May 18th, 2006

ian

Thursday morning

Up very early this morning, to have breakfast and accompany Christopher to school. A taxi booked for 6.20 didn't get here till 6.25. It's only when the timing isn't critical that the taxi arrives early. Still, we were there in time for him to get his name checked off, his bag stowed in the elegant double-decker coach and him to disappear inside.
I got the bus and the train back home and was here again just before 8 o'clock, in time for second breakfast. David and Matthew joined me for second breakfast, a meal I don't often eat.

In my time at Birkenhead School, I enjoyed learning Latin. In my first two years there, I was thrilled by it and took to it. Our teachers during the first year were all fill-in relieving teachers, as the teacher on the timetable was terminally ill (and died just before the end of the academic year) but they were generally pretty good and inspiring. School reports included phrases like "satis superque", a quotation I was later able to identify. But in the third and fourth form, we were taught by a man nearign retirement. He was undoubtedly a brilliant linguist, and I understand that in his day he was among the finest of the teachers, but by the time he taught my class, he had lost the respect of them. I found it increasingly difficult to follow what was going on, and all the shine from the first two years faded. By the fifth form, the year of the public examinations, I was struggling. The teacher who led us through the set works (letters of Pliny the Younger, poems of Catullus, Agricola by Tacitus) did a magnificent job, but it was too late. Two years with the other teacher were too many for me, and although I had the potential for a high grade, I wound up with a C, a disappointment. The teacher who taught me in the fifth form, about whom I have no complaint at all, and who probably helped move me up from failing grades to a C is now teaching my son Christopher. In fact, as he told us at Parents' Evening, four of the class have fathers he taught. And Chris has taken a shine to Latin too. I sincerely hope that he will not be similarly disadvantaged later on. On his return from France, he will read about the death of C. Caecilius Iucundus in 79AD. But although that story is called "finis", it's not the end, as his son Quintus carried on the family line.
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