Shrewsbury School

A Week in the Life of James Humpish (SH UVI)

Tuesday 26 February 2013

James Humpish is Governor of the Bastille Society, so was nominated to write up his 'Week in the Life' to cover the Bastille Society lecture that took place last Friday.  However, he is also Captain of The Hunt's 2nd VIII, a member of both the Creative Writing group and the Philosophy Society, and is studying for 4 diverse A Levels: English, History, Chemistry and Maths.  James' 'Week in the Life' touches on all of these, as well as his Open Day visit to Manchester University, and the School House Dance.

Monday 18th February
The return to the second half of Lent term was always going to be a daunting prospect. Over the next few weeks, I will be completing all A-level courses and will be gearing up for an Easter full of revision and battles with the Salopian temptation of procrastination which looms as an ever-threatening spectre.

On a cheerier note, the return also meant that Summer Timetable is now in effect, indicative of not only a lighter atmosphere (weather-wise at least…) but also of sport taking place after periods 6 and 7 rather than before, a relief for optimum concentration. Morning lessons consisted of a humanity-driven double History and double English Lit, studying the Tsarist state in 1914 and John Ford’s ‘’Tis Pity’ respectively, followed by an afternoon with a more scientific edge, Organic Chemistry and Mathematics. Of slight concern was that more work was doled out today than I had given in, always something to set the teeth on edge, but such is life.

Monday afternoons is in some way the pivotal aspect of the week, an assessment of the strength of body, soul and mind. At least if you’re a member of the Hunt. I speak of course of Benjies, that 2.25km route which has remained constant in five years of student-life barring the occasional construction obstruction, inspiring dozens to run for their very lives each and every week. My week started on a high by gaining a personal best of 8 minutes 36 seconds. This was followed by two more laps to get back into the swing of things and I was able to run in a more civilised manner, being able to chat with fellow runners Rory ‘the Blue Baron’ Fraser and fellow Captain (though one squad higher) Ed Mallett.

Some work was completed in the evening but was cut slightly short through a tutor meeting with Miss Whittle and fellow tutee Jack Calvert in which we were able to discuss how school life was going and that we were on top of things.

Tuesday 19th February
Foley’s book, ‘Embracing the Ordinary’ says that ‘the true everyday is Tuesday, the only day entirely untainted by significance’. Somewhat uninspiring.

Through completing work around lessons I was able to complete an essay on alliance in warfare and a comparison between Milton and Ford as well as actually attending lessons, so that by the end of period 7 nothing too uneventful had occurred.

Yet the day was curiously sunny, and there was something in the air which suggested going further afield. A thought shared by Mr Middleton and Lt. Colonel David who decided the Hunt ought to traverse the treacherous heights of The Lawley with the aim of reaching the peak for sunset. For those unfamiliar with The Lawley, it is a very steep hill which never ever ought to be run up. The Hunt naturally ran up more or less without stopping and though somewhat light-headed, reached the peak with several minutes to spare, giving Mr Middleton the prime opportunity to experiment with some panoramic photography.

James in the centre (RSSH vest) at the top of The Lawley

After thankfully returning from The Lawley in one piece, Creative Writing took place at 7pm. For once I actually had a plan as to what we could do in Creative Writing thanks to Will Allott who has given us the chance to submit short radio plays for potential broadcast. Of course to do this, we would actually have to write up the radio plays which was the purpose of the session and whilst through discussion and the classic writer’s block, progress was admittedly limited this week, the hopes are high for a few coming to fruition in the not-too-distant future, myself trying to adapt some of my own writing for a more audible form and others considering original ideas for potential broadcast.

Wednesday 20th February
Having received a conditional offer from Manchester for Politics, Philosophy and Economics, Wednesday was spent at the Manchester open day with philosopher friend Georgia Bustin whose open day coincided. Using the first part of the day to explore the university and then later on a brief exploration of the city, comparisons were drawn between Shrewsbury and Manchester and to what extent life could be different in twelve months’ time.

The day was useful in gaining insight into the university, both atmospherically and technically and there was much experience with a jot of frivolity to be had as well. Regrettably, we accidentally missed our return train by a couple of minutes, ironically meaning we were unable to attend the philosophy lecture which was taking place at school later that evening. Always in search of a silver lining however, we were able to investigate the city for a short period more which allowed for a strong insight to the social potential of university.

Eventually returning and narrowly beating curfew, I was able to catch up with the work missed during the day as well as the banter as told by the perpetual source of humour within School House Upper Sixth, Sean, Alvin and Chetan, who informed me of the goings on of the day in my absence, although maybe with a degree of creative licence…difficult to discern.

