, but has lent them to me to digitalise, which I have done. You can see the result here.

Linda Soames is the ArLT President, and it has been great getting to know her and her husband over the years. When we had to find a replacement Director at short notice for the Cambridge Summer School a couple of years ago, Bob Soames, who has a Classical background though he isn't a teacher, stepped in and used his business organisational skills to run a very good Summer School. I remember the Language Show where ArLT, along with other Classical organisations and the Cambridge Classics Project share in running a stall and keeping the Latin and Greek flag flying, when Linda came along to help. It was so good to see her.

Peter Geall has been a breath of fresh air in ArLT. A little bit of background. When I first went to a Summer School ArLT was a very, very traditional body, even though its aim was Reform. All the course members, for example, were sent official-looking invitations to Sherry with the President on one evening, and we felt we had to dress up and practise our cocktail-party conversation for the event. If you read through the accounts of Summer Schools as published in the ArLT magazine Latin Teaching, you get a feeling of deja vu quite quickly. They all sounded exactly the same. Well, when Peter became part of the Association he made it his job to look at what we did from the point of view of the ordinary teacher, particularly the teacher in a state school. And he came up with one big radical idea: a shorter course, including a weekend. Older members were hard to convince, but Peter was given his head and directed the first short Summer School, which was a triumph in terms of numbers. Our 35 or 45 people jumped to 70 or 80, and there was a buzz about the place that had gone missing in Summer Schools. We have even since alternated longer and shorter Summer Schools, and it's not too much to say that it has revitalised ArLT. I am honoured that Peter counts me as an ally, despite my age!

Will Griffiths of the Cambridge Classics Project was at the Saturday meeting as a speaker. He is someone I greatly admire, someone who has done as much for the revival of Latin in the country as anyone. You do get to know people more quickly when you are working together, and physical work is better than any for this. We worked together preparing things for the first Language Show we had a stall at, stuffing handouts in bags, arranging furniture and so on, and I feel we have been good friends ever since.

Ow! I've wandered from my original intention as I reminisce about this association. What I really wanted to say was that on Saturday I was able to greet these (except Lynda who wasn't there) and other friends, and say a fond goodbye to such good and loving people. Linda was very kind in what she said as President/Chair of the meeting, and I'm afraid my tears were not far from the surface.

But I'm so glad I was able to get to this meeting, start the handover of what I have been doing, mainly on line, and make difficult but heart-warming farewells.

Other parts of my trip to Cambridge must have another post.

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