Thursday 21st February
Through the ominous forces behind the forming of my timetable, my academic commitments finish at 10.30am on Thursday. To counter this, the first few hours of the day are jam-packed. Swimming at 7.15 until 8.00 then chapel at 8.30 always results in a mad dash before a double period of English Lit with Doc Law. With the preparations for coursework complete and the actual piece in the works, we turned our sights to the soon-to-be-examined ‘King Lear’, Shakespeare’s tremendous though somewhat bleak play. As an independent piece ‘King Lear’ is inspiring in sheer scale and plot but on a more subdued level, I can’t help but enjoy it due to the occasional parallel between the play and the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, though perhaps only clear to a fanatic such as myself.

English was followed by a useful coffee and work on various Top Schools throughout the day, intermingled with further attempts (and failures) at writing something suitable for a radio play. The day was threatening to drag on a bit. Come teatime, I began the first of my three tea monitoring duties for the week, at first having an existential crisis, controlling a queue which didn’t exist, actually relieved when the crowd arrived.

Luckily, the mood was picked up considerable by going to Philosophy Society in Churchill’s Hall after tea. Like Creative Writing Society, Philosophy is run by pupils and for pupils, which allows for a great casual atmosphere whilst also meaning that whoever is there is quite keen to think, or listen, or to have a jolly good argument as occasionally happens and an awful lot of eyebrow-raising, which has become a bad habit of mine. Yet this week invited neither arguments nor brow-ascension. Will Heyes, doing A-level Music, unlike the rest of the attendees, was keen that we listened to Stockhausen’s Stimmung and to consider it in a philosophical context. At one point we all closed our eyes whilst listening and mentioned what we could see, whilst several pictured expanses of water and others fields, we all of us imagined ourselves in wide, open spaces, which without prior knowledge turned out to be Stockhausen’s intention. Although Stimmung was unlike most conventional music, particularly with a repetition of protracted ‘Wednesday’s being used part-way through, I found it quite affecting and Will kindly lent me the music the next day. Philosophy Society is always good but this one was particularly so.

Friday 22nd February
Lessons and Hunt training almost threatened to turn the day into a typical one, which led to the risk of it paradoxically becoming atypical in being so. Fortunately, this was rescued in the evening. There was a dilemma, the English student in me wanted to watch the MSH play, the Chemist wanted to go to the science lecture and the Mathematician was probably keen to play around on a calculator for a bit… Instead the Historian prevailed and I attended the Bastille lecture on ‘Kingship Theory in the Reign of James VI and I’. As the governor of the Bastille Society, I had the chance to be introduced to the lecturer beforehand, Dr Clare Jackson, as well as being able to introduce her to the audience and give thanks at the end. The lecture itself appealed to the English-fan inside of me with Jacobite context being of use to many Shakespearean plays, as well as revealing some political seventeenth century ideologies, radically different to most of today’s general beliefs. The dinner which followed the lecture provided a chance to socialise with the devout pre-U History students in the Lower Sixth and was an enjoyable break before settling down to some Decision Maths later on in the night.

Saturday 23rd February
After several of us put us in good stead in the Midlands League for cross country at Worksop a few weeks ago, for Bromsgrove, it felt like a full-on battalion of runners was dispatched to secure a low score for the sake of security. The move from minibus to coach was indicative of this and I found the optimum way to conserve energy in the pre-race angst-ridden build-up…a nap.

After waking to finding we were on the verge of getting lost, the enthusiasm was teetering, more so when it was absolutely freezing once we arrived and had time to spare. Yet once the race kicked in, the grievances were set aside and Monday’s synthesis kicked in. With six to count and as a second VIII runner, my personal prospects weren’t so much to set our own count low, but rather to tactically put the other teams higher…one that might have been assisted with  the position of a dainty 30th, not altogether displeasing with the 80-100 odd competitors. It was a route I personally enjoyed, and in contrast to The Lawley, it was almost entirely (and welcomingly) flat.

Saturday continued to be busy, as the evening was filled with the School House Dance, themed ‘Out of Africa’. Quickly rustling together an army outfit with a vaguely jungle-themed look, it was good to see much enjoyment being had and an attempt mid-way for a co-ordination of a ‘Harlem Shake’…a brave move on Mr Bell’s part and one which may require a ‘Take Two’ in several days’ time.

Sunday 24th February
Almost thankfully, Sunday was spent relatively uneventfully, School Eucharist being followed by a free day with progress made on Maths and Chemistry throughout the day, including a valiant attempt at a Chemistry past paper. When I finally had the time for some leisurely reading, I indulged in Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ for a couple hours, a book recommended to me by Non Suemanathon, which I’ve found increasingly to my liking.

The week had been a bit of a drain on the energy supplies and with vast potential for each and every day, just this once, it seemed like a fine chance for that extra bit of rest and resuscitation. As considered on Monday, this half of term promises to be the busiest of busy months in the Salopian career so it’s quite comforting that it’s now one week down, four more to go.

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